By Ken Moser | November 10, 2011
“The way we’re doing things is already not working. We are failing at our calling. And deep down, most of us know it”. (Mark Ostreicher, Youth Ministry 3.0 p. 11.)
Things are shifting very rapidly in youth ministry in North America. For the observer with sharp eyes, this change is filled with bittersweet irony.
For many years, youth ministry across the western world has been based on the Attractional School of youth ministry. You know the drill, put on something that is exciting to attract youth to your group. You then hope to see them come to something a little more serious, a little more Christian with a little more Jesus. You want them to move from first to second base in their spirituality so to speak.
The irony here is that the Attractional model of youth ministry, so prevalent, so pervasive, and so passionately argued for in many circles is dead (or certainly dying). And what has slayed this once mighty beast? Better attraction! You see, when we took up the sword of the entertainer and the shield of pleasure, we entered into an arena where the world excels. We thought we could slay the mighty dragon because we believed that in our corner was Jesus right there cheering us on. It seems that not only was he not there, but left us alone in this playing ground. My feeling is he watched us enter through these wide doors with great sadness in his heart. For those who seek to fight on his side, this is not the way of the warrior.
We now find ourselves standing in this ‘attractive arena’ finding that our weapons are dull if not completely useless. How can we compete with the gods of this age when our weaponry is material and not spiritual? This is no David v. Goliath scenario, this is an army of slingshots v. an army of nuclear warheads. Bottom line, when it comes to attraction through entertainment, we just cannot compete. And, we never were supposed to.
What has killed the Attractional Model of youth ministry? We have seen the enemy, and it is more attractive than what we can offer. Attraction has killed the Attractional, pure and simple.
We need to leave this arena posthaste and join our master in the new school of Attractional ministry. We must shine like stars as we hold out the word of life (Phil. 2:15-16). We must be salty and act like that city on a hill (Matt. 5:13-16). We must live good lives, be unified, and show this world that “God is really among us” (1 Pet. 2:12, Ps. 133, 1 Cor. 14:25). We must show this world very clearly the mighty power of the gospel that transforms all who bow the knee.
This is our attraction, this the battlefield on which we can win. This is where we belong and this is where Jesus wants us.
(I want to say a farewell to my friend Eddie Whitchurch. A friend for over 25 years who gave wise “country” counsel to me and stuck with me through good times and bad. A friend to all and a mighty man of God. Eddie, I’m glad your battle is over and you are with the King. Enjoy it.)