A Deep Ministry in a Shallow World: Not-so Secret Findings About Youth Ministry

Editor’s Note: The Winter issue of Equip to Disciple featured the topic of the rising generation, but space did not allow the inclusion of the following two books. Because of their importance we are including them in this issue dealing with leadership, especially for church officers. These books reflect an area where church leaders and parents need to step up to the plate before it’s too late.

My inclination was to devote this entire issue of Equip to Disciple to this book. It is that important. Chap Clark and Kara Powell are on the faculty at Fuller Theological Seminary in the Center for Youth and Family Ministry department. You met Clark a couple years ago when we reviewed his book Hurt also dealing with the rising generation. He is a knowledgeable person and understands the culture of the younger generation.

The authors exemplified their philosophy and practice of youth ministry in an interview with Curt Gibson, who uses their “assets” approach in his student mentoring program. Gibson states, “I am all for Bible study, but this is different. This is a deeper view of the kingdom of God that says following Jesus means more than sin management. It says that the kingdom of God means we’re active in trying to serve and improve families, schools, and the entire community. Lots of volunteers don’t get that, and quite honestly, they leave.”

They asked Gibson what mistakes he made when he began trying to do ministry in this way: “Our biggest mistake was that we didn’t teach the theological perspective of the kingdom of God that says we are to engage our communities. So many people equate following Jesus only with doing Bible studies. I think that’s a truncated Jesus. “When asked his advice about this different approach to youth ministry he said, “If you’re already in a ministry, you might need to shut it down and rebuild from a kingdom perspective that focuses more on communities than programs.”

Clark states, “Today’s kids seem tougher to reach, more distant and disconnected. Programs and events don’t have the same impact they used to. Spiritual growth seems much slower and more erratic for most young disciples than even a few years ago…Maturity, in every area, simply takes longer to develop today than it once did…”

Clark continues, “Church and parachurch youth ministries tend to be far more supportive of adolescents and less agenda-driven than nearly every other system in their young lives. But we still represent a huge, often faceless organization-the church. Kids perceive us as being more committed to getting them to participate in our events and trips than to them as individuals…They simply don’t trust adults who run programs. As much as they may like us, most will hold back at some level because they see us as adults with self-serving agendas.” He goes on to develop the challenge that to reach today’s youth, we can no longer have success simply using an “add water and stir” approach. Kids see through those things. Why isn’t discipleship working like it used to? You must read the book along with Making Kingdom Disciples with the prayer that God will challenge you as parents, youth workers, and church workers to see the real need where our youth are concerned. We have to work hard and practice communicating with the younger generation. This book will challenge and help you to just that. Buy it! Read it! Use it!

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Charles Dunahoo pastored churches in Georgia and Alabama before being called to his present position as Coordinator for the PCA of Christian Education and Publications (CEP).

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