Back to the Future of Gen Y Youth Ministry

According to all the Back to the Future references this month, we are now living in the future. So many people have made comments about the lack of hover boards, no self lace up shoes and where is my flying car? It seems we love to predict the future, but we also love to identify how those predictions were wrong. So how did we go with our youth ministry predictions for October 21st 2015?

I will admit that I am old enough to have been around youth ministry when we would use sentences like “millennials are those teenagers that will graduate high school post 2000”, notice the future tense of that statement. Some Generation Y or Millennials will now be 15 years out of high school, so I hope that they have moved on from youth ministry into the adult body of the church.

So how did our predictions go for the “radical” change that would take place in youth ministry because of Gen Y? How many of the predicted changes did we get right and what did we get wrong? Here are just five reflections from someone who was around in the 1990’s when these predictions were being made:

  1. Social Justice – I remember hearing that Social Justice was going to be the new “in” for Gen Y. Youth Ministry was going to shift towards Social Justice to engage the Gen Y who were supposed to more socially minded than other generations. Without denying the attempts by many Gen Y, I would say that they have shown themselves to be no more socially active than other generations. Facebook “likes” don’t count as social justice nor does reposting a tweet about some global issue. Even if Gen Y are more socially aware, the Youth Ministries around today in my opinion are not the hot beds of Social Justice activity that we may have predicted.
  2. Conservative – There were also predictions that Gen Y would be more conservative than other generations. This doesn’t seem to play out in the way we thought. There has been some return to tradition forms of worship, but contemporary praise and worship has never been more popular or normative. The styles of dress and social interaction are not that conservative or traditional. The role of women and the attitude to homosexuality don’t seem all that conservative either.
  3. Music – I remember some of my friends telling me about this music from a church called Hillsong and they predicted that music would be essential for ministry with and to Gen Y. Not only has the Hillsong style become more normative but the Praise and Worship music seems one of the key draw cards for Gen Y. Youth Ministries have transitioned into Young Adult Ministries as Gen Y age and they seems to appreciate good music more than good preaching, though the sermons still have to be good.
  4. Podcasts – not many of us in the late 1990’s would have predicted the impact of the podcast on church life, I remember some churches in the early 2000’s trying to sell their own sermons on CD. To think that young people can download a talk or sermon from anywhere in the world to watch/listen to on the bus ride to school or uni means that their expectations of preaching sermons has been raised. Young people can now listen to the “best” preachers in the world on a daily basis, meaning they could be sermoned out by the time they get to church on a Sunday. Some may have predicted this but I never heard this prediction in the late 1990’s.
  5. Communication – In the late 1990’s we knew that the Gen X grew up in a boom of entertainment technology and that Gen Y would grow up in a boom of communication technology. However we never predicted the impact of the iPhone, Facebook, Twitter or the creation of the “selfie” for thousands of Instagram posts. Believe it or not many people used to like being behind the camera in the 1990’s. Whilst we predicted that youth ministry would change due to a growth in communication technology, youth ministry is really enhanced by this ability to contact young people outside the youth group time slot.

Were you around in the 1990’s? What did you think youth ministry with Gen Y would be like? Did we get it right or were some of our predictions off the mark? If you are Gen Y was this what you thought youth ministry would be like when you were in primary school?

As a member of Generation X I was always one step removed from being in the youth ministry culture of Gen Y. Whilst I’ve engaged in it for the past 25 years, it is a long time since I was an actual young person in the ministry. Leadership positions tend to make you bias. So I would love to hear your opinions in the comments section below or tweet me on @mrmarkmcdonald (so high tech!)

markoffaith.net, Mark of Faith

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What is your comparison point?

We all compare new experiences to a benchmark we have in our head.  When we try a new cafe and we compare their coffee to our best coffee experience at our favourite cafe.  When shop in a new shopping mall we compare it to the benchmark that we have in our mind about our ideal shopping experience.  When we visit a new church or ministry we compare it to our ideal church or ministry whether we know it or not. 

