Top Eight Most Influential Events In Youth Ministry In The Last Decade

By now you’ll have read plenty of top five, ten, and hundred lists of things from the last decades. You’ll also have read plenty of articles which making subversive comments about how these lists exist just to spare editors and writers any effort in writing new stuff. You’ll also have read the lists that followed those articles. And now you’re reading subversive comments attempting to display how we’ve seen through the sham of the lists and the sham of the subversive comments. Look, here’s a list of the top eight things that happened in the last decade that were massively influential on youth ministry.

  • The introduction of the Criminal Records Bureau disclosure form in 2002. I can’t remember what life was like before those green and purple forms turned up to prove you’re not a caught paedophile, mostly because I’ve only been doing youth work since 2001. And yes, I know this makes the idea of me writing a list of things that have changed the face of youth work in the last ten years slightly moronic as I don’t know what they’ve changed from but you’re still reading this.
  • The Message 2000. Right now a whole bunch of youth workers talk about rediscovering a Christian theology of social justice and caring for the poor, in a similar way to how people talk about the twenty or thirty years ago when some Canadians found the gifts of the Holy Spirit hanging around in the back of church waiting for someone to interpret them. A lot of that came from Soul Survivor teaming up with the Message Trust in Manchester to run Soul Survivor in the streets. Directly from that came the launch of the Noise initiative, Soul Action, Soul in the City, and indirectly a whole bunch of other youth social action initiatives.
  • The Summer Festival. Yes, Glastonbury has been around for ever, and Soul Survivor stated back when you weren’t born, but it was only from 2002 that the demand for summer festivals exploded. Part of that probably was the civilising of the Festival experience. (Remember when they burnt down all the toilets at Leeds? Or when Glastonbury closed due to fence jumpers in 2001? Happy things of the past.) Part of that was probably the increase in popularity of Rock and Roll, but whatever it was, they got big. The default summer camp option became, at least seemingly1, the big 10,000 strong tent in a field as opposed to the hundred people at a Scripture Union booked boarding school.
  • The Centre For Youth Ministry. Who again, have been around longer than this last decade, but it’s really in this decade that their impact has been felt as hundred of youth workers across the country –and all the young people they work with– adopt a lot of their philosophy of ministry. The emphasis on Youth Ministry being professional and at least broadly similar to secular youth work is both where their strongest criticisms and their biggest praises come from.
  • The Mobile Phone. All your young people got mobile phones this decade. Most of them got a new one every year (one of them got a new one every like four weeks and even though everyone said “hey, how come you’ve got a new phone” no-one could quite work out why he did have a new one). Also, you got a phone, and they got your number. And now they text and ring you whenever they want. And neither you nor they have to go through the parent’s house phone. Imagine if you said fifteen years ago that one day you’d been able to get in touch with your young people immediately wherever they were and they’d be able to do likewise to you. And now they can. Also, they can play with it whenever you’re speaking from the front.
  • Facebook. For the reasons above but with more weirdness attached. I can now not just contact you at any time, but find out what you’re doing at any time. I must resist the urge to spy on my youn… WHY HAVE THEY BECOME A FAN OF DRINKING SAMBUCA?[2]
  • The Cementing Of The Paid Youth Worker. I heard someone from the Centre of Youth Ministry say in 2003 that based upon the adverts in the back of Youthwork Magazine, the number of jobs in youth ministry had doubled in the UK in the ten previous years. I’m not sure anyone would bother to say that sort of thing now, because it’s assumed that most churches have at least some sort of paid youth worker type person. The youth worker is assumed now to be the second or third appointment churches make, with only senior minister and maybe administrator being more likely. Consider for a moment, just how odd it is that such amount of time and money is spent on someone working with such a specific group of people.
  • The Rise Of The Worship Leader. Probably much deeper significance here, but it’s nice to have to dissuade young people from something other than wanting to be a youth worker.

1 I’ve tried to do the research on this, but the figures aren’t that available, here’s some vaguely scientific speculation though. CPAS co-ordinate Venture holidays who are probably the second biggest summer camp organisation after Scripture Union. They run two sorts of camps, the standard Venture camp of which there around 90 and seem to have an average space for 50 people, and the Falcon Camps which get around 500 people. That works out to 5000 people attending each year. Soul Survivor gets around 9000 a week for the two main Somerset weeks, and another 10,000 or so over the two other weeks they run. They aren’t the only big summer youth festival either.

2 We have a Facebook policy at work3, and while it doesn’t contain the phrase “for the love of all that is good, when it says “young person was tagged in the album ‘a night on the town’” you do not click that link.” it’s only because you’re not meant to say stuff like that in official policy documents.

3 I say policy, it’s more like five lines saying “don’t panic” and then another line saying “oh and whatever they say in the relationship status field is a lie”.