I came across the following quote on a blog from one of the best scholars of youth ministry to come along in the past 5-10 years, Andrew Root:

“. . .youth ministry can easily slide into the wing of the church that ushers kids into conventionality. In other words, youth ministry is doing a good job when kids act and look conventional (happily religious). It could be argued . . . that motivated parents to financially support a youth worker in their local congregation . . .they wanted someone with the expertise to make their kids conventionally religious kids (that showed this by being “good”). . . conventionality does NOT equal spiritual maturity, depth, or discipleship—that conventionality can itself be acidic. . . religious conventionality may be as much an enemy to young people encountering the act of God in Jesus Christ as R-rated movies and Jersey Shore.

It may then be that the challenge for youth ministry and the church as a whole is to pop the bubble of conventionality; this may be the best way to engage young people (and yes this is risky, but the problem with the church and youth ministry is that it lacks the risk of encountering our raw humanity).”

Andrew Root, YouthSpecialties.com

As I read this, there is a lot of Truth here.  As I survey the landscape of the local church and our theology, we have played it safe, far too safe.  Lock-Ins, trips to Six Flags, Pizza Parties and the such have our youth ministries looking more like the local YMCA instead of the Force of God in our local communities.  I believe that our ministries much be more Dangerous, Fearful, Awe-some, Mysterious and Holy (more on that in some future posts).

Maybe our ministries could be more committed to:

  • less Abercrombie and more Goodwill
  • less Pizza & Starbucks and more Fasting & Simplicity
  • less gossip and more proclamation
  • less hanging out with peers and more koinonia with the Body
  • less retreats and more missional living

Don’t hear me saying to do away with such things as hanging out, retreats, etc., but I think the church ought to be far less conventional. We have been doing far too good of a job of blending in than we have of standing out.  Our distinctive lifestyle has faded to a dull and boring beige that is unpalatable to those around us.

I recognize that this is easier for me as I have always been one who is somewhat “unconventional” for as long as I can remember.  Perhaps that is why I have always been an Apple fan;  however, it seems that Apple is soon becoming the establishment which means I might have to switch to Linux, but I digress.  But as I read about the Story of God, Yahweh has ALWAYS been unconventional in the way He did things.  For example:

  • speaking everything into being
  • building the wonderful creation of woman from a rib
  • saving humanity with a boat
  • picking the youngest of seven to be a king
  • using fishermen to fulfill his mission
  • calling a nudist prophet
  • coming as a baby
  • using a virgin girl as a revolutionary
  • saving humanity again with a Roman execution

This is but a few, but you get the idea.  Conventionality is boring.  When Jesus talks of abundant life, I don’t think it is a conventional lifestyle that he is calling us to.  It is a life of wonder, fear, danger, excitement, joy, heartbreak, anger, frustration and more.

What a great story to be a part of!

Now youth ministry has generally been on the cutting edge of UNconventionality, but recently it seems like we have found ourselves in the center of conventionality.

How then might we be less conventional in the way we do youth ministry?


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