So by now you’ve probably had enough of hearing about new years resolutions and fresh starts (or lack of – see Martin’s blog post for that). If you are tackling 2011 with a set of new goals for yourself then I’m happy for you, and good luck. If you’re not then… well, good luck to you too! Here’s a thought - maybe we need to be taking this ‘fresh approach’ idea beyond ourselves and into the realm of our ministry to young people.
Youth ministry is all about now. The world of young people is changing almost too fast for us to keep up, with new technologies and new attitudes appearing all the time. It’s vital that we try to stay on top of things as much as possible - these guys ARE the next generation, and the ‘youth world’ as it is now is what they are growing up in whether we like it or not.
Keeping up to date may be a difficult thing for the more traditional among us. For example, as a Catholic I grew up in a very traditional church where to this day the only piece of technology is a radio-microphone. But for that church, that’s all they need for their daily services. There is always the massive Catholic Charismatic Revival for those Catholic young people who are into more contemporary music and worship involving spiritual gifts. In comparison to this in the youth group I help to lead we regularly show worship lyrics and video clips on a projector to accompany drama and talks.
Technology is a powerful tool. On the first four days of 2011, Passion Conferences held their first event of 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. The event, attended by 22,000 students, was split across a larger and a smaller venue by means of a video link. In addition to this, the 6 main sessions of worship and teaching were broadcast live in pretty high quality on their website (and made available to view again for 24 hours afterwards) and the number of those viewing online was MORE than actually attended in person, despite the fact that the time difference for me meant I didn’t get to bed until 3am every night. While I was watching I could interact with people as if I was actually there by means of tweeting using the #passion2011 ‘hashtag’ on Twitter (which at times actually ‘trended’ in the United States).
The live stream didn’t lose Passion any money on ticket sales because the two venues were literally packed to the rafters, but instead it allowed people to experience the event and get to know Jesus more despite being on the other side of globe. An online donation tool helped them to cover the surprisingly large cost of streaming the sessions but at the actual event the 22,000 students donated over $1.1million to causes and projects around the world. A simple bit of maths shows that’s on average over $50 (£33) each from these ‘poor students’, and there were stories of parents calling up their son/daughter after watching the live stream and telling them to get money out of an ATM and make a donation on their behalf.
I was able to attend the Passion World Tour when it came to London in 2008 (I missed 2010’s gathering at the Wembley arena) and together the Passion movement shows that God has a voice in the student population. Yet when young people ‘graduate’ from our youth groups, the next step is difficult and often very unknown in terms of their spiritual and physical journey. You should be getting your February edition of the magazine around about now which contains a long list of training courses for all types of youth work – if you're not looking to do a course, why not pass it onto someone in your group who is unsure of what to do with their future.
Follow Sean on Twitter: @SeanUSX