Why We Need Change in Youth Ministry

Posted on: 11/24/08 9:41 AM | by Jonathan McKee

A couple weeks ago we launched a new podcast– one where my buddy Brandon and I interviewed Mark Oestreicher (CEO of Youth Specialties) about his new book, Youth Ministry 3.0

The discussion was fascinating, a much needed conversation about “why we need change in youth ministry.” Marko blogged about it yesterday, plugging the podcast and outlining the “7 Sins” he shared with us. He has started a Facebook group about the book, and several people on that page are plugging our podcast and talking about it (for those that like to listen to a recording, rather than read a book).

I haven’t really gone on record about the book yet, so I figured I’d share my 2 cents.

My two cents on Youth Ministry 3.0

First, I think the book is a must read for youth workers. It is one of those books that will stretch you- a needed stretch for most. It forces us to think out of the box when it comes to why we do what we do.

It’s a fact that many of us in youth ministry tend to gravitate toward a expected list of “do’s” in our youth ministry. In other words- when it comes to our specific ministry, most of us tend to think about “Wednesday night youth group, Sunday morning, our small groups, etc.” We’re very “program” focused. Marko’s book questions that kind of thinking, explaining why it might have worked decades ago, but doesn’t work now.

Even if you don’t agree with all of his conjecture (i know I didn’t), his history of youth ministry is fascinating, his insight into the needs of today’s teenager was perceptive, and the questions he raises are not only relevant, but necessary. It’s a must read for any youth leader, and a great conversation starter in youth ministry leadership circles.

How far do we take this?

I think the over-reactions to this book could be scary. I hope that people won’t abandon their “programs” all together. One of the biggest thrusts of Marko’s book is that today’s teenagers are looking for belonging. Many of our small groups and youth groups provide that for some of our kids. It would be a shame to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

“Programming” has become a bad word in the last two years in youth ministry circles. It’s actually pretty amusing. In my Connect Training, I try to help people understand this phenomena by introducing to “people,” Loni Lovem, and Peter Programmit. In the workshop I describe Peter and his extreme use of slick programming, focus on numbers, etc. Then I talk about how Loni Lovem emerged- really as a polar reaction to Peter. She wants to be anything BUT Peter, so she refuses to do anything with programming and tries to just go and “love kids.” Go where kids are at and just love em. But don’t try to organize anything, because that would be “programming,” and programming is BAD!

In this seminar I propose questions for each side. I ask Peter questions like, “Do you really know the kids that are coming to your programs?” and “If a kid is missing one week… are they missed?” I ask Loni, “How do you make first contact with kids? Do you stand out front of a high school campus after school in an overcoat and say, “Hey kids, do you want some candy?” and I ask her, “Where is a safe place where these kids can ‘belong?'” (you can hear me go through this whole scenario in my workshop at YS this year- YS sells mp3’s and CD’s of their sessions here)

There is not easy answer to this tension. The answer is obviously a balance. That’s why I like Marko’s Youth Ministry 3.0. A lot of people reside on the side of Peter Programmit. Marko’s book comes from the trenches of Loni Lovem and provides a needed extreme pull toward her side. I just hope that this “pull” doesn’t prompt youth leaders to drop existing venues where kids can connect right now (in fear that they are just “programs!”) These venues can be effective instruments in our toolbelt, that can help even Loni provide a safe place where kids can go once she makes contact. That’s the key. We need to be “going to them” (something Peter needs to learn) but also be open to being part of venues (something Loni needs to get over!) where kid can connect.”

That’s my quick two cents.

Papa, Dude, or Leader?

Posted on: 10/6/08 9:06 AM | by Jonathan McKee

My dad just released a great article over at VolunteerPower.com … maybe I’m biased, he used an experience with my son as an example. He talks about his role with my son and how it changes from Papa, to an advisor, and sometimes even “dude.” (when they are looking at cars!) In this same way his role changes as a volunteer leader. He proposes that volunteer leadership can look much like being a grandparent.

In this article about volunteer management, he asks the key question:

How do we communicate worth and potential with our volunteers in such a way that they use their gifts and talents to fulfill the mission of our organization?

Then he explains that the answer is found in the balance of two leadership factors: Guidance and Trust. I know any of us who work with volunteers has bounced back and forth wondering, “How much hands-on direction do I need to give?” That ties to, “How much confidence to I have that I can depend on the volunteer?”

Great article.

Last week, GROUP’s “Church Volunteer Central” sent out an e-newsletter featuring another article of his, one on training this new breed of volunteers. That article takes a story from our book, a story when I did a ride-along with my LAPD buddy a little while ago. Fun stuff!