Youth Ministry 3.0 (2)

Marko.jpg We need to develop an ongoing conversation about youth ministry. Marko’s book provides for us a virtual history of youth ministry in the last 50+ years and does so clearly and simply. We need this book. (By the way, “Marko” on the cover is a mock cover I found online.)

As you read this post, think about whether or not you agree with his 3-fold scheme. Maybe you don’t agree with it all, but in general. What do you think of his 3.0 proposals?

 Here are the characteristics of Youth Ministry 1.0 according to Marko’s new book, Youth Ministry 3.0: A Manifesto of Where We’ve Been, Where We Are & Where We Need to Go

The 50s gave rise to a youth culture and this led to ministries like Youth for Christ and Young Life. The major emphases were on two things:



Youth ministry 1.0 was proclamation-driven. It was fixated on identity formation and a theme verse would have been Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate …”.

Youth Ministry 2.0 focused on autonomy (youth culture had confidence now) and discipleship programs and creating a positive peer group. 2.0 was not so much proclamation as program-driven. A theme verse was Matthew 28:19-20a: make disciples and teach them.

Youth Ministry 3.0, call it a “third way,” realizes it cannot meet this generation’s needs with a 2.0 set of assumptions and methods. Youth culture has become the dominant culture in our world. And it is powerfully fragmented. It gives rise to the need for affinity groups. He says we need cultural anthropologists with relational passion. The themes are



Big idea for Marko: if 1.0 was proclamation-driven and 2.0 was program-driven, 3.0 needs to be not-driven.  It wants to be Present. Marko thinks some prototypical Bible verses will be Acts 2:42-46.

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  • RJS

    In general I agree with this scheme – but not entirely. Any such scheme emphasizes the differences – and the similarities are greater than the differences. I am not clear though, what is meant by affinity group and present.

  • B

    My advice for youth ministries is to stop dumbing down the Bible for us. Stop lying to us (don’t tell me the Roman Catholics “added” books into the Bible; you’ll just lose credibility and/or create prejudiced monsters,) encourage us to seriously study and think about our faith (in comparison to giving us easy answers.)
    The greatest sin of youth ministry is that it tries too hard to cater to youth and fun, and doesn’t try hard enough to impart any kind of real knowledge or spiritual growth.
    At least, that was my experience 5 years ago in HS, with an Evangelical youth group. I left spiritually unsatisfied and none the wiser for my troubles.

  • Chris Theule-VanDam

    I’m not sure “correction” fits what Young Life was doing in the 50’s.
    In some ways it is correct to say YL has focussed on proclamation and program but my udernstanding is that it has always been (since the mid-40’s) incarnational and I believe it certainly is today. Is incarnational and being present the same thing? No doubt there are more subgroups within the adolescent culture today – even more than 10 years ago.

  • Jamie

    Hey B,
    I’m sorry that you did not have a good experience in the youth group you attened. I apologize. I’m a youth pastor and it grieves me to hear when we fail at helping students grow in faith.
    Having said that…it’s extremely hard and a delicate thing to get students to the place of spiritual growth and I chalk it up to having more to do with God then myself. But I appreciate your comments.
    I have not read 3.0 and is on my list.
    For those who have read it let me know if it worth my while.

  • T

    I definitely see the history, though I don’t think we’ve exhausted ‘discipleship’ by any stretch. What is an ‘affinity group’ if the shared affinity is not as apprentices of Jesus?
    With RJS, this is very fuzzy to me: “He says we need cultural anthropologists with relational passion. The themes are
    Communion | Mission
    Big idea for Marko: if 1.0 was proclamation-driven and 2.0 was program-driven, 3.0 needs to be not-driven. It wants to be Present. Marko thinks some prototypical Bible verses will be Acts 2:42-46.
    This needs some unpacking to get a sense of what he means.

  • Rick

    All three aspects seem to have been present during various eras, with the emphasis changing.
    My concern is that while we now discuss 3.0, the youth have moved on to 4.0, and we will again be playing catch-up. Things change fast, especially with youth in this information age. We always seem to be slightly behind the trends, rather than thinking ahead, preparing, and helping shape the trends.
    Some companies hire firms and personnel who have the sole responsibility of finding the next trend/hot thing, beyond “today”. The church should have more of an “ancient-future” strategy.

