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February 13, 2006


Mark Berry

Having had 12 years as a Youth Minister... and now am Pioneer Leader/Missioner... I think you are right... But, where there is a place for experienced Youth Ministers/Pastors is engaging in Mission in Youth Cultures... seeding new communities of seekers incarnate in culture.


totally with you on this one.

and it's kind of ironic, as a recently graduated youth ministry bachelor degree toting individual.

but if you look back, the whole "youth pastor" phenomenon used to be the new thing. used to be. so what's next? the joy of living in a post-yesterday world...there's always a "what's next?".


Even though I'm a youth pastor at a mega-church, I completely agree with you. The one thing I would add is that with participation comes the idea that a teen actually has something to say that can benefit the church. Rather than being a church consumer they can begin to be an actual part of the church! The question now is what do those of us in youth ministry do? We have "postmodern teens" who we are leading within a very modern model of church...


All that you describe as "emerging" church sounds pretty cool. I was wondering if you have any examples of churches who are actually doing this stuff...no program directors, no hiearchy, church for others, etc...

Scot McKnight

I don't know about this, but I was once asked by a Presbyterian pastor, now weary with his church and thinking he liked the emerging movement, how he was to go about "applying" for a pastorate in the emerging church.

I told him what you said basically: it's not like that. They are organic.


Can anyone offer advice as to how to incorporate all the different age groups into meetings in small communities? We are currently starting a church and are meeting in a (sometimes) crowded living room. Any practical advice from those who have done this before about childcare and making kids and teens valued? Thanks, Rich


A few years ago I was involved in a church where we had whole family worship, it was a congregation that had developed alongside an existing congregation, the worship was not structured or even organised, people freely brought readings (not always from the Bible) and shared stuff that had challenged or effected them during the week...prayer was spontaneous..kind of O lets pray about that then type of stuff, sadly that small group no longer exists people moved away and slowly the pressure to join with the more traditional congregation became too much. Those of us who were involved in that group gained a great deal from being a part of it and it created a real hunger within us to see more of this type of expression of church, hierarchy was non existent and peoples gifts and talents were accepted and encouraged...I will never be the same again...as for practical advice there is none...it kind of emerged then disappeared...


Ryan - would you say that there are a number of teens who are involved in some of the different emerging churches? Or is this an underrepresented age group in emerging churches?

Benjamin Sternke

This kind of "all generations" thinking is great. From a theological perspective, God has cut across all human divisions (age, race, gender, class), creating one people who worship one God. More and more I think we are niche-marketing ourselves into oblivion. I would love to see more multi-generational stuff happening. It's definitely tricky in our culture, though, because people feel so busy most of them want to "out-source" the training of their young people to the professionals. I grew up in a church where several families left because we didn't have a "youth ministry". I think it would take some radical lifestyle adjustments to move away from the "professional youth pastor" model. But maybe following Jesus should involve some radical lifestyle adjustments ;)


As someone who's teaching a course named "ReImagining Youth Ministry" out at Biblical Sem. I'd like to suggest a few things. While I agree that a youth pastor's role as it has been understood in the past 40 years does not play a role in "emerging" churches I would suggest that there is a strong need for youth pastors in emerging churches. In the past youth pastors were hired to lead programs etc. But there is still a need for youth pastors, aside from this role. This breaks from most popular assumptions of the primary function that even most youth pastors identify with... but leading a ministry to the family, or to a community in today's world and it's currents demands a someone to lead the local congregation in it's ministry to families with teens. thoughts?


You make a lot of sense Riddle...
We have to be careful we don't make a caricature of youth ministry and critique it to death...
I spent much of my time in youth ministry in mission, being paid (by affluent families of "normal" kids in a mainline church)to go after the kids in our community whose parents never connected them with Jesus or his way of life...
Maybe if we could look at youth ministry in this context, as mission to a rapidly changing and highly volatile culture in need of the kingdom, as opposed to meeting the needs of church members and their kids, we could see youth ministry as inherently valuable. Just like the emerging church is valuable in the way it connects with postmoderns...


Mark, I agree with you -- there is a role, but it is quite different than it has in the past. Leading them into the culture, as 'lead missionary' is one such role...

Matt, great set of questions about transforming existing congregations -- working this out will be one of our chief challenges...

Todd -- I think it pretty much depends on the ages of the parents. Because these communities function like extended families and are fairly small in general, I have not seen a large number of youth in these congregations in the US.

Mark, I agree with you in the sense that ministry roles will need to change significantly. I think you are on the right track - I think it would take a whole course to explore the changes involved -- whether we still call that person 'youth pastor' at the end of the day, I don't know.

