Much has been written and said about the emerging shift in thinking as it pertains to youth ministry. Mike King shared some great thoughts in his post on slant33.com with regards to the new reality for evangelism in youth culture. I encourage you to read the article.
In the Canadian landscape, and particularly in Calgary, I would agree with King's assessment that a significant shift in thinking needs to take place in our evangelistic efforts to the youth of our nation. Believe it or not, the Canadian youth of today are making value-based decisions with regards to their educational pursuits, leisure time and yes, even religious affiliations. In the early 80s and mid 90s, evangelistic efforts followed a Believe, Behave, Belong continuum. The youth of today are re-writing this continuum. Their culture and their values demand a Belong, Believe, Behave type landscape for spiritual transformation.
So what does that mean? Youth are more interested in understanding how they fit before they are willing to grow in their belief. It is critical that the community of believers, youth pastors, parents and volunteer leaders work together to establish the value of community in ministry towards youth. Programmatic elements of ministry need to reflect this emerging value so that youth feel as though they matter and are valued. It's only after they feel like they belong that they will be more willing to engage in conversation about what they believe about Jesus.
I think it's fantastic that the youth of today are pushing us beyond the barriers of behavioural modification and calling us to embrace authentic, transparent, and intentional community with one another. Deep down inside, I'm convinced that each of us may be able to identify with the need to belong and be valued. I wonder how communities of faith will change as a greater emphasis on living in community is proclaimed and demonstrated in each unique ministry context?