A friend of mine is looking for a youth pastor and casually asked me 2 questions over Facebook. (1) What do I think has changed in the last 10 years in youth ministry and (2) what would I look for in a youth pastor?
Here's the first answer. I'll post the second tomorrow.
WHAT HAS CHANGED IN THE LAST 10 YEARS IN YOUTH MINISTRY?
MOMENTUM IS HARDER TO BUILD: At least in San Diego, I've found that generating momentum is 4x harder than it's ever been. Students and families are busier than ever, interested and involved in tons of things, and teens are fragmented from one another on such a deep level that the thought of having a program or event that "everyone goes to and would not miss for the world" is almost impossible. In a addition, at Journey at least, there are tons of families that come to our church once every 4 to 6 weeks, and building a connection with those students (especially the ones who can't drive themselves places) is all but impossible.
THE CELL AND FACEBOOK: The last 10 years have radically changed a students plugged in factor. RADICALLY. 90% of my students are plugged into a digital media source in ways that are unprecedented. There is never a time when I'm talking with a group of students that someone isn't being lit up by a text message or Facebook update. It's affecting families and the capacity for a student to be present in ways we never saw 10 years ago.
- HERE'S A CASE TEXT: We recently tried to ask parents of infants/toddlers at JCC to give us cell phone numbers so that we could contact them in case we needed them in main service for their kids. We wanted to text them so we could avoid our current number system that causes everyone to check their tag number, disrupting all parents instead of just one. However we got lots of push back from people because they turn off their phone. Good news. But why? Because they have Facebook linked to their phone and anytime it's on, they are constantly being buzzed and alerted of changes others are making online. Literally, they are doing most of their life tethered to the internet and people and places they are not physically with at all times.
SOCIAL AWARENESS: They are passionate about and interested in social change. Not all of them. But many of them are as willing to go feed the homeless or work with an orphan as they are to attend a dance, football game, or weekend snow trip.
BIBLICAL FOUNDATIONS: Gone are the days where a Biblical reference in our culture is even noticed. There is essentially a zero basis from which we begin. Biblical Illiteracy is off the charts.
EXTENDED ADOLESCENCE: The extended adolescence thing is killing us. Maybe you think this is just a cliche in the current teen world, but I'm telling you the average 16 year old is not 2 years from being capable of fulling running their own life like an adult. They are a decade away. It's ridiculous and has radically changed in the last 40 years and exponentially in the last 10.
There you go... that's my off the cuff list. If you're a veteran with 10+ years in youth ministry, what do you think has changed in the last decade?