Posted by Kurt Johnston
Before I talk about where we are headed, let me talk about where our youth ministry has been for the past 15 years:
If you have never read Doug Fields’ classic youth ministry book, Purpose Driven Youth Ministry, or have never been to a Purpose Driven Church or PDYM training conference….or simply haven’t cared much about the purpose driven paradigm, then this blog post may be of zero interest to you; unless you like thinking about new paradigms, different ways of doing things, strategic thinking etc. If you fall into ANY of the above categories….read on!
An entire book, week-long conferences and years of in-the-trenches youth work have helped define the original purpose driven youth ministry model, so to try to summarize it in a paragraph doesn’t do it justice…but that’s what I will do.
In short, PDYM “by the book” has set out to create a healthy youth ministry built around a balanced approach to fulfilling the five biblical purposes for the church of Evangelism, Fellowship, Discipleship, Ministry and Worship. To help do this, five “potential audiences” of students were identified (categorized based on where they are in their spiritual journey): The Community student, The Crowd student, The Congregation student, The Committed student and the Core student. In order to build a youth ministry that met students where they were…and moved them forward in their journey…and also fulfilled the biblical purposes, a simple formula was in place: Potential Audience + Purpose = Program. The strategy being that you figure out what purpose is best fulfilled with what type of student and create a specific program to meet the needs of the students and fulfill that particular purpose. For instance, create evangelistic opportunities to reach community students, create fellowship opportunities for congregation students, etc.
What we said was basically:”Create strategic programs directed at a certain type of student to fulfill a specific purpose.”
It’s actually BRILLIANT thinking and has proven to be a great strategy for thousands of youth ministries around the world. In my experience, critics of the PDYM model usually get hung up on semantic issues more than anything else…they don’t like the words “purpose” or “paradigm” or “program” etc.
Currently, Doug Fields is in the final stages of re-writing Purpose Drive Youth Ministry and I can’t wait to see how it has morphed from the original.
SO WHY CHANGE? Great Question. A few of thereasons:
1) One of the things we have preached to youth workers for years is “there is more than one way to do it” and “our way isn’t the ony way and certainly isn’t the best way”. Yet, we hadn’t changed “our way” for 15 years…feels like a good time to practice what we preach.
2) On paper, I have never seen a better youth ministry paradigm than PDYM…the problem is youth ministry rarely plays out in reality the way we draw it up. If you are a sports fan, you know what I’m talking about. About the only concern/problem I have had with the original PDYM paradigm is one that feels big enough to see if “another way” might also work. The problem: The paradigm reflected an “ideal” scenario rather than a “real” scenario. I understand leadership…and I know that the primary role of a leader is to move people from the “real” to the “ideal”….to move them from where they are to where they need to be. And I think the original PDYM paradigm did a fantastic job of doing that. But those who know me best know that I am (maybe to a fault) a pragmatist. Mark Oestreicher calls me a “fierce utilitarian”. And because of this, I will always bend toward what seems to work best right here…right now.
So…What do I think will work best in our ministry, right here…..right now? I am deeply committed to PDYM, specifically building a ministry demonstrates balance in the 5 purposes. But it’s going to look different.
My starting point is the idea that we have “three arenas” in which our ministry has access into the lives of students. We gather them in LARGE GROUP settings, We gather them in SMALL GROUP settings and we get together with them as INDIVIDUALS. Here, in a very small nutshell is what it looks like:
LARGE GROUP: We want to EXPOSE students to Christ, his Kingdom and the 5 Purposes.
SMALL GROUP: We want students to EXPERIENCE Christ, his Kingdom and the 5 Purposes with others.
INDIVIDUAL LIFE: With the hope that students will EXPRESS Christ, his Kingdom and the 5 Purposes through their lifestyle.
We are still aware of the 5 potential audiences….that students are in different places spiritually, but instead of trying to design programs specifically for those students…that aim just for them and discourage other “audiences” from showing up, we arerecognizing that students show up to whatever they want, whenever they want regardless of the program and it’s intended purpose or audience.
Of course, there is still plenty of idealism in this new paradigm. In an ideal world, a student’s experience in our youth ministry might look something like this:
Billy goes to church on the weekend and while sitting in our weekend large groupgathering hears a testimony fromBrianna who recently served at the local soup kitchen (Billy has now been EXPOSED to the purpose of ministry/serving). Later that week in small groupBilly’s leader says something like, “hey guys, wasn’t it cool to hear Brianna’s story about the soup kitchen? How about if next week instead of a normal meeting we all go to the soup kitchen for a couple hours?” They do…and together, Billy and his friends EXPERIENCE the purpose of ministry/serving. That night, Billy goes home and says something like this to his dad, “Dad, I don’t think our small group is going to go back anytime soon….but I really liked the soup kitchen. It’s weird, but I feel like I should do that kind of stuff more often. Would you ever take me there?” His dad does…maybe one time, or maybe on an ongoing basis…but either way Billy has now EXPRESSED the purpose of ministry/serving on his own….as an individual.
What we are saying is basically:”Create programs within each arena that deepen student’s commitment to Christ, hisKingdom and the purposes.”
My hope is that this new paradigm will be a little more organic and fluid and a bit less rigid. I have nothing but love for the origianl PDYM model. In fact, I believe its brilliance is in its adaptability. I am more comitted than ever to buiding a ministry that reflects the 5 purposes of Evangelism, Fellowship, Discipleship, Ministry and Worship. It’s just going to look a little different for now.