Youth Ministries Canada ... it's time

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The recent decision by Youth Unlimited -- that nondeminational organization that oversees the development of children, young people and young adults -- to eliminate their paid Canadian youth leader developers because of financial constraints is sparking considerable discussion around water coolers and coffee pots across Canada.

It's a discussion that needs to make it to the denominational level. Which Christian Reformed body is tasked with the responsibility of providing leadership and resources for our most valued treasurers: boys, girls, young people and young adults? Aside from the significant role that Faith Alive Resources plays in providing excellent church school materials, the answer is "No one."

The denomination relinquished that responsibility a few generations ago with the formation of Youth Unlimited, a body that provides resources to many Reformed and other denominations. That relationship has served its purpose for a while.

Youth Unlimited's fiscal decision to eliminate its Canadian staff has left youth pastors, classis youth workers and other youth leaders without a valuable human resource.

Youth Unlimited also oversees GEMS and Cadets, programs that provide the very foundation for ministry for our children. Though I am not intimately familiar with their resources, questions do arise anechdotally about whether a 21st century Cadet or GEM is talking about the kinds of issues that face today's kids. For example, technology shapes the lives of most kids today. There have been recent discussions in the secular media about how today's children are exposed at an incredibly young age to sexuality, pornography, sexual orientation and fashion. That exposure comes about because of the internet, television and public school education.

What responsibility does the Christian Reformed Church have today to help our children and grandchildren deal with these kinds of issues? We have blindly relegated that responsibility to a youth ministry organization that is not accountable to the CRC.

While it would be wonderful to create a new denominational body that has these kinds of responsibilities, experience has proven that to do so would require an overture to synod, a three-year study and then the eventual creation of some sort of test model.

It is, however, quite possible to create a regional entity -- the region being Canada -- and to do so quickly. Our youth ministry leaders can't wait. They crave direction and leadership from qualified staff ... and Canada currently has a few highly qualified youth ministry leaders who are unemployed because of Youth Unlimited's decision.

It is possible to convene a Youth Ministry Summit this summer or fall designed to guage the support of Canadian classes and to subsequently create a modest Youth Ministries Canada team. I further suspect that a letter to every classis from the Director of Canadian Ministries to ask for a certain Ministry Share in order to provide made-in-Canada youth ministry resources will receive overwhelming support.

As I make the ecumenical rounds within Canada, I meet denominational leaders who are incredibly jealous of the CRC's ability to 'hold on to our young people'. It is a treasure that we ignore at our peril.

 

Posted in: Youth Ministry; Discussion Topic

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Guide

I think some of your comments are incorrect. YU does not oversee Gems and Cadets, rather they are all part of DYM (Dynamic Youth Ministries). Also, YU is really only a Junior and Senior High directed ministry with elements of conversations tied to other areas of ministry through tools like Compass 21. I believe that this may be important to the conversation. We certainly do not want to mislead anyone.

Thanks, Ron, for that clarification. I stand corrected. Dynamic Youth Ministries oversees Cadets, GEMS and Youth Unlimited.

It is listed in the CRC Yearbook as a "denominationally related or affiliated ministry", much like Friendship Ministries, Diaconal Ministries Canada, Partners Worldwide and Partners Worldwide Canada.

It is both interesting and tragic that fully one-third of our total CRC membership -- children, young people and young adults -- have no denominational board or office that provides leadership, resources or oversight of their spiritual development beyond the formal church school program.

The March issue of The Banner points out cultural differences, and otherwise, between American and Canadian churches. Because the 'tough economic times' have hit YU, this may be an appropriate time for the denomination -- and the Canadian side of the denomination in particular -- to re-examine and perhaps re-invent the nature of youth ministry. 

Contributor

Jeff:

You mentioned earlier a possible Youth Ministry Summer Summit, to help in tackling this problem

Please keep me informed and updated as to what they will focus will be and if it is going to happen.

If I can fit it into my schedule, I would like to possibly be a part of that if it could benefit all of Canada's Youth Ministry Scope.

Thanks!

While I appreciate the desire and need to enhance our own "in-house" networking, communication and support for our youth leaders, I am not yet convinced of a few things.  First is throwing out all of YU and all that they bring to our youth ministry table. It is truly unfortunate that YU has had to let go of both the personnel and opportunity to offer leadership development opportuntities, but YU can, and still does, offer a lot to Canadian youth leaders.  

Second, while I love the idea of developing a "Canadian Youth Worker Director" position, I'm pretty sure that there are many many steps between the average youth worker and a potential Canadian YM director that are just plain missing.  Within the denomination, there are many steps of communication between Synod through to the local pastor.  But I would assume that few pastors have direct access to the Directors of the denomination.  There is a solid method of communication and support through Synod, regional classes, to the pastor and church council.  I would daresay that the levels between the volunteer youth leader, or even the paid youth pastor, up to a Denominational or Canadian Youth Ministry Director are almost nonexistant.  While many of our classes do have a classis youth ministry team of sorts, there is no uniformity from one Classis to another as to the vision of Classis youth ministry or how this body functions.  Many classes do not have a regional youth ministry coordinator or consultant, something that was strongly encouraged by Synod (of late '70's or early '80's) that each classis consider.  Without these structures and positions in place, it would seem unreasonable that a Canadian Youth Ministry Director would be dealing with every local youth pastor or youth leader in all of the denomination or Canada.  

There is no doubt - we are slowly getting closer.  The Ontario Youth Ministry Team, while only about 5 years old or so, is barely cutting its' teeth, but is makings its' way to developing strategies for assisting in what is so sorely needed for the local youth leader - support, communication, vision. 

Before we start talking denominational, perhaps our efforts are best served for now focusing on regional support, developing our classis youth ministry and regional (provincial, perhaps, like the OYMT) levels of support and communication.  

Contributor

Marc: Although I'm not entirely sure what you are getting at - maybe that it's best to have a regional/Classical YM in place B4 we hire a denominational coordinator - but YM is quite a different ball of wax than pastoral ministry. The pastors 99% of the time have beyond excellent educational practicum. The average Youth Leader/Durector if they have a degree have VERY little experience. They need leadership; they need resources; they need ideas to jumpstart programs; they need stories of success to get motivated, at times. Although, it's more cost effective to do it by region/Classis in the short-term, in the Long-term vision, if the the programs are universal and flexible (each youth group is unique) I think the best way to get everyone on board is through a denominational coordinator. Starting small, simple and things that have a proven record.

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