Live at Shift: Deep Ministry in a Shallow World
Four critical questions about how we do youth ministry, and all ministry.

If there is one thing that everyone in youth ministry seems to be talking about it's how to keep students following Christ after high school. That's been a hot topic here at Shift, and this morning Kara Powell addressed the problem head on. As the executive director of the Center for Youth and Family Ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, Powell knows the sobering statistics.

Her data reveals that 50% of high school students who had been deeply involved in a church's youth ministry will not be serving God 18 months after graduation. And that's not counting the many other high school students who are only going to church because their parents are forcing them. She also cited the LifeWay study that was highlighted on Ur last year.

Powell stood next to a table piled high with ministry books and resources. She asked, with so many resources available to us why are our students falling away at such alarming rates? Her thought: the more resources we have the less desperate and dependent upon God we feel. And we begin making "mindless, automatic decisions about our ministries." She called for an end to "autopilot" youth ministry, and for us to start asking hard questions about what we're doing.

Here are Kara Powell's four critical questions:

1. What gospel are we feeding kids?

She says that a lot of what students are fed is a guilt based gospel - what Dallas Willard calls the "gospel of sin management." Powell compared it to a diet of Red Bull. It's fast, energetic, and easy, but not very nourishing. And after the rush is over you deflate. We've fed students a gospel of rights and wrongs, but nothing nourishing that they can internalize and grow from. No wonder they fall away shortly after graduation. The buzz is over.

2. Are students' doubts welcome at our table?

Powell's research shows that the students who were able to express their doubts and problems about faith in high school were more likely to endure through college. She shared about girls in her youth ministry talking about homosexuality. Rather than shutting down the conversation with fast answers from Romans 1, she let girls share openly. Eventually two expressed their own feelings of possibly being gay. Are we secure enough to let these kinds of conversations occur in our churches?

3. How can kids take their place at God's diverse kingdom table?

Kara said that the church is suffering from a new kind of segregation - not racial or economic, but age. The youth ministry functions like the "kids' table" at Thanksgiving. But her research shows that students who have meaningful engagement with the adults at church do far better post high school. She called for a new 5:1 ratio - not five students per adult, but five adults per student.

April 11, 2008

Displaying 1–8 of 8 comments

Awake

April 25, 2008  9:01pm

Kara's questions and answers: If the Word of God does not teach us why would research? 1.Kids are being fed Truth without Grace, Truth without Spirit, or the popular fast-food of our culture, just like adults are being fed. At best we get "a ticket to heaven" and this life on earth to run our own show as best we can. No death now and no death later. 2.Hypocracy, followed by embracing the secular culture are the most welcome at the youth table and at the table of thoes that serve youth. Just like the adult table and the table of those that serve adults. At best its information without transformation. Kids are no more stupid than adults are: Look at the state of adult believers. 3. If you believe the research that no generation-gap/segregation is more fruitful, does this research lead those in "Youth Ministry" to stop segregating the youth? 4. Why shouldn't youth be totally dependent on the youth ministry for their spiritual nourishment? Adults are. Witness monday through saterday. Winess the "three meals a day" end to the discussion. I appreciate whoever wrote/posted this artical (Craig/Skye)There is Hope. See sermonindex.net

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Alan

April 21, 2008  10:13am

Sounds like church is just a social club for many young people, not an essential means of continually becoming more like Jesus in thought and deed. If you don't love Jesus, you won't understand the importance of fellowship with other believers– not that church membership is necessary for Christian fellowship.

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Sara

April 18, 2008  12:05pm

Craig, I agree. The lesson taught by Christ was "Follow Me" then "Go". We need to remember to keep doing that ourselves. The church needs to equip its followers to do that, come together, then Go Into The World, come back together, then Go again. It's not all about going to church. Can we get beyond the doors at some point, please?

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Devin

April 12, 2008  3:16pm

Kara is one of the best speakers I have ever heard. Not only did she have a LOT of great things to say, but delivered it amazingly.

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Craig

April 12, 2008  11:24am

Unfortunately, and if you go back and read the article carefully, you'll see the gospel being fed to these kids (and their parents) is "church". I frankly am shocked that we so flippantly equate serving God with going to church. I've seen many who go to church but have no spiritual reason to go – it's a social thing. Do we really believe it when we quip things like "going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than sitting in a garage makes you car", and then turn around and equate being there as a sign of spiritual maturity? Take the challenge yourself. Find one or two believers and be intentional about spending one on one or one on two times with them talking about what God is doing in their life and what they see God doing around them. That will make the difference! Then, when you discover what a difference it really makes, resist the temptation to expand to six or twelve. Instead, help them begin to find their own one or two to spend intentional time with while you stay the course with them.

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rick

April 11, 2008  1:15pm

Churches also need to partner with parents so that they can take a prominent role in preparing their children. The students, the youth ministry, and the parents will all benefit.

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Jonathan Brink

April 11, 2008  12:21pm

Red Bull Gospel...that's awesome.

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GUNNY HARTMAN

April 11, 2008  11:45am

"1. What gospel are we feeding kids? She says that a lot of what students are fed is a guilt based gospel—what Dallas Willard calls the "gospel of sin management." Powell compared it to a diet of Red Bull. It's fast, energetic, and easy, but not very nourishing. And after the rush is over you deflate. We've fed students a gospel of rights and wrongs, but nothing nourishing that they can internalize and grow from. No wonder they fall away shortly after graduation. The buzz is over." That is so true. For so many kids the gospel they hear is "God loves me when I'm good."

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