A Missiology of YTH Ministry
mis·si·ol·o·gy [misēˈäləjē], NOUN. The study of religious (typically Christian) missions and their methods and purposes.
Missiology is the study of missional methods. Applied to YTH Ministry, it is how and why we do what we do. Let’s deal with the Missiology of YTH Ministry from the campus context. The setting of the student or teenager. How to become present or with young people.
Think of it this way.
If a missionary came to America and saw how most of us do YTH Ministry they would shake their head. They would look at the majority of YTH Leaders who spend the majority of their time in the Church building. And they would scratch their head wondering why we are not in the setting of our target. Why we are not on the school campus, at the coffee shop, or the donut shop, or the mall, or gym, or the theatre, or the skate park. With students.
Let’s at least admit that we must increase our missional presence in the teenage setting.
The Last Great Mission Field In America
Too often I have heard YTH leaders make excuses about their presence on campus. Saying that their middle school or high school is closed to the gospel and the YTH ministry is not allowed on campus. However, I have yet to see a closed campus in my 35 years of YTH ministry. Sure, on some campuses (because of the administration, or, because of the issues of former YTH workers) YTH leaders may not be able to have a Bible study or prayer meeting at lunch in the cafeteria. But, there are so many other ways to get on campus.
Unfortunately, what I have heard are more excuses than solutions. While YTH leaders more focused on the office or the coffee shop. And their version of context is the Church. Hoping that students show up on Wednesday night at the YTH service. While at the same time young people are asking the Church to show up at the public school. And the two pass in the night like ships in two different directions.
I believe the last great mission field in America is the unreached 25+ million teenagers in our middle school and high school campuses. So what do we do about it? This chasm between the school and the youth group. It will take dealing with the excuses head on and bringing solutions to the volunteers and the paid YTH leaders across our country in order to have a footprint on the soil of America’s unreached people group.
Students are not just dropping out of Church - they aren’t going to Church. Church attendance, bible reading, biblical worldview, and morality distinction are all decreasing in this Millennial and GenZ set. And atheism (which more than doubled from the last two Gen sets), has been the new ‘faith’ of the latest Generation.
Practical Campus Theology
So, let me help you with the practice of contextual campus ministry. Assuming that you can solve the theoretical impasse with the above information, and truly have a desire to be on campus. I know it can be intimidating. But there are many ways to do this. To have a footprint on the school campus - whether you are volunteer or paid YTH Leadership.
I will say that I'm not concerned about the full-time YTH Pastors as much. They have bigger issues if they do not have a presence on campus. However, because most of the YTH Ministry in the Church is done with part-time and volunteer YTH leaders, I want to help with some practical steps to transform your YTH ministry into a contextualized setting. The campus setting.
Here are 6 ways to have a presence on the campus:
• Train your students to be campus missionaries. Systematic preaching and teaching of the importance of sharing their faith, and, how to do that in the middle and high school context. Apologetics.
• Attend as many extra-curricular events as possible on the campus. The whole YTH leadership team should be assigned to this. Assuring that every school is covered.
• Volunteer or apply for work at the school. Teaching or classroom assistance, career/vocational/behavioral counseling, lunchroom, library, athletic team coaching, officiating sports, choirs, or transportation services. How many more do we need to list here?
• Programming and Planning to use the facilities of the local schools for YTH ministry events. Things like seminars, conferences, assemblies, concerts, or athletic events can build trust and provide the school system with resources to build better students. Now the Church is giving and not taking. A neutral site event helps the students to take their faith away from the Church.
• Praying for the campuses in your area. This can be done publicly in the YTH ministry service, or, with strategic prayer walks or meetings on or around the campus. By doing this you promote a passion for the schools, but, you also invest intercessory prayers into the situation as a solution to the problem.
• Preaching or teaching with the campus in mind. Every week you should be preaching, teaching, and modeling contextualization to your ministry.
This is mission. God with us. Emmanuel. Incarnate Christ. Solving the problem of the Church in culture is really very easy. It doesn't take much creativity. It does, however, take more desire. I can’t help you with the desire part. But, I can help you with the creative part. So, I offer 30+ ways to reach the campus as a YTH ministry and create a presence in the middle and high school:
• The best way a YTH ministry gets on campus is with campus missionaries (training the students who have access daily)
• Make yourself available to the school for crisis counseling
• Run for school board or other educational positions in government and local elections
• Look to get involved in the myriad of extra-curricular activities at school (purchase a season athletic pass, attend plays, concerts, and performances)
• Find the Christian para-Church organizations that are recognized clubs on campus and have a presence or relationship in those ventures off campus first
• Send birthday cards to your students friends and faculty with YTH ministry name on it
• Use seasonal and holiday themes to attend concerts and plays
• Have students wear YTH ministry themed clothing and gear to familiarize the school with your YTH ministry at events or daily at school
• Attending the funerals of YTH, school staff, or faculty can build relationships in the school at important times
• Monitor current events and headlines and be ready to offer lecture, counsel, or intervention
• Pray publicly at community events where school officials are present (elections or banquets)
• Use your skill-sets: Coaching athletics, Choir, Band, Theatre, Officiating, Teaching
• Use school facilities for a Christian concert or seminar
• Have your students promote YTH group activities or events
• Encourage YTH ministry students to invite the YTH Pastor to classroom as a guest speaker for a religious or non-religious subject
• Organize a Super Bowl party and use the school facilities to host it
• Promote your YTH group social media, website on clothing, gear, locker, or book stickers/covers
• Attend the para-church orgs like FCA, Young Life, First Priority, YTH Alive, or other campus student led organizations
• Organize a 7 Project or YTH Speaker at your school
• Organize a clean up crew for after football games to sweep the grounds
• Ask to sing the National Anthem (or YTH choir) sing the National Anthem at a game
• Attend or promote the weekly Bible study at your school
• Offer a place for a class at school to build the Home-Coming float
• Purchase school t-shirts for a pep rally before an important game (place the YTH ministry logo on the shirt)
• Chaplaincy and Prayer before or after a game
• Attend and organize See You At The Pole every September
In 1962-1964, as a result of pressure from Madilyn Murray-O'hare and others, an official prayer and Bible reading were removed from U.S. schools. And that's not really a big deal. Because as long as there are tests in school, there will be prayer in school. students are praying and reading their Bibles every day on the school campus.
However, if we are going to be missional - intentional - we must rethink how we are doing context in YTH ministry. Instead of contributing to the absence of prayer and Bible reading on campus, YTH Ministries should be intentional in training campus missionaries and strategic in relationship to the campus. To be honest, if there's a will, there's a way.