  • Very good series Scot and Mark. For 2 days in a row T, whoever you are, has been a voice that resonates with me. This is nice history but all sounds fuzzy.
    Here is my concern. Youth ministry (and all ministry!) always wants to be cutting edge and ahead of the curve. So we evaluate and reevaluate ad nauseum and tell everyone what they “need” to be doing to make an impact. So what happens is our pendulum swings in all directions: first proclamation, then discipleship, the present/affinity (still unclear). As I understand being a follower of Christ, it involves ALL of these things. Why move away from proclamation, nothing could be clearer in Acts than Jesus-followers proclaiming Jesus. Why move away from discipleship? This is all over Acts as well.
    And I appreciate trying to understand youth culture, but is it really that important? The way I see it, God has given me particular students in a particular place. I need to know them, reach them, and impact them. It is similar to my wife. Knowing about women in general is helpful, but what makes a good marriage is knowing my wife in particular. We youth pastors just need to know our context and do what is needed there. That is missional.
    It just feels like another series of books and conferences coming that will change when YM4.0 comes out in 10 years because we are lamenting that only 25% are mature Christians. Am I being too hard?

  • Brian

    This is a topic that gets me going on a number of levels. I am amazed by the number of books and studying that are put out now on youth ministry. This tells me on a simplistic level that no body has this thing figured out and that is okay. No matter where you land on the program-driven vs present model (1.0 vs 10.0 vs vista vs mac or whatever), there is a necessity out there to listen to students, to their culture and to your specific environment and to the Holy Spirit and to “go there”.
    Having said that, at least in my context there are disturbing, cultural issues at play that is making youth ministry a very difficult endeavor. I think we do not do the topic justice by simply going after the youth pastors for making the comment that Catholics just added books to the Bible (which they did). I agree that we need to help students think critically about their world, and I applaud youth pastors for their efforts to help students grow in their faith. But lets be critical of our cultural and the effect that culture has on the church and on these students and empower youth pastors to stand in the gap.

  • Scott M

    Brian (#8), the ‘Catholics’ added books to the Bible? Seriously? When did this happen, exactly? I can go all the way back to Justin Martyr in the second century as the Jewish scholars are just beginning to develop what became the Masoretic text, complaining that they were dropping and altering passages that favored Christian interpretation in the septuagint. Now, we can discuss what should or should not be included, but it is clear that the Greek NT uses the LXX and that the LXX were the Scriptures for the Church as the NT canon was gradually being established and understood to also be scripture. The reformers were correct to go back to the Greek sources over the Latin vulgate for the NT. They seem to have erred, however, in selecting the later developing Masoretic text over the Septuagint. It is, at any rate, far from clear and Protestants do not have the strongest historical case for their OT canon.
    I’ve raised and am raising youth and have worked as a volunteer for a number of years with them at our church. I enjoy being around them. In truth, it’s a lot easier to spend time with them than with many of the adult groups in our church. I don’t have any particular insight other than to point out that a lot of adults, even adults who work with youth, seem to have a lot of mistaken assumptions about the nature of youth culture. I’ve long pushed to do almost anything other than break them up into artificial school grade divisions that have little to do with the realities of the way they interact. Most of the other adult volunteers can’t imagine any other way of doing it and even actively resist the idea. Sigh.
    I don’t really have any personal experience with ‘youth group’ so I’m different from most of the other adults in that way. I do see and hear that the kids often like the shows and the programs (as long as they aren’t too cheesy) but are also a bit cynical about them. The most important factor for many of them is not what is going on, but who will be there. My younger son had a miserable time for years until some of his peers with whom he felt some affinity became more involved. Even now, he has a pretty ambivalent attitude toward activities.

  • I don’t know if it’s what MarkO means, but his 3.0 sounds like giving up on teaching them and just trying to make them feel like they “belong.”
    That seems to go along with what I’m hearing that a great many youth pastors think that their kids don’t want to learn about the Bible, theology, or apologetics — and that they’re wrong.
    We can make an effort to make them feel like they belong without giving up on the notion of evangelizing and discipling them. If we don’t, they’ll have warm feelings of youth group much like cub scouts — something they liked but outgrew and left behind.

