The Bright Side of Failure

Youth Specialties
December 6th, 2010

One thing I love about youth ministry is that we always manage to find the silver lining when we miss the mark. 

Sometimes it's over things that don't really matter. Like my first few weeks teaching Sunday School lead me to say, “Wow, the middle schoolers were super squierrely today when I was teaching. I guess I should have saved the box of powdered donuts for the end of class?” 
But at other times it's over things that are near and dear to the heart of our ministry. Case in point, a recent blog post from Ian MacDonald, author of the hugely popular UK-based blog, Youthblog.
A proposed Youth Ministry Strategy
Diocese of Oxford
We have a Problem
We have an Opportunity
59% of UK Churches have no contact with 15-19 year olds 
49% of UK Churches have no contact with 11- 14 year olds
Numbers of children and young people gathering with the church for worship continue to fall
He continues with some more evidence: (I've shortened it, see the full list.)
• Reliance on an attractional model, assuming that if we put something on, young people will come …. and bring friends. This has not and is not working.
• A difficulty in taking young people seriously as co-learners and co-journeyers in faith, rather than 'empty vessels' to be filled. As a result young people haven't had a chance to wrestle with the reality of what faith might mean, or to have the space and opportunity to encounter God.
• Failing to model and live a transformative faith and spirituality in a way which young people can see, experience, question and be part of. 
• A failure to celebrate, encourage and resource ministry among young people, giving the impression that it just needs someone or anyone to volunteer and somehow muddle through.
Now, here's the optimism I love…
A Strategic response
I believe we need a creative and strategic response to halt the decline and to find ways of helping/enabling churches to re-engage with young people.
Furthermore I believe, this is not a problem with young people. It's our problem.
(There is good evidence to suggest that young people are not anti faith , and that they welcome a chance to explore issues of life, faith, death, meaning etc )
Well done, Ian! 
May youth ministry always be filled with leaders willing to look failure in the face and find strategy! 
Youth Specialties

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