Not really a book review, but, consider the key words “for youth” and of youth”.
Ruth Lukabyo 2020, From a Ministry for Youth to a Ministry of Youth: Aspects of Protestant Youth Ministry in Sydney 1930-1959
Some key points in the history of youth ministry:
- Recognition of youth as a focus for ministry.
- Development of youth fellowship groups within churches and denominations, and within them, a shift to peer-leadership – a ministry of youth.
- World War II and enlistment – peer-leadership methodology declined, but survived.
- Ministry of youth in schools and universities.
- The schools ministry [Crusader Union and ISCF – established by university students] also helped to create for members a strong subcultural identity through the name of the organisation, membership, and badge. The schools were the feeder for the university ministry, and the university students often continued to lead within the schools ministry in an ‘unbreakable circle’ that thrived (Lukabyo 2020, 221).
- These groups were able to be perceived as an extended peer group.
- Boost to peer-ministry as a result of the 2019 Billy Graham Crusade.
- Appointment of paid youth ministry workers – decline of peer-leadership and ministry of youth.
There is a revival of interest in ministry of youth. A number of authors writing about capacity of youth and that they should not be prepared for ministry in the future, but ministry now; that they should be recognised as co-workers. For example, Dever (2017) encourages the appointment of young men to leadership roles, which he sees as exercising “advance trust”, even if that is taking a risk. In his words: “If you wish to see leaders raised up, your general posture should be characterized by a willingness to advance trust”. “I do definitely take risks in leadership. It’s worth it. God is sovereign. Christ will build his church. So let’s lean in and take some risks”. He follows these words with a particular reference to young men:
Congregations, for their part, need to be patient with young men in leadership as they make young-man mistakes. I often tell churches not to be afraid of nominating a young lion cub. He may scratch the floors or damage some furniture, but if you’re patient with him, you’ll have a lion who loves you for life.
IMPLICATIONS FOR LEADERSHIP – for discussion
Joining the concept of ministry of youth rather than for youth with the empowerment subcategory in the theory that has emerged from the study, Leadership participants are empowered to exercise leadership now. The majority report that they were able, allowed and encouraged to do this at Leadership. A particular example frequently referred to is in the Stage 1 overnight expedition when groups are given responsibility for decision making, implementation and reflection.
The historical examples above, particularly in schools where university students led the groups, are perceived as extended peer groups. This picture mirrors many Leadership Stage 1 groups, comprising approximately eight 15-16-year-olds and one or two group facilitators who are recent graduates of Stage 3 aged around 19 and either beginning workers or university students. That is the critical living, sharing and learning group.
It is not intentional to have young facilitators, but a practical necessity has led to this. However, it is possible that young graduates moving into this role because of staff availability, is not only a practical necessity, but is actually forming an of youth leadership / ministry group. Eight 15-16-year-olds and one or two 19-year-old facilitators are a peergroup and together, particularly if the facilitator does not seek to dominate, they become a peer-led group that shares life, story, faith experiences and difficult issues. Perhaps the pragmatic should become the intentional.
One issue then is, for how long (and what age / experience difference) can a facilitator still be a peer in a peer-led, of youth, group where leadership is equally shared? While an older “more experienced” person can still be an effective group facilitator, and there have been examples of this a Leadership, the group dynamic is different – yet it still works within the Leadership community of acceptance, acknowledging imperfection, servant-leadership, sharing leadership and non-hierarchy. Experienced staff, as they traditionally do, should remain in the background and with a nervous confidence and a risk-taker, provide input, challenge and resources for groups.
There are some insights from the Leadership research that also can be usefully discussed by Leadership staff, so read on, but I am offering them here for a wider BB audience.