So as the leader in your ministry what is your comparison point?  Sometimes it can be another church or ministry.  We tell ourselves if we could just do it ministry like church X or church Y then we would get it “right”.  These other churches may have totally different circumstance and resources to us but that doesn’t stop us from comparing our ministry to theirs.  The key thing is to know what your bench mark is so that at least you are honest with yourself and your team.

Perhaps your comparison point is not another church but a previous era at your own church.  Remember the good old days when we got ministry “right”.  Church members often compare your current situation to a previous golden era where everything seemed to work so smoothly.  The trap with this style of thinking is that our world and culture has changed so dramatically.  Imagine comparing youth ministry pre Facebook to the Facebook era; let alone comparing ministry practices from the 1980’s to ministry to youth today.

What ever your comparison point is you need to identify it so that the unconscious comparison becomes more conscious.  Comparison is not a bad thing as long it it encourages us to be better rather than it weakening us.

Finally it is most important to compare our ministry to what God is calling us to.  The Holy Spirit is moving your forward not trying to recreate the past.  Compare your ministry to what God has in store for you, not the previous golden era.

markoffaith, Mark of Faith, mrmarkmcdonald

A parent perspective on Youth Ministry – Part 2

In a recent post I shared with you a few thoughts on becoming a parent in youth ministry when my son went off to his first youth camp. I had high expectation for the camp and so on his return I was waiting eagerly to hear something spiritual about the camp. Instead he was full of stories about the fun, games and pranks that took place on camp.  After many interesting stories I asked my son what will he tell his best friend about the camp, the one who didn’t attend youth camp, and he replied “he totally should have been there”.  It was this one sentence that made me realise that something significant happened on camp. 

Over the next few days I had many conversations with my son about youth camp, none of them were deeply theological but they all helped me know my son on a deeper level.  In the week following the camp I watched him to see if there was any behaviour change and  I noticed that he was a little more reflective and a little more considerate but mostly he was the same kid who loves playing his video games.  At some level it was reassuring to me that there wasn’t a radical shift in my son; he was the same son just grown up a little.

In reflecting on the experience there are a few things that I learnt from hearing about the camp from my son:

  1. Leaders are important – whilst my son only seem to talk about the pranks the leaders got up to, he spoke with a great respect and admiration for the leaders.  It seems that he looked up to the leaders and when I dug deeper they really encouraged him in his faith.  As a parent I am so thankful that my son had some young adult leaders who were passionate about their faith and willing to share it with my son.
  2. Christian friendships are important – My son will spend most of his time with non-christians so to meet some committed christians is a really important thing.  We spent a lot our conversation time this week talking about the people that he met on camp.  I am sure that some of these people will become his long term friends even though they go to different schools.  In an increasingly secular world it so important to encourage our young people to seek out and develop christian friendships.
  3. The next step is important –  the youth ministry that ran the youth camp knew how important the next steps were and had pumped up the young people to attend friday night youth group.  My son was talking about it all week and was so excited to go that he was encouraging me to leave the house to drive to church.  Yet this is just the first in many “next steps” that my son will take.  As adults, parents and youth ministers, we need to roll out the next steps so that young people who have never done this before know where they are heading.
  4. My own faith is important – as a parent the conversation can be directed at my son; I want to know about your experience.  Yet the conversation seemed to open up opportunities for me to share my faith with my son.  As adults, parents and youth ministers, we can direct our conversation at the young people by asking them leading questions, yet we need to allow them to ask us questions.  I have to create a space where by my son can ask me questions about faith, prayer, theology, church, girls, dating etc etc.  Sharing my faith journey with my children is so important.
  5. This is just the beginning – I will admit that my son and i have had some great conversations but this is only the beginning on his faith journey.  My son still prefers to play video games and watch tv, so he his not an eager theology student by any stretch of the imagination.  My son and I have even had issues where i have had to discipline him and I am sure that this is just one of the many ups and downs we will experience over the coming decade know as “the teenager years”.

These reflections as part of my experience in shifting from a youth minister to a parent.  As I dropped my son off to youth group, which i had witness hundreds of times, I got the “you can go now” look from my son.  In an instance I had shifted from youth minister to daggy parent.  

