Churches designed especially for youth are springing up in Western European countries, where, according to new research, many young people are alienated from established Christian denominations.

This trend among youth was hotly debated at Oxford University by more than 80 youth-ministry professors and national leaders from a dozen, primarily Western European, countries in January.

Prof. Colin Bennett of Moorlands College in Christ Church, England, said, "Due to the state church's insensitivity to making youth feel welcome in its worship and communal life, churches composed entirely of youth are a result."

Participants also discussed the professionalization of youth ministry. Ann Dickson, director of Youth Link in Belfast, observed tensions arising from the professionalization of youth ministry in countries with a history of volunteer youth ministers. "They are being displaced from leadership," she said.

"The exponential growth of youth ministry is mainly an evangelical movement," said Stephen Hale, professor at Ridley College in Melbourne. "But there is a huge problem attracting recently saved street youth to be integrated into the traditional institutional churches."

In the United States, more than 40 colleges offer youth ministry majors. Several schools in other countries offer specialized degrees, and job openings continue to grow, albeit slowly. The four-day academic forum was sponsored by the training organization Oxford Youth Works.

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