Hacking Youth Ministry

Hacking Youth Ministry? by Youthworker Circuit

Have a growing population of homeschooling teenagers? I know we certainly do. Perhaps you have seen some of the videos out there that bring into question todays education system. Perhaps you have read something like Drive by Dan Pink and checked out our Motivation 3.0 in Youth Ministry and you are wondering.. Is what we are doing in youth ministry working?

Well, here it comes again.

this time from the voice of a teenager (wow! consider mind blown!)

Perhaps in our quest to fill teenagers up with theology, doctrine, the church, Jesus and God we’ve missed some fundamental principle? We just might have…

The first thing that grabbed me was that I have constantly asked youth what they wanted to do when they grew up. Totally feeding into some consumptive nature of our culture. “What are you going to do to feed the economy?” might not be my intention what I am asking, and it is valid they should probably have something in mind to do to feed the economy. However, as a spiritual guide, we probably need to come up with some other questions.

Other Questions (certainly not exhaustive)

  • What Brings You Joy?
  • What Breaks Your Heart?
  • How Do You Hope to Experience God in (future date)?
  • What can you do that feels like being like Jesus? (surely they shouldn’t say ‘corporate tycoon’)
  • What do you hope to be about when you get older?

Hacking Youth Ministry?

So what if we start to “hack youth ministry”? What might that look like? Do we start to take our minds off the knowledge bearer (Dan Pink term in A Whole New Mind) default of spiritual (and cultural) education we are prone too? That’s the common experience and understanding of all the parents that send their teenagers to church and youth group for. They want their children to ‘know about God and Jesus’ and have some good moral character installed in them. Rarely are we expected that we help to teach youth how to learn about God. Rarely are we expected to experiment with youth ministry. Because rarely were our parents taught how to learn about God and experiment with their faith. Not an indictment on our predecessor teachers of the faith, not everything they did was wrong, but what they did is increasingly wrong for our culture and teenager today.

Hacking Youth Ministry | by Youthworker Circuit

So What Can We Do to Hack Youth Ministry? (few ideas)

  • Be Joyous in Ministry: If being an program manager doesn’t give you joy, then get the hell out of that job and into something that does. Take youth outside the building in irregular experiences instead of the weekly pizza party and rapid fire calendar of lazer tag. NOTE: If you get joy from shooting your youth in lazer tag, we totally get that, but you might also need to have some counseling as to why you enjoy shooting your youth peeps </sarcasm>. Your joy will be what young people attach to. So be joyous in ministry.
  • Take Risks: Professional church life seems to have this ethos that everything that is started has to continue on forever. WRONG! Many great ministries have started and ended. They are not considered a failure or a waste of time, but a ministry that served a purpose for the time and place they were created. That’s a good thing. Take at least one or two experiments in ministry each year. It’s a healthy thing. Call them experiments. Tell your people “we will see how it goes” and go from there. If it is miserable and just didn’t fit in with the youth ministry, that’s fine, don’t do it again. But at least you know. You also have started the culture of taking risks and trying out ministries. It doesn’t have to be forever, but it is something we experiment with right now and meet a need this year.
  • Teach Others Where to Resource: You (looking at you professional youth minister) do not, should not, be the gate keeper for all the resources of youth ministry to your people. Tell the youth (yes the youth) and the youth leaders where to get information about their culture, places to study, etc. You like to learn about God and Jesus, theology, and doctrine (every four years or so for that doctrine thing) so why not share with others how you learn. This isn’t going to put your job at jeopardy. Quite the contrary. You expanding people’s library of resources builds the value that you are to those people.
  • Hacking Youth Ministry? by Youthworker CircuitPlace the Key Indicators at the Forefront: Spending two days holed up in your office working on an “epic” lesson that will be forgotten about within the next 24 hours of giving it is a poor use of resources. Go outside, be in relationship with teenagers in their environment. Have honest conversations and teachable moments at relevant times. FUNNY STORY: A youth called me about two years after going off to college (and a hard few years personally for him) to check in with me, and he shared that he got a tattoo of something I taught him about God. “Oh really?” I was intrigued with what profound words in a lesson I might have taught him. When he told me I had to chuckle some. The ‘tat’ he got was actually a golf quote/lesson that I gave him while out playing on the course. Suppose it was an applicable quote/lesson for a life with God, so I was going to leave that conversation with “Thanks man, that’s humbling” (which it was humbling, in many ways).

I love Master Logan’s idea of ‘hacking’ as re-imagining a craft. Youth ministry, in it’s current form, has a seriously short history. Yet, we give it some standing in our profession like it has been around since the days of Jesus. Youth ministry is a new thing, and it is still worthy of hacking. So start hacking youth ministry.