Meaningful Youth Ministry | Context Is King
Context is king. Context is understanding the setting. It is knowing the meanings of language, values, and roles in a society. Sociologist's believe it to be king. Context is the most important sociological, theological, and relational term.
We are beginning the 7 years of "The Teen Decade" (2013-2019). It only happens once a century. Over the past few years, I have been praying for seven years of a spiritual awakening upon the Youth Culture in America. One of the prayers of mine is for Youth Leadership to be meaningful. To be present. To walk into the context or the setting of teenagers.
Meaningful Youth Ministry
It can be easy to stay within the confines of the Church. But, meaningful Youth Ministry is present where teenagers live. Meaningfulness is intentional, relevant, and relative to the setting that youth live in. Much of ministry is just showing up and being incarnate. Not expecting students to understand our Church world and setting, but, that we would understand their world and setting. To be wherever the students are. Will you be a part of their world?
It's simple, here are 4 sectors of society that we must model spiritual health and presence:
First, “Cultural meaningfulness.”
The process of communicating the Gospel in such a way as to make it meaningful to the people of any given cultural context. Contextualization has been defined so as to include socio-political involvement, incarnational lifestyle, application as over against exposition of the social, biblical, or relational setting.
For Youth Leadership to be culturally meaningful it must be culturally relevant and relative. Relevant, because a Youth Ministry understands their setting and its language, ideas, past, present, and future. To be knowledgeable and to be able to assess meaning. Relative, because a Youth Ministry understands the importance of relationship and is available. To be in conversation and to be connected personally.
Second, "Personal meaningfulness."
Who are the ICONS and the influencer's of this generation? Do we know who is shaping the language and ideas into the lives of teens today? Musicians (Bieber, Perry, Gaga, or Dre), movie stars (Depp, Pitt, Washington, or Stewart), or social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc,) personalities and platforms each impact a sect of teenager. There are so many people shaping the Youth Culture and we must be able to counter the influence.
What good is it to have the answers to the questions nobody is asking? As Youth Leaders we must have an informed platform that speaks to the social role models of the world teens are growing up in.
Are you praying for these Icons? They are the chief of every tribe in culture. Teens are impacted by music, movies, and social media. We must take notice of the individual impact upon the students in our area. Do you know the specific DNA in the region where you live? Do I know the school rivalry's in our city? Is my Youth Ministry present on social media platforms?
Third, "Religious meaningfulness."
Where is the Church? Have we lost our voice? There is such a great need for a revival in the Church today. To bring back the voice of truth, wisdom, and respect. Of power, courage, and Godliness. To gain the leverage that Christ wants us to have. But, with our own compromise, fear, and classic arguments, we have lost our influence. There is a rise in pluralism and humanism and meism that has caused our generation to make another flight from the Church. And only 3 in 10 teenagers know half of the 10 Commandments. That is a problem.
Is biblical truth relevant in my Youth Ministry and my personal lifestyle as a Youth Leader? What about absolutes? At a time when sin and paganism is rising, the Church should be rising with it and not falling. Rising with truth and maturity and grace to meet the paganism of this world. Youth Leaders must not be ashamed to preach and to teach the Word of God. To live before teens in such a way that they will see a clear picture of God in our lives. It is important that we not raise another generation who are theologically ignorant.
Fourth, "Family meaningfulness."
I have been in Youth Ministry for over 30 years. And the problem of broken homes has always been a growing phenomenon in the Youth Culture. However, I have never seen it like this before. I ask students all the time about 'family dinner' or 'family vacation' or 'family devotions' and have come to realize these are almost non-existent.
But, we are not only seeing a 'fatherless' generation, we are also seeing a 'motherless' generation, and, we are seeing a 'siblingless' generation. The family structure is changing and being re-defined before our eyes.
If there is a time in history when Malachi's prophecy from chapter 4 seemed more needed, it is now. The hearts of the fathers must be returned to the home. There is an absence of father/mother/sibling in American homes that has added to the crime, sexual dysfunction, anger, lack of purpose, and economic peril so prevalent in our society. Strong and biblical male leadership is one of the most necessary ingredients modeled by spiritual leaders. In a culture of blended homes, it may take dad's, mom's, sibling's, grandpa's, grandma's, aunts, and uncles to build our homes. But, don't under-estimate the example of a healthy Youth Leader's home modeling a healthy family in front of teens. It is very attractive also.
Can you say that you are present in the life of teenagers today? That you are where they are. We must meet our students at home, the school campus, the leisure setting, and the Church. Being in the world but not of it will help you leave a mark on this world and especially teenagers. We must become world leaders and not worldly leaders. Able to minister inside and outside of the Church.
If 'Context Is King', we must understand the times and know what to do about it. To shape the Youth Culture in its setting is going to take intention and planning. It will take Youth Leaders who are willing to master each of these sectors and becoming professional at it. In The Coming Teen Decade, will you ask the Lord for wisdom and understanding of the times, and, as one of God's Sociologists, to know what to do about it? These four sectors must be approached by every Youth Leader.