My hope is that if you are a youth minister without children of your own, these reflection may help you minister to families in a better way than you currently do.  My hope for parents of young people is that these reflection may put into words some of the feelings stirring in you and perhaps pass them onto your youth ministry team.

Please leave a comment.

markoffaith, mark of faith, markoffaith.net mrmarkmcdonald

A parent perspective on Youth Ministry – Part 1

After 20 years in youth ministry my role in youth ministry shifted this week.  My eldest son headed off on his first junior high youth camp.  That means that I am no longer the youth minister, I became one of the parents dropping their child off at church for camp, while the child tries to get away without a hug or a kiss.

Whilst as a youth minister I know a lot about what happens on youth camp, I find my mind has shifted now that I am a parent.  The things that I am looking for in a youth ministry as a parent are different to what to what I may have wanted from a youth ministry being on the leadership side.  Whilst I have never seen parents as the enemy, I see things differently now my own son is involved.

Here are a few thought about youth camp now that I am a parent:

  1. High expectations – perhaps my expectation of youth camp are a little high but I hope that my son has an encounter with God at youth camp.  I hope that he gets a passion for reading the bible, that he meets some great friends, gets some excellent mentors as leaders, that he likes going to church and that he fights for world peace, ok perhaps not the last one.  Are my expectations a little high?  As a youth ministers I would tell a parent that those might be good expectations after five or six years in a youth ministry but not for their child’s first youth camp.  As a parent though I can’t help wanting the best for my son.  In reality I know that my son will enjoy camp but will come home talking more about the fun games than the bible talks, he will still be the same kid who won’t like doing chores around the house and whilst he may not be against going to church I am sure he won’t always be begging us to go.
  2. Being part of our family – we hope that our son maintains a sense of family and isn’t sold an idea that the youth ministry is the most important thing in his life.  As a youth minister I heard numerous stories of young people who got involved in youth ministry in spite of a lack of support from home.  In our case my wife and I are very supportive of our son being involved in the youth ministry.  Yet as a parent I hope that the youth ministry acknowledges the vital role that we as parents play in nurturing the faith of our son as well.  I don’t want my son going off to youth events every week at the expense of our family time.  Sometimes our son will miss a youth event to spend time with our family and it isn’t a sign of a lack of commitment to the youth ministry.  Too often youth ministers blame families for a lack of attendance from young people, yet as parent I now see the family time is often more important than time at youth group.
  3. Bigger picture of church – as a youth minister I focused so much on the youth ministry that youth camp or going to a youth festival was the biggest thing in the year.  As a parent I still have one son who won’t be going to youth camp for another two years.  I also am more aware of parents in my small group who have kids in the children’s ministry.  As a parent I am far more interconnected with the other things happening in the church so I now realise that whilst the youth ministry is important, so are a number of other ministries in our church.  Perhaps as a parent I am more thankful of the role of the children’s ministry which nurture the faith of my son long enough to help him want to go on youth camp.

Perhaps my expectations are a little high but maybe that is a good thing.  As a parent I should want the best for the spiritual life of my children.  One thing that I must remind myself is that the Holy Spirit has its own plan for my son and I must accept what ever the Holy Spirit does with him.  It will take a life time for my son to understand God, so I can’t expect it all to happen on his first youth camp, but I am just a little excited at what God might do with y son on youth camp.

In the next post I will share a few reflection after my son comes home from youth camp.

Perhaps you have recently become a parent in a youth ministry, what are your thoughts?  share them in the comment section below.

markoffaith, mark of faith, markoffaith.net

A Youth Ministry of Sinners or Saints?

Recently I was speaking at an evangelical youth camp where many of the participants were active Christians.  Some of the young people were well versed in scripture being able to quote various sections by chapter and verse if needed.  One element that struck me was that many kept articulating that we are all sinners.  Whilst I might agree with them on theological grounds, in my experience it is not common for young people to talk like this; many young people don’t understand the language of sin.

