Post-evangelicalism is asking what the church itself looks like when it draws its identity, substance and focus from the larger, deeper, wider communion of the church catholic.
Nothing is more typical of evangelicalism in both its strengths and its weaknesses than youth ministry. Many of us would say that the existence of what can be called the post-evangelical impulse is, to some extent, the result of the triumph of youth ministry as the primary model in almost every quarter of evangelicalism.
It was youth ministry in evangelicalism that applied the double edged solvent of cultural relevance and results oriented pragmatism to the church’s primary discipleship and evangelistic ministry. Those solvents were initially respectful of previous tradition and the multi-generational mission of the church, but as youth ministry took on more and more of an identity of its own, tradition and generational diversity became enemies to be slain.
The results have been immense success for youth ministry as a shaping influence in evangelicalism. But a growing segment of evangelicals began to see youth ministry as undermining evangelicalism itself in producing disciples who were committed to the message and mission of the churches that invested the most in youth ministry.
For a post-evangelical, the value of youth ministry as a missional calling of the church is obvious, but there are grave doubts about the continuation of what is, by any measurement, a movement that has been corrosive to much of the church’s identity and connection to its own history.
The overall framework will be this: While remaining distinctively evangelical, a post-evangelical approach to the church will choose how NOT to identify with contemporary evangelicalism and where to identify with the both roots and renewal movements beyond the contemporary evangelical wilderness.
So while I cannot describe a post-evangelical youth ministry, I can suggest some aspects to what a post-evangelical Christian community might determine in regard to its missional ministry to its own young people.
1. It would be very open to the â€œFamily centeredâ€ model that puts youth ministry firmly in the ministry of parents, and would utilize â€œyouth ministersâ€ only as a supplement and facilitation of that model.
2. It would never separate young people from the multi-generational nature of the church, but would instill in them an appreciation for the Christian tradition, and the compromises and gifts of the multi-generational model.
3. Age segregated Bible study would most likely be de-emphesized, if not eliminated as much as possible.
4. Mentoring and â€œAAâ€ type community would be the focus of community life, with a conscious effort to work against the consumerist impulses of evangelical youth culture.
5. One important emphasis would be participation in broader community ministries and worship opportunities that would emphasize being part of the larger body of Christ, including all traditions.
6. Relationships and ministries with the church among the poor and the persecuted would replace the creation of envy of megachurch facilities and a menu of specialized large events.
7. A conscious effort to define discipleship in terms of teachable processes will bring about an investment of time and relationships in learning specific disciplines from particular people, and then passing those discipleship processes on to other young people.
8. The heart of post-evangelical youth ministry would be the church’s own growth process into a community discovering the church as the movement Jesus started, imitating the best models of the past and connecting to other traditions.
9. This does not mean the elimination of “youth ministry,” but it does mean that any specific ministry will find its definition and direction from the overall character of the community to which it belongs. Whatever activities, actions or processes occur, they will be evaluated by the whole community and not by separate standards derived from “youth ministry” as a self-defining parachurch movement.
Obviously there is lot more to be said, but this does get at some of my current thoughts. A very good question. Thanks for asking.