These three words very succinctly named the most important things about real estate. We have no such pithy phrase about youth ministry in the church.
Choices about the location of youth ministry have had an enormous impact on the numbers of young people who remain in mainline churches. In this week’s Theolog (the blog of The Christian Century magazine), Kate Murphy, an interim Presbyterian minister in North Carolina, writes about her fears that the youth ministry we have been doing (and that she had willingly participated in) is actually killing the church.
She explains that the problem with creating a “youth program” is that young people are never really integrated into the life of the church. And, when you see a young person actually participating in the life of the church, it seems terribly odd.
I’ve frequently encountered this location problem when trying to engage recent high school graduates in the life of the church. Because they’ve been “programmed” their entire life, they don’t know how to be part of the regular life of the church when they become adults. Instead, they expect that there be yet another program for them. What else would they think given how they’ve been raised?
I would assert that the location of youth ministry should not be in program, but in relationship. I’m willing to bet that church members are still in church because of a relationship they had with someone who was already there. We remain members in churches because of the relationships we form there.
While I was doing a workshop in Larchwood UCC in the Iowa Conference UCC this past weekend, one Sunday School teacher was bubbling with excitement as she talked about how children from her class would come up to her and give her a hug when they saw her in worship. She yearned for others in the congregation to know the joy of these relationships.
Not only are these relationships the glue that holds us together as humans, but they are the primary way in which we demonstrate God’s love here on earth. Remember that Jesus said, “‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the
So, perhaps we should make OUR pithy phrase: Relationship. Relationship. Relationship.
That sounds like a good location for youth ministry to me.