It seems that many evangelical styles of youth ministry have been focusing in on young people being sinners in need of a saviour.  I think most of us will agree theologically that we are all sinners even if we are hard or soft on the exact language we use.  The issue is not theological but cultural; is the “we are all sinners” argument an out of date cultural image for young people?  Are the young people and youth leaders in our churches using that language because they understand it or do they just adopt it because that is the language of their church?

Recently I heard two speakers mention that many young people today already have a low opinion of themselves, that they know they have many flaws they don’t need the church to remind them of that.  they suggested that young people seek connection in the peer group because it helps them blend in and cover up their flaws.  So is the church preaching a message that is that different to the rest of the world?  Perhaps we aren’t if we only give young people confirmation that they are flawed.  We need to separate our message out from the self-help industry which articulates our flaws but if you buy this new book it will rescue you from yourself.

As Christian we preach that Jesus is the saviour of our flaws and weakness.  We should be a little different to the dominate culture which teaches that with our own hard work we will be better.  Perhaps youth ministry needs to teach young people the language of being saints.  In Christ we are a new creation, no longer our old selves but saints.  

Galatians 2:20 reminds us: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” In the power of the Holy Spirit, young people are not weak sinners but powerful witnesses to the Resurrection.

When I was young, in the 1990’s, our youth group heard a talk by our church leader inspiring us to be Saints of the new Millennium.  We were reminded that we called by God to be a generation that made a difference in the world.  Back in the 1990 the young people were told by business to get a good job and earn you way to the top; top young people are told they can achieve anything they want to.  So perhaps this current generation knows they can make a difference in the world but do they realise that God called them to do this?  Perhaps this generation of young people in our youth ministries need to hear that they are called by God to be saints, set apart for the work of God.

Perhaps in youth ministry we need not just the sinner language or saint language but both.  We are a new creation in Christ, saved from our sins in order to be the saints who help build the kingdom of God.

Please leave a comment.

markoffaith, MarkofFaith, mrmarkmcdonald, markoffaith.net

What was Youth Ministry like when I began in 1991?

Youth Ministry in 1991Recently I was presenting a workshop at a youth ministry training event and I began by telling the participants that I started in youth ministry in 1991.  About half of the participants in the room indicated that they were born after 1991 and most of the others were very close to the same age.  While I was running the workshop I became more aware of how different youth ministry was when I began over 20 years ago.  Young culture and Church culture have changed so much in the last 20 years that I thought I would share some of these with you.

Now before we go any further this is not a historical overview of how youth ministry has changed in the past 20 years globally or even nationally.  I will share a few observations from the youth ministry in my church back in 1991 and if you were around youth ministry in 1991 please leave a comment to share your observations as well.  If you weren’t even born in 1991 then read this as a history lesson.

