This series is adapted from a paper that I wrote for a youth ministry class in Fall 2010. Posts in this series will appear on Tuesdays for as long as it takes to get through the content in manageable pieces. Enjoy!
Once youth ministry is founded on the theological bedrock of repentance, grace, redemption, and hope, it must then become informed by the cultural concerns that surround the world of young people. In a 2007 book titled UnChristian, David Kinneman unpacked some groundbreaking research from the Barna Group revealing the predominant attitudes and perceptions carried by young people outside the church, particularly those who were relatively recent high school and college graduates. From the very start, the cultural outlook seems grim for those who are still fighting for the love of Christ:
Our research shows that many of those outside of Christianity, especially younger adults, have little trust in the Christian faith, and esteem for the lifestyle of Christ followers is quickly fading among outsiders. They admit their emotional and intellectual barriers go up when they are around Christians, and they reject Jesus because they feel rejected by Christians (Kinneman, UnChristian, 11).
According to this study, outsiders’ most common reaction to the faith is that “they think Christians no longer represent what Jesus had in mind, [and] that Christianity in our society is not what it was meant to be” (Kinneman, UnChristian, 15). The study conducted by the Barna Group identified six broad themes present in the attitudes of young adults outside the church. Those six themes are that the church is: hypocritical, too focused on getting converts, antihomosexual, sheltered, too political, and judgmental (Kinneman, UnChristian, 29-30). These are the cultural tides and currents against which present day youth ministry is swimming.