As a staff member of the Christian Formation Office for the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, a big part of my job is supporting the full-time, part-time and volunteer youth workers in our Diocese however I can, often times sharing resources that I come across. I recently read a book called Youth Ministry in a Post- Christian World: A Hopeful Wake-Up Call from a wonderful organization called the Youth Cartel that supports adults working with youth through holistic and professional coaching (theyouthcartel.com). The book was written by Brock Morgan, a youth worker with 20 years’ experience who is the current youth pastor at Trinity Church in Greenwich, Conn. In short, these people know what they’re talking about.
My first and biggest take away was the fact that the author does something that I have yet to see in youth ministry. He addresses the elephant in the room: the fact that youth ministry has changed significantly in the last 20 years and that if we don’t do something about it now, it will eventually all but go away. What really struck a chord for me (a 30-year-old who’s a product of growing up in a parish youth group) was when he talked about things that worked in years past that aren’t relevant anymore. What do we do to keep moving forward and why don’t the old practices work anymore?
He also talks about the cultural connotation with the word “Christian,” and what that means for youth today. The reality is that when youth who aren’t raised in a church setting hear the word “Christian,” they don’t always react the way you’d expect. Society and the current culture of youth has for the most part pushed church by the wayside. How do we bring our youth closer to the love of God when everything they see tells them church doesn’t matter, or doesn’t address it at all?
Morgan talks about redefining the role of youth minister and what that means. For years the only meaningful metric was numbers, as in, “How many youth show up every Sunday?” While that’s always something to consider, he challenges that as the primary assessment and focuses on the need for meaningful relationships and spiritual feeding for youth, not just doing whatever it takes to get more youth in the door.
Lastly, and most importantly, the book is extremely relevant. He understands texting, social media, youth being over scheduled, academic pressure from school/parents, and a myriad of other current issues working against the youth minister today. It’s a short (140 pages) but powerful read that’s well worth your time and I strongly recommend anyone working with youth in a church setting to read this book. It will challenge your way of thinking and offer a fresh perspective that, while might be hard to accept, is without a doubt a step forward.
Assistant to the Director of Christian Formation