  • Brian

    Fine….the books weren’t added…..wrong choice of words. Thank you for so gently and delicately rebuking me (sarcasm).

  • Brian

    and I would say that yes who will be there is a important question for you, but I think the issues right now run much deeper then simply social associations.

  • Scot McKnight

    Scott M,
    The second comment said something about Catholics adding books and Prots have added moved from “Catholics have additional books” to “Catholics added books.” That’s a historical error, and it has been a common claim by Protestants. But we don’t need a lecture on canon history because this post is not about that issue.

  • Scott M

    ChrisB, since Marko’s career is focused on helping people catechize our youth, I seriously doubt that’s what he’s trying to say. Rather than simply caricaturing and dismissing his thoughts, try to interact with them. The question is not whether or not we need to teach Christianity and lead youth to become disciples of Jesus. The question is how we actually accomplish that and whether or not the way we are trying to do it is appropriate. In an effort to answer those questions, Marko is exploring the shifts in youth culture and the way ‘youth ministry’ has tried to interact with that culture.

  • Brian

    the danger though in all this banter back in forth is that there are people out there, who are doing their very best to be faithful to their calling and by critiquing the methods can and often does strike close to home. So that’s why I think you are seeing some of the response you are (in reference to Scott M’s comment) This is just my view, but I think we need to affirm those on the front lines and empower them as well as all of us to exam our methodology.
    Youth Culture is often times very difficult if not impossible target to hit, and I think we need to be careful to rest on what we think is correct, because it has probably changed. At the same time, youth culture has to be seen in a much bigger picture.
    1. how are families changing?
    2. what are the pressures that families feel today?
    3. What voice does the church have in culture?
    4. How does the Suburban sub-culture affect the church and for the sake of this discussion, youth ministry. (there are other sub-cultures too….i am just suggesting this from my own context)
    5. Sports and College Applications
    I am sure there are other issues that I could have put there as well.
    My point is simply to suggest that we can study youth culture until we are blue in the face but if we ignore other factors I think we dont do the topic justice

  • Brian

    Additional books was what I meant….My brain is often not in sync with my finger. I wasnt suggesting that Catholics were simply adding books for fun.

  • RJS @ #1
    From my understanding, affinity groups have become more a phenomenon in our culture because of technological trends. People now have access to folks all over the world that are just like them. I work in a small, nearly all white, community in the midwest. One of the youth I work with is in high school, African American, loves anime, and formerly practiced Wicca. I would be willing to say that he is the only person in our community of 20,000 who can be described by all of those things. But online he has met a world of people really similar to him. He has an entire community of people he has met through cyberspace with whom he has affinity. On a much less drastic scale I see affinity as an important aspect of every student’s day to day life in school. Unique communities are more readily available and accessible than they have ever been because of the internet and cell phones and text messaging. Our task as youth workers is to help them birth community from within our churches and our ministries. We want their affinity to be found in their love for Jesus and his call to participate in the Kingdom. It isn’t that affinity has never been important before, but that it is much easier to find solidarity in a world without walls.
    The other lash back from the internet is that people are less present in each others lives. I find it alarming that I am one of the only people that regularly seek out personal contact with some of these students. Most of their “needs” are met through web interactions and text messages. Presence centered ministry is viable and necessary. It is counter cultural to spend time together without cell phones on. It is counter cultural to live as though being in the same room with somebody is important. Young people today need not only to learn to be present, but to have people present in their lives.

  • RJS

    These changes – for good and ill affect more than just youth of course – especially the ability to find affinity groups independent of physical location. But I can see that the impact is greater on youth.
    All of this of course gets back in part to Shane Hipps, Scot and “virtual community”.

