Youth Ministries “Haunting, Daunting, and Promising”

10 02 2012

BY MIKE HOFFMAN, Youth Ministries

I am called to be a youth minister. While I now serve as a mission center president, I still sense this call.

Last summer I served as the pastor to junior- and senior-high camps and taught at SPECTACULAR. While I sometimes feel I am aging, so many more times I get joy from the responses of young people to the mission of Jesus Christ.

In Community of Christ, youth ministry started in the 1840s. Leaders felt the need “to correct the follies of youth, to guard against temptations to which they are exposed, and to aid in charitable enterprises” (Church History, Volume 2, page 642).

Youth Ministries Day grew out of Scout Sunday. It’s set aside to think about the relationships between young people and the church, to honor their contributions, and to recognize those who serve in youth-ministry leadership.

It’s a good day to consider the bigger picture of youth ministry in your congregation and mission center: the “haunting questions,” the “daunting challenges,” and the “promising possibilities.” These are sections of OMG: A Youth Ministry Handbook, edited by Kenda Creasy Dean. She’s an associate professor of youth, church, and culture and director of the Tennent School of Christian Education at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Many themes from this book echo my experience. Some “haunting questions”: Does youth ministry matter? Do our practices reflect Christ? Do we accomplish what we imagine?

“Daunting challenges” include responding to the expanding ages of adolescence while realizing young people are exposed to more adult themes and responsibilities at a younger age. There’s also the changing context of our ministry: the sense of place (in an Internet world), the faster pace of life that has become normative, the challenge to live generously.

Despite these questions and challenges, the book and my experience also relate “promising possibilities.” They include how more of our youth ministry zeroes in on theology. It focuses on practices of discipleship and the emphasis on relating youth ministry to the mission of Christ—following Jesus Christ into the world.

In this book, I found an ally in how I feel and want to face the future in youth ministry.

For many, including me, youth ministry has seen major shifts over the last two decades. There is a restlessness—a realization of these shifts and an uncertainty of how to move forward.

Today, youth ministry includes a wide range of efforts and purposes. It’s organized and communicated through technology not even imagined a generation ago. It’s intergenerational, relational, and most recently missional.

In Community of Christ, the development of a clear and compelling identity has blessed youth ministry. The enduring principles, mission initiatives, and basic beliefs provide a solid foundation for our identity and mission in the world. It’s a mission many youth find captivating.

As adults involved in youth ministry, we focus on helping younger people develop for service: inviting people to Christ, abolishing poverty and ending suffering, and pursuing peace on Earth. The Disciple Formation Guide (www
.CofChrist.org/dfg
) provides a great way to wrap my mind around essential questions in responding to those in our youth ministry.

Youth ministry’s challenge is to make it tangible. This is dependent on local ministry—specifically the congregation and community. We are called not so much to gather in youth “groups” but to send youth as developing disciples who minister to a world in need.

As we plan for Youth Ministries Sunday, our challenge is to be faithful to the past, and to discern and pursue how the mission of Jesus Christ will impact our ministries and the lives of young people now and into the future.


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2 responses

14 02 2012
Mike Hoffman

Thanks Kathy. I like Mike King’s book as well.

10 02 2012
Kathy Sharp

Great thoughts, Mike. I particularly appreciated hearing Community of Christ history on this day–and also you uplifting a great resource and the changing vision for youth ministry. I also like Mike King’s book, Presence-Centered Youth Ministry. Calling youth to true discipleship, not just fellowship and fun.




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