I have enjoyed reading Family-Based Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries. Before writing one of my book recommendations I will post a three part summary of the book. The first part below deals with what I’m calling the need for family-based youth ministry which covers the first 6 chapters of the book.
The Need for Family-Based Youth Ministry
Chapter 1: Something’s Wrong The Crisis in Traditional Youth Ministry
There is a crisis in youth ministry today. The crisis is not getting teenagers to come to our youth meetings but rather that we have not been effective in leading our young people to mature Christian adulthood. More teenagers are participating in our programs but they are not growing up into adults who participate in church.
One of the dangers in youth ministry is that youth workers and churches evaluate their success or failure by the wrong numbers. They spend huge amounts of effect and energy getting more teenagers to participate while ignoring most of the ones that God has already given them.
Chapter 2: Is Anybody Out There? The Growth of Teenage Isolation
The main cause of this current crisis is the way that our culture and our churches have systematically isolated young people from the very relationships that are most likely to lead them to maturity. Young people grow in maturity generally, and maturity in Christ particularly, by being around those who exhibit such maturity themselves.
9 cultural shifts have taken place which has increasingly separated children and young people from the world of adults (taken from Urie Bronfenbrenner).
- Father’s vocational choices that remove them from the home for lengthy periods of time.
- An increase in the number of working mothers.
- A critical escalation in the divorce rate.
- A rapid increase in single-parent families.
- A steady decline in the extended family.
- The evolution of the physical environment of the home (family rooms, playrooms and master bedrooms).
- The replacement of adults by the peer group.
- The isolation of children from the work world.
- The insulation of schools from the rest of society.
There are now today, less opportunities for children and young people to be with adults in the neighbourhood, schools, social activities, families and church. Hanging out with friends or partying in an adult-free home has become the norm for the teenager’s social life.
Church is possibly where youth are segregated the most from the world of adults. Youth programmes keep them separate from the rest of the church. Even when adults and young people do worship together, they sit in peer groups – adults with adults, youth with youth etc.
Chapter 3: The Developmental Disaster The Impact of Teenage Isolation
There are a number of things this isolation of teenagers from adults brings:
1) Teenagers won’t learn the skill required of mature adults. Maturation occurs as less mature have repeated opportunities to observe, dialogue, and collaborate with the more mature. This does not happen in a peer centred Sunday School class.
Youth culture keeps young people in youth rather than moving them towards adulthood. Young people who sit together in church tend to act like children. Young people who sit with parents, or who are divided amongst the rest of the congregation imitate the behaviour of the adults they are with.
2) The media now plays a more powerful role in the formation of teenagers values .
3) Teenagers are severely limited in their ability to think critically, leaving them easily swayed by what feels right at the moment.
4) Peer influence correlates closely with the rise in rebellion, resistance, chemical abuse, and promiscuity.
Chapter 4: Sitting on a Gold Mine The Power of the Nuclear Family
What happens in the youth group has miniscule impact compared to what children learn on a day to day basis as they do the everyday things of life in and with their families. The best long term youth leaders are parents themselves because they ultimately have the greatest interests in their kids.
Research has found a number of things to support this: It’s found that parents remain the single most important influence in the development of a teenager’s personality. It’s found that parents who talk about faith and invite their children in serving alongside them can double and sometimes triple their children’s chances of living out their faith as adults.
This shows how important it is to equip fathers and mothers to play a more active role in the religious education of their children. Parents play a role second only to the Holy Spirit in building the spiritual foundation of their children’s lives.
However, it’s also important to remember that the parent’s power to build up is matched by their power to cause harm.
Chapter 5: The Critical Care Unit The Peculiar Crisis in Today’s Christian Family
There are some barriers to involving more parents in youth ministry.
Here are three of the biggest:
1) Parents are not mature Christian adults themselves.
2) Parents are feeling helpless when it comes to providing for the Christian nurture of their own children.
3) Parents are victims of their own schedule – they are too busy.
Chapter 6: Stacking the Stands The Power of the Extended Christian Family
Every teenager needs an extended family of Christian adults – adults who can be a part of the cloud of witnesses that cheers them on. Church is where teenagers are exposed to these adults. An extended Christian family is a community of believers who affirm and encourage growth toward Christian maturity. Only church and family can provide Christian nurture from birth to old age – even death.
The extended Christian family can be equally as powerful in faith formation as parents, especially for those who come from non-Christian homes. Research has found that when person reaches mature Christian adulthood they often will point to the influence of a godly parent or Christian adult who modelled what being an adult Christian was all about. It’s important that teenagers are give opportunities to build connections with Christian adults.
When the church and family abandon their role of helping young people navigate passage to adulthood, the teenager becomes more susceptible to influence of friends, music and media.
Often it is the stronger youth programmes that weaken the chances that young people will remain in the church, because participation in the youth programme takes the place of participation in the church.