Like you, I teach at a school as well, and I often receive questions about pastoral job-placement (not just youth) in the traditional sense, and for the most part, this question doesn't compute in this context...


thanks for the response Ryan. I look forward to seeing how this all... emerges...

one point of clarification...
i'm only a guest teacher and I'm humbled to be in conversation with folks who do what you do.


Jeremy Del Rio

As a long-time critic of compartmentalizing youth ministry into junior congregations with a junior holy spirit and seeing youth ministry as a stepping stone to some other career ambition, I value the leveling of leadership and attempts to integrate services intergenerationally. However, we must be careful not to swing the pendulum too far in the other direction. There is no one-size-fits-all methodology for reaching people, and some individuals are uniquely called to engage young people specifically, just as other do marketplace ministry and others elder care especially well. The emerging church must make room for these gifts.

Mark La Roi

I think Jeremy sums up very well how I view the role of youth leader/pastor, but I don't understand the problem with a Senior Pastor. That was a role in teh Biblical church, so am I missing something?


Mark La Roi,

"Senior" pastor isn't a biblical term and though pastor is found in the scripture, it doesn't equate to getting a pay check.

I think I would agree with the thrust of your points, but I'd suggest that your argument against "one-size-fits-all" ministry may not be adequate. Calling does not equal getting paid (as I stated before).
Also. The gap between youth and adults is one of perception, which we as youth pastors and the church often reinforce.
There is a space in the emerging church for people who focus on youth, but it's not a good reason to have a youth pastor.

Mark La Roi

'"Senior" pastor isn't a biblical term and though pastor is found in the scripture, it doesn't equate to getting a pay check."

~I know the term isn't there but that isn't what I said. I said the role is there. The leader of the individual church bodies. There is also Scriptural backing for their physical support. That's why Apostle Paul made it a point to emphasize when he didn't accept support because it stood out from other times and other churches.

Again, I could just be missing something.

peter magelssen

for the time being, i agree with you. i still say however , it's too early to tell.


My impression is that while there isn't going to be a particular role of "youth minister" this doesn't mean teenagers have to make do with "grownup" church.

Like Ryan noted emerging churches relate more like an extended family, with each age and each person participating within the whole, for the whole. Just as at a family gathering you wouldn't have someone doing the special function of dealing with the teenagers, neither would you see this in a church. Some of the uncles or aunts will likely have greater affinity with the younger generations, and the younger generations would be participating in the family functions just like everyone else.

Each person contributes and each person is brought into the community, taught and given responsibility to use their gifts as they can. The teenagers, when they are able, participate as everyone else.

There is no one youth minister because it is assumed the youth will be ministered to by the community, with some in the community likely having a more natural interest in mentoring.

As far as "senior pastor" in the NT, there was certainly a functional leadership, but the roles we pack into the modern "senior pastor" were divided among many, with there being prophets, teachers, elders, and others who led with a dynamic vision. We've limited the ministry leadership to a single person or small number, and have thus also limited the ministry.


With this then, I wonder if in the Emerging Church concept there is room for something like a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, where at a certain age, maybe even 13, a child is officially incorporated as part of the adult congregation.


Here's another take on the role of Youth Minister: someone who does not, actually, have a primary role in ministering to youth. Instead, he/she helps the whole community to understand the spiritual challenges and opportunities that people face when they go through their teens. The Youth Minister becomes a minister to the whole congregation, helping them to minister to, and be ministered by, the children and youth of the congregation.





I'm currently working on a study of "4 views of youth ministry and the church" by Mark Senter. I think it portrays four very different focused models of youth ministry that are, in their ideal forms very different from what i think what i'd call the "mutated program based model" of youth ministry which I think Ryan's speaking of.

Mark La Roi

"As far as "senior pastor" in the NT, there was certainly a functional leadership, but the roles we pack into the modern "senior pastor" were divided among many, with there being prophets, teachers, elders, and others who led with a dynamic vision. We've limited the ministry leadership to a single person or small number, and have thus also limited the ministry."

~Ok, now your point of view I can see. I think my biggest "problem" is that when Christ saved me He did it in a church that didn't operate with the typical problems so many face, and as you've described. I do see that in some other churches though.


in my case, we don't have any teenagers yet! we have lots of young adults (about 50) of us and 21 kids (mostly toddlers)

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  • Hi, welcome to my former blog! My name is Ryan Bolger, and this is where I posted my thoughts on Jesus, culture, new forms of community, among other things. Come visit me at my new blog: http://www.ryanbolger.com. I still teach at Fuller Seminary in Southern California where I'm doing some writing as well. Feel free to bounce around the new or old website -- I hope it might stir your imagination -- feel free to stir mine as well by leaving some comments, preferably at the new site... Peace...


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