I believe youth ministry as we know it is dying. The church in America is slowly waking up to this fact – youth culture is shifting; students are valuing peer input more and trusting institutions less. Extended socially-related families are forming in the wake of the failure of biological families. The church in America is dying, change is occurring, and ministry resources are dwindling. This means a number of things for youth ministry. Among these changes is the reality that youth ministry budgets are shrinking and more churches are moving toward hiring part-time or bi-vocational youth pastors (if they hire youth pastors at all).
I believe it’s time for youth ministry culture to recognize the need for a shift. We need to shift to a method of ministry that looks at our current cultural realities. I believe in light of these cultural realities, missional communities come to the forefront as an answer. They are simple, lightweight, and highly contextualized. Here are four reasons for a missional community approach:
REASON #1: They Provide Family
In missional communities, students tend to come from broken families to join a spiritual family around a dinner table once a week (or at least this is one way of approaching missional communities of students). These students know that once a week, they will have a family that will sit at a table and eat with them. For some, it is the first time they have ever experienced this type of family. For others, it is stability they don’t experience in their own biological family. Students understand the inherent need for a family. In a world of broken relationships, missional communities provide a place to see how a family centered on Christ lives. When you invite unchurched kids into a Christ-loving extended family, amazing things can happen.
REASON #2: They are Lightweight and Low Maintenance
Ministry programming can take a lot of time and resources. Sometimes it can feel like your whole week is spent in preparation of one or two hours of ministry. In some cases, an entire team is giving up time to perpetuate a program we HOPE will give us opportunity for relationship with students. What would it feel like to pursue ministry that is more simple? Missional communities are simple. The focus is on being together, sharing what God is doing in each person’s life and praying for one another. It isn’t about preparing something attractive, it’s understanding that your life, and your family pursuing Jesus, is attractive. Because of the nature of missional communities, they can go anywhere, be held anywhere, and enter into any context.
REASON #3: They are Easily Led With Limited Availability
Missional Communities absolutely take conviction and time, but they are simple enough that anyone can have time to lead one. Since a missional community is about inviting people into your family to follow you as you follow Christ, people step in to what you are already doing. Because of the lightweight nature of a missional community, anyone with the passion and heart for mission can pursue it without the weight of a heavy program. This opens the playing field up to literally anyone, whether it be over-committed youth workers, bi-vocational pastors, volunteer youth leaders, or a retired grandparent who loves kids!
REASON #4: They are Highly Missional
The Church in America is in decline, right? The only answer to a declining population of Christ followers is for those who do follow Jesus to pursue Jesus into His mission: expanding the family of God. Missional Communities at their heart are exactly what they claim to be: missional. Their concern is with being a core group of missional living followers of Jesus welcoming in unchurched and not-yet-Christians. I have talked to many students that don’t want to step into church for any reason, but they will step into a home. They will step into a family. They want what is real and what is lived out and what can be seen. They don’t want lessons or ideals or even well thought out and clever object lessons. They want the real deal. It is in the midst of mission that our faith is lived out and what we do is forced to line up with who we say we are. That’s where we invite the unchurched, dechurched, and volatile toward Jesus.
I believe that Missional Communities offer a well – timed answer to a shifting cultural reality. It’s what I am pouring my heart into and reorganizing the way I do ministry. It’s they way I believe God is moving today. I believe this is how a movement of people becoming like Jesus happens and we will get to see revival. Revival doesn’t just happen on its own – it happens when we hear and act on what the Father is saying. It happens when we model our lives and our mission after Jesus.