  • I am not a youth pastor, I am a linguist who specializes in biblical languages.
    I have been mentoring one african american college student (his idea, not mine) for seven years. This fellow calls me three or four times a week to talk about bible, theology, life. I am neither a pastor nor a youth leader. This young man has been in and out of at least ten different churches since he left high school. He calls me sunday night and tells me all about the pastor, the Mercedes he drives, the women he is chasing, the lies he tells from the pulpit … he knows the life history of nearly every african american pastor in downtown Seattle and many of them from the suburbs.
    I recently did something like an “intervention”, I call a friend of mine who works with international college students and asked him to invite my mentoree to attend MarsHillChurch and a fellowship meal afterwards at his home. MarsHillChurch got started as a gen-x church in Seattle. My young friend has attended there on and off but he is totally unimpressed with the culture. Anyway, I have argued that he doesn’t have to like the pastor Mark Driscoll or his sermons and he doesn’t have to like the worship, but he does need the after church fellowship meal where he will meet and get to know a small group of christians his age.
    Frankly, I don’t hold out much hope for this project. My mentoree is really fed up with the shallow garbage that is being dished out at church. The worship is offensive, the sermons are superficial, the mega church culture is all focused on one man, the superstar in the pulpit … I hear about this constantly …
    What I am saying is, the most famous youth church in Seattle isn’t doing the job for my mentoree.

  • KevinL

    First of all, thanks to all who have a passion for this topic (both youth pastors and others). As a youth pastor for almost 10 years, I have definitely noticed changes. The majority of us are women and men who want to see students intelligently engage their faith and are sick of the broad characterization that all we do is entertain kids. For the most part, we are theologically complex and want our students to think critically for themselves.
    I think an example of the affinity group shift is that old models of evangelism to youth (A La Campus Crusade) involved reaching the cool kids in order to reach a campus. You reach the cool kids (the leaders) and everyone will want to be like them and follow suit. That just doesn’t work any more. There are so many teenage subcultures and tribes that ministry HAS to be done on a tribe by tribe basis. This makes our idea of outreach much more difficult than before. What I (and other adults) need to be doing is connecting with pockets of kids in order to gain trust. That trust comes from being present in their lives and living openly and honestly before them.
    Discipleship comes from my ability to show teens that following Jesus is a worthwhile endeavor, not because you get something like admission to heaven, but because it puts us in step with the redemptive work of God in the world.

  • Brian McLaughlin

    C. stirling (#19). What you have described is a great ministry to this student. You are obviously having a tremendous impact on this young man. I’d like to challenge you on one point: why do you need a “project” for this young man to grow? It seems like he is growing in his relationship with YOU. I agree that connection to the church is vital for growth (Eph. 4), but you are also part of the church. Having him in your world on a daily basis is so much more biblical “church” than having him find a place for 1 hour on Sunday that he likes.
    You have done a good job of describing what youth ministry needs to be: local, specific, contextual, relational, etc. You don’t need a book or a conference, you are doing it!

  • T

    Amen. I couldn’t agree with this more:
    “What I (and other adults) need to be doing is connecting with pockets of kids in order to gain trust. That trust comes from being present in their lives and living openly and honestly before them.
    Discipleship comes from my ability to show teens that following Jesus is a worthwhile endeavor, not because you get something like admission to heaven, but because it puts us in step with the redemptive work of God in the world.”

  • Geoff

    KevinL (#20) Could I ask then, how do you show that being “in step with the redemptive work of God in this world” is a worthwhile endeavor? I find that a lot of youth don’t necesarily disagree with the teaching, just in the practice of the teaching. Either there is too little evidence that this lifestyle can be effectively lived out (in this I’m saying the adult church population) in our culture.
    I also feel that the youth today are peer oriented, not adult oriented. They look to their peers to orient their life rather than their parents and other ‘significant adults’. If this is the case, there is little ways to ‘reach’ the culture without first reclaiming your ability as an adult to speak into their life and have them orient their worldview from that. I think whatever the next 3.0, 4.0, 5.0 in youth ministry is, will have to take this into account.
    I think like others have posted, the role of evangelism, discipleship, and now affinity groups and presence centered ministry are all on the table still, it might come down to what role we really play in their development. Do we have positional authority? Relational authority? what authority is being given to us by the youth to speak into their lives and help shape their biblical worldview? In here we have a lot of variance based on our local context, and similarity because we are so virtually connected.
    Does what I’m saying even make sense? It was a bit of a ramble in my mind…

