The Future of YTH Ministry

The last couple of weeks we have looked at the history of YTH ministry. It really is a remarkable journey. A journey born out of The Second Great Awakening – one of America’s greatest spiritual movements. This makes it much more important that we consider more strongly the roots of YTH ministry so that we can get back to the DNA of our work.

Seeing the past is math and analysis. But the future is art. It really is almost impossible to predict the future. We can speak prophetically, we can speak to the research/data, we can speak from a knowledge of the present culture, and we can speak from our own desires and will. Gathering all of this information can give us a clearer picture of what the future holds.

So, here are my thoughts on the future of YTH ministry:

  • Because Gen Z only has a 4% biblical worldview, the critical need of YTH ministry in the future is a theological emphasis

    PRAX - emphatic teaching and preaching of theology, language definition and understanding of key Christian concepts such as The 10 Commandments, Proverbs, the Sermon on the Mount, the Trinity, the gifts/fruit of the Spirit, sanctification and justification, apologetics, and eschatology.

  • Because Gen Z are digital natives, it will be important that YTH ministry has a plan to redeem social media

    PRAX - this would include modeling our personal social media use as YTH leaders, teaching students Social media disciplines such as amount of usage time, online bullying, information privacy posting, and reactionary posting.

  • Because Gen Z are 50% non-white (the highest in US history for a generational set), we must have an intentional plan for racial inclusion, reparations, and intersectionality that increases diversity development in YTH ministry

    PRAX - intentional diverse leadership, using restorative language such as forgiveness, encouraging adult and student leaders to sit and friend outside of their racial circles, YTH leaders should learn Spanish, and we should be including various racial illustrations for sermons.

  • Because only 48% of Gen Z believe that gender is based on birth sex, YTH ministry is facing a crisis of identity and must learn the binary and non-binary terms that are defining sexuality for teenagers

    PRAX - one of the priorities of YTH ministry in the sexual revolution era is to walk in both truth and grace. Defining a biblical view of sexuality is critical to this. (You can find biblical text recommendations on the blog if you search The Sexual Revolution). The sexual revolution has introduced many new terms and language. Learning the terms will help YTH ministry to understand what is being taught in schools. Those terms include:

    Aromantic: Experiences little or no romantic attraction to others.

    Bigender: People who feel they have both a male and female side.

    Cisgender: Gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth

    Gender binary/Non-binary: The idea that there are only two distinct and different genders: Female/Male. (Or, that there are many and not exclusive of Female/Male)

    Intersex: Biologically neither completely male nor completely female

    Polysexual: Attracted to multiple genders while rejecting the idea that there are only two genders (male and female). 

  • Because the number one way Gen Z finds personal fulfillment and identity is achievement, YTH ministry must construct identity work with teenagers and appeal to the competitive achievement of teenagers

    PRAX - every YTH ministry must deal with the three most important questions: Who am I? Where did I come from? And why am I here? Sixty percent of Gen Z believe they will have several occupations before they reach the age of 30. While this leads to aggressive achieving, it can also denote a lack of identity. This will require teaching students the value of understanding their core competencies and their unique identity calling as children of God.

With this in mind, let me give you a few format changes for the future of YTH ministry & practice.

MISSIOLOGY

This is the study of mission and why we do something. Foremost in the future of YTH ministry philosophy must be context. If a missionary came and looked at how US YTH ministry happens, they would scratch their head and ask, “why are you not on campus?“ It makes sense that the campus is the place where the target is shaped the most.

In order for us to do effective YTH ministry, we must have a presence in the teen setting. This would include the school campus, extracurricular activities, and the social hangouts of teenagers.

The future of effective YTH ministry will be determined by our neutral site presence. We cannot do YTH ministry solely on the church grounds. That will only help to create codependent students. Most of the miracles in the New Testament happened outside of the temple and in the marketplace, the homes, and the countryside.

HUMAN RELATIONS

In order for all of this to take place, YTH ministry will need to model relationship and a neighborhood mentality. Even though teenagers are the most glocally connected generation, they still lack human relation. A priority for the future of YTH ministry must be proximity of leaders and students. I would suggest learning the names and stories of students if the church will become relative to teenagers. One of the great ways to promote human relations is to have a spotlight every week introducing a student to the group.

Another element of the human relations change must be the YTH leader relationship with parents. It will be very difficult to build a future effective YTH ministry if YTH leaders are not connected to parents and the home of teenagers. This can be done through annual meetings, one on ones, and using supportive language as YTH leaders toward parents and family in our messaging.

The needed relational capital must become a central elementary priority in YTH ministry. Something we are known for. We cannot trade program for proximity.

SOCIAL INFLUENCE

It’s the proverbial ant in front of the train. We cannot fight against the growth of social media. Because of the overuse of social media and the fact that it is not going away, every YTH ministry must make promotional and YTH group materials available to the students for posting and story on social media. This could look like creating images for students to use in their social platforms to increase the footprint of the YTH series or even for the promotion of a YTH event. With the digital information available, YTH ministry could easily become viral with just a few strategic plans.

Aside from just the images, the social image identity is important also. That would include doing live social media events and pop-ups to help create YTH ministry in the wild!

Another important aspect of the social image is YTH merch. Clothing, hats, stickers, and other items can create identity, culture, and outreach.

FINALLY

All of these findings are critical traits in this generation and must lead to YTH ministry developing a plan of action for each of these characteristics. Our methodology must focus upon relationships and proximity and not programming. A sterile and unrelatable YTH ministry will lose the neighborhood that is required to connect with digital natives.

Take a look at some of these futurist views of YTH ministry. And please, tell me what you think by leaving some comments.

Jeff Grenell