This post is going to be slightly bleak. Well, in all honesty it may be a downright ‘bleakfest’. It is not that I’m in a bad mood or tend to be a negative person. Far from it in fact. There is beautiful snow on the ground, the day is bright and sunny and the Christmas break is right around the corner.

However, I think today’s post will still be bleak.

We’ve always had a pool. We could rely on this pool. Whenever, things looked a bit grim, we could rely on this pool to bring us support and refreshment. However, this pool is drying up. The well has run dry.

Translation: I grew up with a culture that supported Christianity. In fact, it was expected that you were a Christian, with the exception of my many Jewish friends. We were all ‘god fearers’. Very few people that I knew had no religion or one of those religions from “over there” (far away). This type of culture meant that we had a large pool of support for church and especially youth ministry. In those days you could put on almost anything and youth would show up.

The well has run dry and the pool is now filled with skaters

With Christianity in the culture there is goodwill (everyone’s parents/grandparents go or went to church). Those days are gone, long gone. This means that this mythical well where we could always count on support is now dry. In fact, in many places the culture is downright hostile to our faith and our pool, which was once cool and refreshing, is dry and filled with skaters (not that I’m knocking skaters, it just made for a good metaphor!).

In Australia, kids used to flock to the children’s programs on a Sunday morning. That, in the most part, is no longer part of society. However, Sydney is in revival mode when you compare it to Vancouver or the other major Canadian centers. Youth aren’t flocking to youth events. You can’t put on any activity and count on the support from parents, grandparents and the surrounding culture. The goodwill we once had is long gone.

But you know what? - that ain’t such a bad thing. I can’t help but wonder if our previous ‘success’ was nothing more than culture merely showing us its hand. It was acceptable to believe in God, go to Christian events and participate in a youth group. However, was our success really all that successful? (Think Christian Smith’s “Moral Therapeutic Deism”- is that what we produced?)

When we look to markings of success, we tend to look to the amount of youth who come to our groups, go on our camps/mission trips, get baptized or confirmed or simply raise their hands or go forward at a youth event.

The real marks of success are longevity. Do our kids go the distance? Do we develop leaders coming from within the group who can carry it on? Do we have youth moving to other places and stay strong and bless their new community while away from home?

With the pool drying up, we now have to rethink the way we do youth ministry. We no longer have the backing we once had. This means we must change. This may/should/could also mean that we become much more effective in what we do.