  • just to clarify a bit:
    i suggest that ym1.0 had key themes of correction and evangelism.
    ym2.0 had key themes of discipleship and building a peer group.
    i am NOT suggesting that these go away. of course we should still care about discipleship and evangelism.
    what i AM suggesting is that, given the shift in culture, our key themes for youth ministry in 3.0 should be communion and mission.
    then, the “prototypical” (scot’s word!) verses for these would be:
    the acts passage (for communion)
    and john 17:18 (for mission)
    these “prototypical verses” are a bit forced, in some senses, as we certainly want to embody all of scripture in our approaches (not only singling out one or two!). it was just that, as i looked back at the general themes and emphases of ym1.0 and ym2.0, i felt there were particular passages of scripture that were reflective of those themes and values, so added some for ym3.0 also.
    to sum: “affinity” is the emphasis of the cultural shift (not doing away with identity and autonomy, but a shift to those two being defined and worked out through the lens of affinity). but OUR RESPONSE should be communion and mission. affinity is not our response.
    hope that helps clarify a bit.

  • oh, and the “not-driven, but present” of ym3.0 is in contrast to…
    ym1.0: proclamation driven
    ym2.0: program driven

  • Wayne

    I read the book and much of what Marko describes is quite familiar to me because I’ve been part of most of it. There’s no question we need to be learning new ways to connect with kids so that we can introduce them to Christ and/or mentor them in the faith, but I don’t think we can do it without the same kind of proclamation and teaching that has always characterized effective youth ministry, 1.0, 2.0 or whatever.
    I share Marko’s (and everyone else’s) frustration with what youth ministry has become. I visit lots of youth groups around the country and with few exceptions, most everybody’s doing the same thing. If I were a teenager I’d be bored with it all too. Youth ministry has become so institutionalized and professionalized that many adults my age (and much younger) feel unqualified or afraid to get involved. No wonder youth workers today carry such a large burden.
    Worst of all, youth ministries today (like most of adolescent culture) intentionally separate kids from adults and adults from kids. The best youth ministry has always been about bringing adults and youth together so that the faith (including its core doctrines and values) can be passed on from one generation to the next. Parents are of course the most important of these adults but I don’t see a place for them in 3.0. It’s hard for parents to be “cultural anthropologists with relational passion” when they barely know how to be parents.
    I was called to youth ministry over 40 years ago. That call hasn’t changed much. Psalm 71:17-18 is a favorite verse of mine. But I have to say that I get discouraged sometimes. I don’t understand what most of the celebrity youth workers are talking about. I don’t have cool hair and I don’t use words like missional and communional. Has youth ministry become so complicated today that ordinary people can’t figure it out? I learned a long time ago that youth ministry is loving on kids and leading them to Jesus. Sometimes you do that in big groups, sometimes small groups, more often than not in no group at all. We used programs to help get it done back then; I realize there are other ways to do it now. I never dreamed I’d be having Jesus chats with kids on Facebook. I’ll be the first to admit that 1.0 and 2.0 methods don’t work so well anymore (if they ever did), but methods were never the point. Nor are they today.

  • KevinL

    Geoff (#23),
    Good questions. I think you are right in that many of our students don’t see the adult population of believers as having authentic faith. They see hypocrisy in their parents’ lives or in the church leadership. The great thing about the culture our students live in is that there is lots of respect for social justice. We connect our students with the redemptive work of God in the world in a three fold manner. First, we show that God has had a heart for this since the beginning. Many of my students are surprised when I point all the instances of God caring about the poor and orphaned. Second, we connect our students with stories of adults and peers who are following God in His redemptive work. My opinion is that there are plenty of adults in our churches who can be real life examples. People of joy and peace and love who have sacrificed because of their love for Jesus. Finally, we engage their culture and point out the ways in which they are either moving in or out of step with God.
    Yes, on the surface our students seem more peer oriented than ever before (Chap Clark’s “Hurt” is a great book on this subject). Deep down most teens want a loving adult who is willing to guide them through life. It just takes a lot longer for adults to gain their trust than ever before. This means adults will most likely relate to teens through relational authority. We earn the right to speak truth into their lives.
    Wow, I make it sound too simple. In reality it’s going to take a lot of time and effort. In the past, we in student ministry talked about student to adult ratio. The ideal was something like 8 students for every adult in the ministry. Tony Jones, at a youth workers’ convention a few years back, challenged us think in terms of 10 caring, connected adults for every student.