Sometimes in youth ministry we run ourselves ragged trying to keep up with all the latest trends in youth culture. Or, it may be that we feel inadequate because we can’t keep up because of limitations of time, finances, etc. Not all of us in youth ministry are full time. We may have the heart for it but there are tons of other things happening in our lives and it is all we can do to prepare each week and be present for the students at youth group as well as other times. Now, we can’t ignore youth culture totally and there are people who study it whose work we can follow. But still between a full-time job, family commitments, and other church commitments many of us are not able to master it the way we would like.
If this fits you, David White in Practicing Discernment with Youth: A Transformative Youth Ministry Approach has a real and encouraging perspective. If the above description doesn’t fit you, it’s still worth paying attention. David’s viewpoint may even be challenging in a positive way. “Youth ministry that seeks validity solely from youth’s attachment to culture lacks a fundamental trust in the goodness and beauty of God” (White 2005, 56). In saying this, he indicates that basing the legitimacy of ministry with youth completely on youth in relation to culture displays that confidence in aspects of God’s character, namely “goodness and beauty,” is missing. This points to the need to examine our foundations of youth ministry.
It is not that David White dismisses culture. He points to the way in which Jesus was in harmony with his context as seen in the relevant images in his ministry. Nevertheless, he notes that Jesus’ use of culture was not uncritical. It challenged. Neither did Jesus use it so to make what he offered more palatable (White 2005, 56).
We need to pay attention to what’s happening around us, especially in the world of the students God has called us to serve. However, we need to do this with a critical eye, that uses the lens of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We should strive to move beyond compliant use to discernment for ourselves and our students.
How are you grounding your youth ministry in the character of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor