As an 18-year youth ministry vet I have seen a lot of good and lousy youth ministry (my own included), experienced moments with young people that I knew would last a lifetime and moments that were gone in an instant. I have had fantastic failures of "sure things," and joyful successes of the last thing I ever thought would work. The honest truth I have learned over each one of those moments is when we allow ourselves to be moved by the Spirit, seek out a deeper understanding of the young people and families we are in ministry with, and put our own "agenda" to the side beautiful things happen, even in failure.
This Innovation Cohort was something that I have been thinking about for awhile. Offering a space for youth workers to have the permission to say, "I am not bound by anything," and give them the freedom to truly connect with those they are in ministry with and to share the Good News in a way that will be heard, understood, experienced, and lived. It is not a space that most of us typically operate in, and one often makes us anxious. We are bound by tradition, uninformed expectations, money, lack of imagination, lack of time, the limits of human resources, fear of failure... The list could go on, but I am sure you get the point. These realities are what held me back from trying a cohort like this. When we faithfully consider the reasons we "don't" or "can't" its seem very silly and trivial; especially when we understand the possible consequences that can come with that way of thinking and operate.
We are at a new turning point in youth ministry. Generation Z (or the iGen) is a group of young people like we have never seen before. Their experience of life and understanding of the world is both fantastic and terrifying. They are a group looking for safety and wary of anyone (or institution) that is not genuine, invested, and willing to jump into the scariness of life with them. This is true of past generations as well, but Generation Z has a different feel to it. If youth ministry does not embrace these truths, I fear that a decline that started years ago not only will continue but will accelerate, because this is a generation that does not time for anyone or anything that "does not get it." I firmly believe that what started with the late Gen Xers, gained steam with the Millennials, and is taking on a brand new form with Generation Z is the new normal. Each generation is going to require us to be proactive, intentional, and aware of the consistencies and nuances from the one previous. Youth Ministry may never look the same again.
Enter the gift of innovation! Extreme change is one of those things that scares many of us, and that the Church has never been great at. But if there was ever a time to overcome those fears, acknowledge our shortcoming, boldly forget "what lies behind and [strain] forward to what lies ahead" (Phil. 3:13) this is the time. That is what this amazing cohort of five people is striving to do as they journey to minister in a whole new (but old) way. We are creating a place where "I can't" is not an option and failure is an expectation. All with the goal of connecting, enriching, guiding, learning from, and hoping for young people who are desperately looking for answers that the church can and should be providing.
Umm, sounds like things Jesus did and still does! I did say it was bold!
You are going to have to follow these blogs to discover precisely what the cohort is working on, but I will share that we are operating within an exciting question, "How might we become a thriving faith community committed to intentionally following the example that Christ has set to serve all?" The two teams of cohort members will share with you more details about what they are working on through their blogs, and I will offer you a facilitator/ creators view of the process. We hope that by documenting our experience, it will inspire you to be innovative in your ministry and maybe even motivate you to join us in as a member of the next innovative cohort (details about that are coming soon).
Here is what we know already, this process will not always be pretty, but we find peace in that because we know we have a Christ who jumps into the mess with us. We also know already that we do all of this better as we support, love, and enrich each other and each other's ministries. We want to hear from you along the way. What are your questions about what we are doing? How have you innovated within this question in your ministry? How did it go? Post your thoughts on the PYWA Facebook page to help us get this conversation started and motivate all of us to better ministry with young people (and all people).
You know that time when an idea moves from an abstract thought that is easy to get excited about to a concrete thing that has more anxiety connected to it than it ever did before? That is where we are with this new project, and I could not be happier about it. Thank you for taking a few minutes to join us on this new, fascinating, and faithful path that we hope will inspire you in your ministry as you work to be an innovator in youth ministry.
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into tall the truth; for he will not speak on his own but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare the things that are to come. -John 16:13