  1. Led by Parent Couples – when I first started in youth ministry every youth ministry had a parent couple attached.  These were a married couple, or several married couples, who would oversee the youth ministry.  In my youth ministry they trained and support the youth leaders, helped workshop youth talks and run the finances.  As a young person we felt safe knowing that parents were looking after the “hard stuff” like finances so that we could have fun.  In 2013 it seems that parent couples have almost disappeared from the youth ministry landscape.  I know some youth groups in 1991 that had to take a break until a parent couple could be found, something that would seem unreasonable in 2013.
  2. No professionals – in 1991 I don’t remember any professional youth ministry staff.  Knowing the history of youth ministry that I know now, there were a few professionals around but they were rare.  Youth ministry was a volunteer ministry that was often peer led.  In 1991 I never ever thought that I could spend 20 years of my life getting paid to lead youth and young adult ministry.  In 2013 the “high” turnover rate that some see as a problem stems from the era of the 1980’s and 90’s when everyone volunteered for 1-2 years as a youth leader then moved onto the adult congregation of the church.
  3. After church on Sunday night – in our location and many other churches in 1991 youth group was on a Sunday night after our 6pm Church service.  Back in those days many young people were still going to church on a semi regular basis so linking youth group with the church service seemed like a natural thing.  In fact in 1991 it was easier to recruit youth group members from the church congregation if the two were linked.  In 2013 the biggest question many youth ministries face is the opposite question, how do we get our youth group members to join our Sunday congregation.  In 2013 youth group is often set in concrete on Friday nights as though that was how it has always been done.
  4. Keeping young people in church – when I started in youth ministry in 1991 many youth would stop going to church about 15-18 or Year 10.  So youth ministry was a way of keeping young people coming along to church.  In 2013 youth ministry seems more about starting young people coming to church as most young people stop going in the children’s ministry age group, if they were ever attending.
  5. No mobile phones – In 1991 a friend of mine showed me his dad’s mobile phone and it was as big as a brick.  Only business people had mobile phones.  Young people not only didn’t have smart phones they didn’t even have mobiles.  Youth Ministry was the time to catch up with people for the week and if you missed youth group you missed a week of connection with your peers.  If you missed youth you may have missed news of a party or social outing and there was no way to catch up.  In 2013 if young people miss youth group they can catch up with all the news, gossip and party news within hours via Facebook or SMS.
  6. Film Cameras – this might sound really old fashion but only a few young people had cameras at events and it would take a week or two to send the film photos off for developing.  In 1991 there was always a physical photo wall or photo album put up three weeks after youth events to show what had happened at the events; it was a real way to keep the memories alive.  In 2013 the photos go up on Facebook and Instagram as the event is happening and are forgotten about within days.
  7. Youth Culture – in 1991 in my area there were the metal heads (Heavy metal music), wax heads (surfers), skateheads  (skateboarding) and nerds (those who weren’t part of the other groups).  Whilst I admit that I was a nerd, it seemed that there were only a few youth subgroups to fit into.  In 2013 the youth culture has split the youth subgroups in to thousands.  The music industry alone has thousands of music styles that weren’t branded this way in 1991.  Youth clothing has become more targeted in 2013 and costs a lot more money.  In 1991 if a young person had slashed jeans they weren’t $250 designer jeans, they were the cheap jeans showing signs of being old.

This is just some of the ways that youth ministry was different when I first started in 1991.  My hope is that some of my colleagues who were around in the 1980’s/90’s might add a comment with their observations from that period.

Whilst the specific details might vary from location to location in 1991 they also vary from location to location in 2013.  Rather than this being a post of the golden era of youth ministry from the good old days, I just want this generation of youth ministry leaders to recognise that ministry changes and that is OK.  Many of the things that some youth ministers think we have always done in youth ministry are in fact new additions that have improved or complicated youth ministry.  It is OK for youth ministry to change, in fact I hope that youth ministry continues to change and adapt as young people change and adapt to the culture around them.

Please leave a comment.

markoffaith, MarkofFaith, mrmarkmcdonald, Mark McDonald, markoffaith.net

3 steps of an engaging presentation

What does a scenic flight in an aeroplane have to do with presentation skills?  If you reflect on the three stages of giving a presentation, there are a lot of similarities to an aeroplane flight.  There is usually a starting point to any flight the same as there is always an introduction to any talk, speech or presentation.  There are usually a couple of points of interest in any scenic flight, and in any presentation there should be a few points of interest too.  Every scenic flight must come to an end as should a good presentation.

Have you ever heard a talk that never really grabbed your attention?  Perhaps the introduction never got off the ground.  Or perhaps you have heard a talk or speech that went on and on and on; they didn’t know how to “land it”.  So here are three simple tips for giving a great presentation in your ministry setting using the image of an aeroplane flight:

1. The Take off:  When an aeroplane is getting ready to take off it uses the most amount of energy of the entire flight.  When you begin your presentation you will have to use a lot of energy to get the attention of the audience.  If you loose people in the take off you may not get them back, but they are stuck listening to you.  Even if you know your topic really well, you must give some thought to your introduction.

How you can kick off your presentation?

2.  Cruising: when an aeroplane gets into the air it aims for its cruising altitude and then turns down the engines to cruising speed.  An aeroplane doesn’t fly at full speed for the entire flight but cruises at an efficient speed.  In the cruising part of your presentation you might have to come off the energy level a little.  People can’t keep their energy up for the entire presentation so adapt the pace in the middle section.  Just like an aeroplane flight there are usually only two or three points of interest.  In your middle section don’t confuse people with 10 or 15 key points.  You want two or three key points that get you to your destination but add interest along the way.

