I have such fond memories that center around retreats, camps, and trips with students. The car rides are often full of bonding time, though sometimes interrupted by a car sick student’s emergency stop, that lasts the rest of the trip. But friendships are often begun and solidified as the week moves on. These times away are always fruitful and rich with experiences that connect us together.
The question I have about these times is not really about their value, because I certainly think they are very valuable, but more about their actual effectiveness in the long term. We all see the stats concerning our youth and sense the underlying issues of busyness and relevance of our faith in a complex world. This has given us pause and formed questions in our minds around what the future of youth ministry in the church looks like.
Barna (see it here) recently put out an article concerning the perceived and real priorities of youth ministry across the country. The article articulates the frustrations that youth workers are facing nationally in their ministries and, while many are “business as usual”, there is an uneasiness about where we need to be headed. The findings point out that churches and ministries often base the value of youth programs on perceived immediate outcome, even though we are aware that what used to “work” may not be working any more. Camps, retreats, and attempts at student leadership may act to restrain the inevitable, but cannot stop the losses that Church is sustaining. Flourishing faith in young people may require new methodologies and creative approaches as the tide continues to shift.
The article mentions that steps may need to be taken in a different direction that could lead to greater commitment to faith and set a firmer foundation. It makes a few suggestions such as deeper student leadership and gap year programs. We agree with this assessment and Generation 514 is all about setting students up to own their faith. The Amazing Next Conference is an experience that leads to long term investment. We provided a conference that reframes the gospel, making it accessible and comprehensible for today’s students. We will send youth workers home better equipped through training and with 10 months worth of curriculum (here's month #1)to help reach their students in the daily grind. We strive to meet the holistic needs of students, to not just know about God or emotionally feel God, but BOTH.
It is our hope that in the next couple of years our Gap Year program will be up and running. It will be right here in the States, in a setting that is real. This is not a one-off experience, but instead a chance to be shaped by ministry and vocational training while living in community with other students and their surrounding neighborhood. The Gospel of Christ made tangible.
Consider this: innovation must happen within the world of youth ministry and the Church. Generation514 is out to be a part of that change. Are you interested in what the future of your ministry might look like? We would love to be a part of shaping the culture of your ministry and your church. Please feel free to contact Brock for consultation or to bring him to your church. We are excited to partner with you in the coming years!