This semester I was asked to teach on the philosophy and theology of youth ministry for Grand Canyon University which is a short drive from my house. I have taught Biblical Interpretation / Hermeneutics for the last five years at GCU and was honestly a bit surprised when they asked me. I do my best to stay up on the latest writing and research on youth ministry, but honestly I am usually so deep in the midst of actually being with kids and leaders that I fail to take a step back and reflect. The class turned out to be a great time to reflect on the latest youth ministry publications and how to offer the best of what YL does to a class full of future youth workers and pastors. Here are a couple things I covered:
1. I started the class suggesting that the aim of youth ministry should be a robust understanding of discipleship. Discipleship means more than you might expect when you look at it carefully in the Bible and through history.
2. We have a lot to learn from church history about youth ministry and YL. Typically studies in youth ministry begin their analysis with the advent of the Sunday School movement in the mid 19th century. I decided to begin in the Jewish understanding and move through each century up until today. There is a lot we can glean in how children are viewed through each era.
3. Contrary to popular opinion, youth ministers work in a deeply theological way, sometimes without even knowing it. The best way to understand youth ministry is through the resources of practical theology. Practical theology is its own discipline, distinct from biblical studies, historical theology, and systematic theology. Practical theology utilizes careful principles and tactics. When used properly practical theology allows youth workers to bring scripture and theology into the lives of young people in a beautiful way.
4. We also looked at general perceptions of religion (i.e. Moral Therapeutic Deism and the various responses since this came out a decade ago).
5. Additionally we looked at church involvement among teenagers and also among 20-somethings. There is a lot to learn here from the latest studies.
These are the first five of ten things I thought I’d pass along. I’ll send along the rest in an upcoming post.