Churches have worked hard at engaging adolescents for as long as there has been adolescence….which may not be as long as you think. "Adolescence" as a theory does not appear until the late nineteenth century and is defined as a period of "storm and stress" between the ages of 12 and 24. While "youth ministry" appears in the form of Sunday school and the YMCA before 1900, it is not until the post war boom during the 1950's that "adolescence" moves from idea to fact. Rock music also arrives in the '50's.
The unprecedented number of adolescents combined with post-war economic prosperity creates, for the first time, a youth or adolescent culture. Teens would soon become the demographic with the largest amount of disposable income. As adolescence grows as a cultural phenomenon, so does the anxiety of adults. Fueled largely by anxiety, "youth ministry" closes the 20th century as a small industry with millions of dollars spent on programs, training, staff, camps, and trips designed to help adolescents.
Despite the development of youth ministry as a field, defining the outcomes of youth ministry has been a question of debate. When is a youth ministry effective? Churches with busy youth ministries attract people, especially anxious parents of early adolescents. However, people and programs driven by the busy-ness of subterranean anxiety can undermine an adolescents opportunity to enjoy a rich life of faith. Additionally, acknowledging that participation in youth ministry as an adolescent does not translate to church participation as an adult is important for churches to consider.
How would you measure the anxiety level of your family or primary community?
How would you know if your family or primary community was "anxiety driven"?
A distraught father had moved from anxiety to despair and describes his son's condition to Jesus. Jesus replies, "Bring the boy to me," and his son is healed.
If it were only that easy. One note of encouragement, though. Apparently, the boy's healing is not based on behavior, alignent with his parents doctrine, of even "faith" at all. What this passage offers is a glimpse into a way of approaching "youth ministry" which releases communities from anxiety causing expectations and an entry point into a life of "spiritual hospitality".