Integrated Youth Ministry……………………..Nancy Going

I just attended the FIRST/THIRD conference at Luther Seminary, where Kenda Dean, Andrew Root and the 120 participants spent two days engaged in theological dialogue about youth ministry.

One of the insights that emerged early in the conversation was the “CAGE” that adolescence has become for many young people.  Does the church and youth ministry perpetuate that cage, or are we “helping young people imagine the world as though the kingdom of God is happening all around them. “ (Kenda Dean)

One of the distinctive characteristics evident in Exemplar congregations was the way that Youth Ministry had become a priority of the church, and the ways that young people were integrated into life of the congregation.  What that looked like was certainly different in each of the 131 churches that completed the study, and in the 21 churches that were chosen for site visits.  But it was there.  And it mattered.

It is also clear that it matters more than ever.  We can note the ways that it matters to the church, and how a focus on Youth Ministry actually helps to create more vibrant congregations.In

But it matters even more for adolescents.  Integrated youth ministry may be one of the few places young people get to experience real relationships in an organization that is attentive to and celebrates people of all ages.  It can release the gifts and capabilities of people otherwise caged and waiting for some magic future age–related purpose and competency.  Our churches can be the places that help to set adolescent captives free.

Dr. Nancy Going is a 20 some year veteran of congregational youth ministry.  She coordinates the Distributed (distance) youth ministry students at Luther Seminary.  She did her PhD research by interviewing adolescents from the Exemplar congregations.

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