Inside out youth ministry

A couple Sunday’s ago our senior pastor, Ed Noble, was talking about the inside out revolution underway at Journey. He gave an example about an area of the property where the church used to meet weekly for a big, family dinner. Now that space is used to run a food pantry for families in our community.

It’s not that the big family dinner thing was bad. Quite the opposite. For where the church was at it was just what was needed. A lot of good was done in that room over those meals. The fact that the room is now used for a food pantry is not a more noble use of the space– it’s just a strategy that reflects both the needs of the community and the heart of the congregation and where we are at today.

When Ed gave that example it got me thinking about youth ministry. Because, to oversimplify and generalize, youth ministry is typically a “come and get” kind of thing. (Like the family dinners) Volunteers come to serve students who show up. And the church puts on the program because they feel like it’s ultimately good for the church. It’s good, it’s noble, it serves a purpose.

But what would it look like if we turned our ministries inside out? 

What would it look like if youth ministry in the local church weren’t seen through the lens of “what’s good for the church” and was built around “what’s good for students needs in this community?

That’s no indictment on how we do ministry or even challenging the assumptions upon which our profession is built.

That’s turning the coin over and asking, “How could this same space, same staff, same budget serve 95% of the population of students in this community alongside of the 5% who currently are engaged?

If we believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for all students– what should that change what we do?

The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.” We all nod our heads in agreement. But what would it look like for youth ministry to truly embrace that?





3 responses to “Inside out youth ministry”

  1. D. Scott Miller Avatar

    Adam- I’ve been watching information about the Fisch Flip and wondering what the implications would be for kids and parents (in the homes) leading towards living as disciples when we gather.

    1. Adam McLane Avatar

      Hadn’t seen that. Thanks for the link. I’ll def check it out. 

  2. KJ Avatar

    It might start with an effort to become a little bit more missional in nature….then asking the students in our ministry to do the same.  I love the idea of using the church “space” in new ways, but the reality is, the vast majority of teenagers in a community will probably never step foot into our space, regardless of what we are trying to do there.

    Maybe the best thing we can do to begin reaching the other 95% is to radically change where we spend our time….out of the church office, away from our buildings and looking for creative ways to engage students from the community IN the community.

    I don’t do this well myself, and not sure what it really looks like….and it certainly isn’t a new idea.  But sometimes the best ideas are old ideas that have somehow been neglected.

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