10 Trends That Could Affect Youth Ministry by 2020

Posted: February 16, 2012 in Faith/Christianity, Youth Culture & Trends
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It’s a fast-paced world out there, and today’s youth, more than ever, face a constant barrage of change around them, as well as the challenge of trying to keep up.  In fact, you could pretty much say that one of the most identifying marks of our culture today is the element and expectancy of change.  Youth are not the only demographic dealing with the rapid-fire changes in our culture, but they are the ones with the bulls-eyes on their backs as the advertising and tech giants target our youth as their primary ‘prey.’  Just as youth run the marathon of keeping their heads above the cultural waterline,  parents and those working with/alongside youth have the daunting, but not impossible, task of keeping their heads above water.  It seems every week there is a new research project or infograph released re: what is currently happening in culture, and the forecast of what is expected to yet unfold.

Unfortunately, most of the research we read about only focuses on the ‘what is’ of culture (or the way things are trending/going), as opposed to the ‘what ought to be‘ (the way it should be).  This, my friends, can greatly blur our sense of direction in raising, mentoring, and partnering with our youth in the days ahead.  Working with teens and families for over 13 years has taught me some valuable insight into the ebbs and flow of culture shifts, particularly within the church culture context.  I’ve also been exposed to some wise and experienced voices within the trenches of youth and family ministry, and one of those voices is Chap Clark from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.  Clark, a respected speaker, author and counselor, is part of the research team @ the Fuller Youth Institute, and they are committed to digging deep into the soil, clay and granite of youth and family culture.  One of Chap’s recent blog posts was addressing the question of ‘What will youth ministry look like in 2020?‘  It’s kind of like wondering what the computer industry will look like 2 years from now…we’re not entirely sure, but we do know it WILL change!

The same holds true for predicting cultural changes in youth and youth ministry. We’re not too sure what it will look like 5…10 years down the road, but we are quite certain it will look at least somewhat different.  In fact I would suggest that the shifts in youth culture today will be the underlying factors for changes being made tomorrow in our approach to adult ministries in church.  The manner in which we’re doing church and youth ministry now, are in most part, becoming redundant and less effective.  I’m not saying youth ministry and the ‘church service’ are becoming obsolete, but what I am saying (and the feedback of multiple surveys backs this up), is that the way in which we’re doing it now is not going to work moving ahead 5 years from now…let alone 10+ years!.  Just like we would look back and surmise that the way we did things 10-15 years ago wouldn’t work as effective in today’s culture, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that some changes and re-thinking is in store.  As someone who desires to be in youth ministry for the long haul, and who has kids of my own that are swimming in the waters of cultural exposure, I often wonder what’s in store for the future of church-related youth ministry…and who’s going to lead the way.  Despite what some pundits say about the state of youth ministry, I still believe very strongly in the future of youth ministry, and I hope to be part of that exciting ride.  But I also know that in order improve the road ahead, some potholes need filling and a couple detours might be needed.

So if we’re going to keep up with the ‘what is‘ of cultural changes, and doing so as ‘it ought to be‘, what is that going to look like?  What exactly is the status of youth ministry for the next generation coming up with, and behind us?  What lies ahead for those who desire to be a part of some of the most exciting adventures you can embark on?  We may not have all the answers, but here’s a quick look at 10 Trends that could likely re-shape youth ministry by the year 2020, according to our friend Chap Clark and his 30+ years of youth and culture experience!  And as we’ve seen over the past couple years, especially with the onslaught of social media, adults are no longer the primary ‘shapers’ of the cultural landscape…it’s our youth!  So how we reach, instruct, influence, empower and release them into society is of utmost importance, because like it or not, they’re the ones who’ll be leading the way in the years to come.

Got any perspective and insight into the state of ministry to youth in the days ahead?

**bye-the-way, if you’re involved with youth ministry, or just curious about youth min…here’s a great interview article with Chap Clark from Youth Worker Journal- Lessons for the Long Haul: Wisdom from Three Decades of Youth Ministry


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