A Sociological Framework for Doing Youth MinistrybyDave Rahn, Ph.D.Chapter 4 in Reaching a Generation for Christ(Dunn & Senter; 1997, Moody)Many youth leaders get blindsided by an important realization after someexperience with kids. It's the kind of truth that can take your breath away, sort of like thefirst jump into a swimming pool that's a little colder than anticipated. Here's how it goes:“Youth meetings might be well paced, engaging, and meaningful--but that's not why kidsattend. They also don't show up because the youth leader is cool, witty, and easy to listento. Rather, most kids get involved in a youth ministry because it gives them a chance toconnect with the people they want to be with.”The initial awareness of this youth ministry fact-of-life typically produces twoeffects on an erstwhile youth leader. The first is to thank the Lord for the unanticipatedsplash of humility this truth carries. After all, indulging in the temptation of self-importance can be quite a tug for any youth minister. The second is to thank the Lord forthe expected benefit that this profound insight will bring to any ministry with adolescents.Understanding the social framework for doing youth ministry can be like finding the lightswitch in a dimly lit room. With the new improved visibility come tremendouspossibilities. My goal for this chapter is to help youth ministry folks to think criticallyabout the role of social and cultural context in determining ministry forms and methods.By shedding a little light on the subject I hope to provoke creative youth ministryresponses.Social contexts shape all of us. Chances are better than average that our juniorhigh and senior high school years contributed richly to our present formation. Ourpersonal socio-developmental tools--the ones that have carried us into adulthood--weretest-driven in our adolescent years. It isn't too difficult to tap into this mother lode ofmemories. Do you remember your first kiss? Or the first time your hormones seemed to
be going on “red alert”? How about the first time you drove a car, or, better yet, the firsttime you drove solo to pick up a friend? Can you remember what it felt like in your firstyear at high school, and how incredibly old the seniors seemed? Did you ever experiencerejection from a group of persons you wanted to belong to? Can you identify a timewhen you felt as if you finally belonged to a group, that they were a perfect fit for you?