Youth ministers take an active interest in teenagers for who they are, and not for some other purpose, say, fixing their problem behaviors or getting them to church. The thing teenagers should get from church if not from any place else is an adult or two who is genuinely interested in them as a human being.
To the marketplace, teens are consumers. To their schools, teens are producers of test scores. To their sports teams, teens are players. To the church, teens are beloved Human Beings created in God’s image.
It seems to me that, beyond their families (if they’re lucky) nothing else in youths’ lives relates to them this way. Not even other youth. Where else do teenagers encounter a community that recognizes the image of God in them and makes a habit of pointing it out?
This is no specialized skill. In fact, the best way for churches to minister to youth in this way is to minister to adults this way. If church is a place where people give to one another the gift of an active interest in one anothers’ lives, youth will benefit along with the adults, and they’ll learn how to share that gift in the process.
(This is an ancillary benefit of Tapestry. Youth observe a community of youth ministers working with each other as collaborators, peers, and friends.)
What if the key to youth ministry in this era is nothing more than attention and genuine interest?