On his blog recently, Adam McLane theorized the very difficult statement Youth Ministry is Flatlining. Basically his argument is…
Statistically speaking you are flatlined. (As in– no heart beat!) You’re reaching just about the same percentage of people you’ve always reached. That may be OK from a church politics situation but I’m not sure I’m OK with that from a theological position.
And I’m positive that this flatlining has lead to the following problems in youth ministry over the last decade:
> A general cynicism about youth ministry internally and externally.
> A decrease in youth ministry staff and general budget funding.
> An increase in expectations that new youth ministry staff grow the program immediately.
> Lots of great youth workers moving on to other ministries or careers.
> The rise of family ministry models designed to circle the wagons. (Historically, youth ministry existed for evangelism. Popular models today are primarily interested in keeping church families engaged.)
Adam is NOT providing answers in his post, but he is asking perhaps the right question. Do we set up youth ministry, or church for that matter, for the very slight percentage that can dedicate a thin sliver of the pie chart of their lives for us? Or to utilize the language of the Occupy Movement… Are we designing our ministry to the 1% when the great commission calls for us to go out and make disciples of all the nations… ahem, the 99%.
So, what changes to kick life into the flatlined? It doesn’t make sense to step up our present efforts… We can only provide those eclectic paddles of more intensive efforts so often before before we admit our same old, same old solution won’t work…
Maybe we have to expect more of the 1%… not just to treat them as recipients or customers, but as actual collaborators. Perhaps, we have to also find new ways to collaborate in the lives, in the arenas, where young people are spending the pie charts of their lives. Perhaps we need to understand ourselves as the Church that occupies… like Jesus did. We need to find ourselves within meals of others, not just at our Eucharistic meal. We need not to enclose the Living Waters within our Churches, but to share them in the Samaritan Woman’s wells of young people’s lives.
What changes if we re-configure our church, our ministry efforts to occupy on behalf of the 99% we are not reaching?