Brittle vs. Resilient Youth Ministry

Cribbing a Seth Godin post today.

Here’s the money quote:

Brittle organizations are focused on which end of the egg you open. Are you wearing the team jersey the right way, saying the incantations each time, saluting properly…

Resilient organizations are more focused on what you produce, and why.


Brittle youth ministries, then, focus on codes of expected behavior, be they abstinence from sex and alcohol, attendance at youth group, or writing a statement of faith that jives with the Apostles Creed.

Resilient youth ministries focus on the formation of people–human disciples of Jesus.

Are we producing teenagers who understand the narrative arc of scripture and who can see the conflicts of their own lives reflected in the Sarah, Mary, Jesus, and Paul?

Are we producing teenagers who want to invite their peers to church only because they love it and want to share their experience?

Are we producing teenagers who appreciate the distinctions between Christianity and other religions from a posture that combines both respect for non-Christian religions but also a full-throated appreciation of Christianity?

Finally, are we producing teenagers who are aware of the presence of God in their lives?

Of course, the teenagers we work with are equally “produced” by their school environments, families, peer groups, coaches, and cultural influences. Sometimes those other communities support what we’re aiming for; they mostly did in the golden era of establishment Protestantism. Sometimes they don’t.  A lot of evangelical para-church youth ministry was established on the premise that they almost always don’t, with the obvious exception of the family.

Given the time and influence we have with youth, the question I want to be asking is, “What kind of teenagers are we helping to produce.”


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