Building highly attractive youth ministries is not a bad thing. Although some would suspect that highly attractional youth ministries may lose some of their transformational edge along the way.
The beauty about contextual youth ministry– is that the missional mind set demands it’s missionaries to enter a cross cultural setting; which forces them to eat, drink, and talk like the natives, and love and serve them in Jesus’ name. (Stetzer, Planting Missional Churches, p.17)
For many youth ministries across the USA becoming attractive to its neighbors is part of their missional strategy. These attractional youth ministries love allowing students to “come and see” the message of Jesus in their perfectly manicured youth room by presenting culturally relevant stuff (X-Boxes, Flat Screen TVs, sick sound systems). These type of youth ministry are being missional in some way, but it is not enough to be a Biblically and missionally obedient youth ministry.
Youth ministries can be attractional but need more of an outward-focused mission as part of their youth ministry philosophical culture. I believe more and more youth ministries need to move well past “come and see” and move into “go and tell” mentality of ministry.
Youth pastors can talk about the Great Commission all day long, but in practice what percentage of your youth ministry is outward focused?
I am arguing that youth pastors adopt a missional theology. A youth ministry becomes missional when it holds strong to the gospel while seeking to contextualize the gospel so the gospel can compel it’s listeners and transform their wordview.
Van Gelder in Confident Witness—Changing World states:
We need to exegete…culture in the same way that missionaries have been so good at doing with diverse tribal cultures of previously unreached people. We need to exegete….the themes of Rolling Stones…, Dennis Rodman, Madonna, and David Letterman….. We need to comprehend that the Spirit of the Living God is at work in these cultural expressions, preparing the hearts of men and women to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have to find, in good missionary fashion, those motifs and themes that connect with the truths of the gospel. We need to learn how to proclaim, “That which you worship as unknown, I now proclaim to you.” This is the missionary vision at its best.
I think youth ministers and ministries desperately need a true spiritual awakening. The sending aspect of Who God is, has never changed. God has sent many youth pastors into emerging American cultures. I strongly believe youth pastors are most like Christ when they partner with Him in the mission of reaching the unchurched students by being a sent people.
Once youth pastors reconfigure its missional mind set, it will establish a resurgence and an intense passion to be a youth ministry on mission.