One of the guys who I’m beginning to listen to more and more in the youth ministry scene is Dr Chap Clark, author of “Hurt: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers” and the soon to be released book “When Kids Hurt: Help for Adults Navigating the Adolescent Maze”
His recent lectures at the National Youth Ministry Conference on “Thinking Theologiclly About Youth Ministry” are going to be featured quite heavily on this blog in the coming weeks as I think through the Manipulative Youth Ministry stuff.
Chap lectured on “Let the children come to me” back in 2007 in his Professorial Inaugural Lecture, Fuller Seminary, March 6, 2007.
In his lecture he outlines 4 basic road blocks that we have built that hinder young people from coming to Jesus that include…
a) By the very nature of what adolescence is kids feel isolated and alone. We have handed our young people a culture of isolation and loneliness.
b) Systemic Abandonment. Adolescence has been extended because kids have been systemically abandoned and are therefore victims of cultural fragmentation. As we have moved hard and fast in the world in our need to survive we have segregated ourselves by age and this has seeped into the church, as we’ve sought to support and minister to the kids we’ve fragmented our community, we’ve said to our young people that “we love you so much that we’ll hire somebody to listen to you but we don’t want to take ten minutes to be your friend.”
c) Adults don’t know how or understand much abandonment has cost us. Adults have been so goal oriented that they have not been able to sit down and reflect on how our lives, structures and practices are affecting our young. It’s not that they don’t care, it’s that they’ve got too much else to worry about, (or they think they have too much else). And this is very acute in our pastors and church ministers.
d) When adults are confronted with the reality of a world of young people who have been systemically abandoned, cut free, ignored, ridiculed and isolated adults are not willing to do what’s necessary to assimilate young people into the body of Christ. We are all fragmented from each other and are unwilling to change our lives and our community and our church to receive and embrace those in our community that come to Jesus Christ.
This lecture was back in 2007, and it’s something that I’m using now in 2009 to try and re-introduce congregations and communities to ministry wih young people. I’m trying to explain to them what I believe they are saying when they send kids out for Sunday school, or during camps or meetings, are we willing to change our communities, to mend our fragmentations, to take the chance that Chap’s right, that we’re all in need of each other and that this is the core reality that needs to exist in our youth ministry… Love and embrace.