Posted on June 24, 2008 by Amy Tolmie
So, we had been beginning to wrestle with these issues when Ruth and I left Schoolswork HQ last week to go to the RUN (Reaching the Unchurched Network) conference on breaking the mold of mission. It was a brilliant; mind expanding and heart stretching three days. And in a Q and A session Gerard Kelly (Author and leader of Crossroads Church Amsterdam) said â€œYou have to be willing to test the fruits of teenage ministry 10 or 15 years laterâ€. Bingo! We're trying to do exactly this that, coincidentally 15 years on, so we asked him about our quandary.
Gerard had been talking about attractional gatherings being as important as incarnational ministry and although I feel we organise a number of events on this basis, he challenged us about the degree to which Christian organisations are doing the same things they did a decade ago without changing. My immediate response is to say, â€œNo, we've changedâ€ but how much? And is it enough? These are two lingering questions. However, he did go on to say that internationally, Christian and non-Christian events like summer camps are seeing a big down turn in numbers â€“ reassuring that it's not just us - but why?
Brian was interested in our automatic response to problem solve; â€œthe kids aren't coming, what shall we do?â€ but suggested rather looking into the bigger picture before making change. His idea was to pose the problem and ask why? 5 times.
For example, if the problem is â€œwe aren't getting very many people coming to our lunchtime clubâ€, askâ€¦
Why? â€œBecause the students don't want to come to one more thingâ€
Why? â€œBecause their lives are already so full of noise and stuff, they may need spaceâ€
His principle is that if you resist the temptation to solve the problem for a while, at least until you've had the chance to dig down by asking why? repeatedly, then it should take us down to some of the roots of the problem and enable us to see what change is necessary and where.
In some ways it was frustrating not to be given concrete answers but I think we've been given something far richer. This practice will let us uncover the truth for our situation.
Now we are in a place to use this tool in our situation, to try and dig down to the real root of the problem and look at solving that, rather than just the presenting issue. It would really help to hear of anyone else's experiences - how are numbers at your events, what issues are exciting the young people, what's working really well right now and what you think needs letting go?
We'd love to start a conversation about all this and try and sense what God is asking of Youth Ministry at this time, we look forward to hearing your thoughts.