Wednesday, October 04, 2006

In the Year 2056

I used to watch Conan O'Brien a lot while in college. One of my favorite sketches was "In the Year 2000" where the trombone player would sing in a falsetto, then Conan and a guest would predict the future. Of course, now that it's 2006, the joke is gone, yet they still do the sketch.

Predicting the future is a scary thought, but also a little bit fun. Well, Mark Oestreicher from Youth Specialties blogged on his site about this article in Christianity Today about youth ministry in the next 50 years.

When I first saw it, I thought, "How can we predict the church in the next 50 years?" I mean, I have enough of a hard time figuring out how my youth group will be next year after my seniors graduate.

But it's put some interesting thoughts in my head. Here, from my humble little corner of North Texas, is what I think will be happening.

1) As more colleges and seminaries add youth ministry as a major, the church will begin to realize that not every youth pastor is a senior pastor waiting for a job to open up. As the culture continues to challenge everything that the church stands for to our youth, churches will begin to realize that youth ministry is an important position that must be filled by someone absolutely committed to them. Because of this shift, the church will find more and more youth pastors still working with youth well into their 50s and beyond. The first string of youth pastors who never senior pastored a church will begin to retire by the 2030's.

2) As more churches begin to reintegrate their youth into the workings of the church, we will see the beginnings of the end of the "youth are the church of the future" doctrine. Churches and youth pastors will realize that youth need to see how the church works and be part of the bigger Church. More churches will realize that their baptized youth are voting church members and allow them on committees, service teams, and small group leaderships.

I think that what needs to happen is a renewed commitment to service, not only to the world, but the town in which we live. Students need to know that they can make a difference, even while they are young. This knowledge will then permeate throughout their entire lives and even into the ministries they are involved in as they mature.

A very much agree with Chap Clark's comment that we need to create "'a theology of intergenerational community' that helps a whole church to feel responsible for its youth." Along with that, however, I feel that it is our responsibility as Youth Pastors to create the same theology in which the youth feel responsible for the older members of the church. Every Sunday morning, we are all there together whether we are 5 or 85.

So, in the next 50 years, will the Church look very different? That is very hard to say. But using the foundation that the older generation have laid for us, and putting our own spin on to for the future, I feel very secure in how this generation will take it. As long as we keep in prayer, follow God's will, and let the Holy Spirit guide all of our decisions, the Church will be more than fine. I believe that the next great revival is coming.

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