What are the 2 or 3 key points of your presentation?

3. The Landing:  when an aeroplane takes off it knows where it is going to land.  A long “holding pattern” before landing can be hard for the passengers.  When you are giving a presentation you must know how you are going to land or finish before you begin.  What is your final destination, what is you final point?  Keeping the audience wondering when you are going to finish is not a good idea.

How are you going to finish your presentation?

These are three really simple stages to any presentation.  There is one more thought to add using the aeroplane analogy:
How many planes can a pilot fly at once? 
A pilot can only fly one plane at any given time.  So too you should have one only one key theme each time you present.  Some people will get up and talk for the allotted time, packing in as many themes and topics as they can.  Apart from confusing the audience, each theme is undervalued because it is not explored properly.
So the next time you are giving a presentation, preaching at church, giving a talk to young people or sharing the vision for your ministry remember the key stages:
  • fly one plane (theme)
  • give energy to the take off (introduction)
  • have 2 or 3 points of interest while cruising (body) and
  • nail the landing (conclusion)

markoffaith, MarkofFaith, Mark of Faith, mark of faith, mrmarkmcdonald, Mark McDonald, markoffaith.net

How many people does it take to start a youth group?

How many people does it take to change a light bulb? This is often a joke told where the answer gives an insight into a particular stereotype. Whenever I hear this joke, I wondered how many Catholics does it take to start a youth group? Whilst I am sure that there are many humorous answers that we could give if we were telling a joke, the number one issue that people ask me about is how many people do you need to start a youth group?

Let me tell you my answer with a real life story, you may even guess the group.  About five years ago three Catholic young men were interested in starting something in their parish for young people. They wanted to lay a solid foundation for youth ministry in their parish and “get it right” from the start. So they decided to come together every Thursday night for prayer, to ask God for guidance, vision and direction.

Their next step was not to launch into a mega ministry or try to entertain the “youth”, the three young men thought “who can we invite into this group for prayer?” As they added the next person then the next person, the group began to grow. This was training the group in the evangelical spirit which characterises the group today. Not “Evangelical” by denomination but the group has a heart for evangelisation or to put it simply they want to share this with their friends.

Five years later those three young men have gathered 50 or 60 other young people to meet for prayer on a Thursday night. The group looks different from what it did five years ago but the element of prayer is still present. If you ask me what makes this group successful, the prayer element and evangelistic spirit would be it.

Sometimes as an intern, volunteer or youth minister, you may want to copy the program of a successful youth ministry that you admire. Instead copy the heart and culture of the ministry. Many people think that Hillsong is successful because of their music, yet it is the culture of small group discipleship that drives the ministry. Some people might thing the group mentioned above is because they have a supportive Priest, but it is more than that.

So next time you ask yourself how many young people does it take to start a youth group, know that it only takes three.

———————

This post first appeared in February 2010 and people still ask me about how many people it takes to start a Youth Group.

markoffaith, MarkofFaith, Mark of Faith, mark of faith, mrmarkmcdonald, Mark McDonald, markoffaith.net

Youth Ministry and the disposable razor theory

We all know that young people are growing up in an era where new consumer products launch or are updated on a constant basis.  With the launch of the iPhone 5 last week there will be millions of consumers desperate to get of their current phone contracts just so they can have the latest phone.  In the current marketplace we see many good products relegated to the scrap heap every month just because the latest version is released.  We can trace all of this back to the theory of the disposable razor.

Traditionally a man would buy one high quality razor to shave their face every morning.  The good blades would last a lifetime, which the manufacturer thought was bad for business.  It was in the interest of the manufacturer to make blades that needed replacing so that people would have to buy more product.  Thus the creation of the disposable razor blade; a company would make more money over the long term selling thousands of cheap items than selling one high quality razor.

Fast forward through the years and we see that many products lowered their quality so that people would have to buy more products.  Many products developed component parts that needed replacing so as to sell more products; before digital cameras Kodak made more money from selling film than they did by selling cameras.  The disposable razor theory originally applied to low cost and low quality items.  In recent years the disposable or replaceable concept has been getting more and more expensive. What do people do with their old mobile phone when they buy the new iPhone 5?  When did a $700 phone become as disposable as a $2 razor blade?

Young people today want the latest technology which is totally understandable.  If I needed to buy a new phone or laptop then I would buy the best I could afford too.  However, the rate of change in consumer products is creating a transient culture where young people move from product to product without much loyalty.  Whilst the disposable razor theory was always about products it seems that it is now affecting organisations also.  Sporting clubs find it harder to keep junior players for more than a few seasons.  Scouting groups find it hard to attract young people because it asks for a weekly commitment rather than random participation.

In the Church we too are affected by the transient culture emerging in young people.  The Church is just one organisation dealing with the rate of change in our culture.  Perhaps like some other organisations we have been caught out ‘selling’ the same products in a marketplace that wants change.  If young people update their phone every two years, is it unreasonable to think that they expect some change in their church experience every two years?  If the fashion and music scene changes every six months is it unreasonable to think that young people might expect the look and feel of their church experience to change every six months?

I don’t think anybody ever thought that the disposable razor theory would ever apply to the Church, is it possible that this is what we are now seeing in youth and young adult ministries?  Is it possible that young people are so used to the rate of change that they expect change all around them?  So what should we do about this in our churches and ministries? If we look at Apple, they win the customer by changing the product.  We can’t change the Gospel, but that is not the ‘product’ that we are selling.  We are selling programs and activities in order to win people to Christ.

In our ministries, perhaps we should think about the packaging of our message and line up some ‘disposable razors’.  Here are a few examples:

  • A short course on a topic that is the hottest issue within the community
  • A few camp options within the year from overnighters to week long camps.
  • Opportunities to visit other churches for guest speakers or worship nights
  • Change the theme every school term
  • Have two to three options for high schoolers rather than one youth group for Year 7-12.

Yes this is harder for the youth and young adult ministry but can we really bury our head in the sand and keep everything static?  If we don’t make our programs the disposable razors the risk is that Jesus becomes the disposable razor and young people move onto another spirituality.  We can keep doing what we have always been doing or we can decide to work with young people as they are developing.

My hope is that together we can improve our ministry to youth and young adult to see more ‘customers’ being won to Christ.  If Apple are able to keep winning loyal customers then surely we need to as well, perhaps we need to be a bit more thoughtful in how we can win loyal followers of Christ.

Please leave a comment

Mark McDonald, mrmarkmcdonald, markoffaith, MarkofFaith, Mark of Faith, markoffaith.net

Ministry is like herding sheep, cats and sheep dogs

Recently I attended a conference session with Tim Hein which explored stages of faith development.  Whilst there were many complex elements to the presentation, a fun image that Tim used was the image of ministry as the art of herding.  So I thought I would share a quick overview with you:

  • Youth Ministry is like herding sheep – young people naturally want to run together as a herd.  There will be differences within a group but they tend to follow each other.  Young people like the stability of the herd and so are happy to go along with the routine.  Leading a youth ministry can seem difficult but it doesn’t have the complexity of Young Adult Ministry.  The challenge is to introduce complexity so that when they make the transition out of following the herd they know how to handle it.
  • Young Adult Ministry is like herding cats – young adults naturally want to explore their uniqueness.  Being a young adult is about testing out the boundaries, exploring the complexity of life and finding your unique place in the world.  Therefore ministry with this age group can end up with people heading in all sorts of directions.  As a young adult minister you can try to herd the cats but you will get a few scratches along the way, see the video below.
  • Adult Ministry is like herding sheep dogs – adults in the church need to run free because they are their own person but they can be roped in to help with the mission of your church.  Sheep dogs don’t need fences because they naturally stay on the farm; adults will naturally come back to church.  Sheep dogs don’t own the farm and the challenge with adults is to remind them they don’t own the church.

Some of these thoughts were my spin on what Tim was saying, his presentation was far more detailed than this.  I really liked this image because it seemed to resonate with the room, does it resonate with your experience?  Check out the funny video below then leave a comment explaining the image that you use for ministry.


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