Mel Lacy – Models of Youth Ministry

These are my notes from Mel Lacy seminar on “Models of Youth Ministry” from the Bible Centred Youth Worker Conference 2011. This is rarely a word for word transcript, and as much my reflection on what she had to say as what she had to say.

There are Four models that are prominent in youth ministry in the UK. They can be categorised differently, but this is a helpful way of doing so. Most of these models are pragmatic, they have done because they think they might work, then been retrospectively theologised (someone has come back and justified them through a theological basis at some point).

Incarnational Youth Ministry Model

Originated in american, put into practice over here in about 1995, mostly by Pete Ward of Oxford Youth Works and beyond.
5 stages

  1. Contact – Through that gradually build up trust, learn about them.
  1. Extended Contact – Something they’ve planned and organised, going to their friends gig, their skateboard.
  2. Proclamation – (not what we think by it) He says we tell stories about Jesus, don’t put any meaning or weight of your own on the story. They should hear them without anyone trying to explain them
  3. Nurture – Once there is some response in one way, you can disciple them in this. Don’t become the teacher, this is a big no no. You need to discover what they believe the Bible is saying and let them work it out for themselves. You cannot tell them what the Bible is saying.
  1. Church – Generally a formation of some sort of youth church, as this model makes it hard to integrate with an existing one.

Realistically this is very idealistic and you never really have to worry about step four or five, because it rarely happens. Caveat: Pete Ward is lovely, great desire for young people to meet Jesus (Mel is clear on this at this point)

PROS: Relationships are important. It affirms people should hear about Jesus. Good to engage on their terms.

CONS: All the flaws of using the word incarnation in the sense Pete Ward means (that’s not what the word incarnation means, nor a good justification for this model.) Sin often ends up poorly defined, sin becomes solely societal. Damages intergenerational church life. Often leads to universalism, or proclamation by osmosis (which isn’t proclamation and doesn’t work).

While a flawed model, let’s not throw out baby and bath water, relationships are very good, as is being part of their lives, reaching them on their terms. Pendulum not swing too far.

Social Action Youth Ministry

Steve Griffiths – A Christlike ministry is the best articulation of this model [I’ve read this book, and Steve used to be my lecturer and I didn’t pick up loads of the social action stuff in it, but I know what Mel means when she describes this model].
Very corporate, less personal, very much about redeeming the world as it stands.

  • A crucified christology is about dignity
  • A crucified christology is about social transformation. No longer oppressing the individuals.
  • A crucified christology provides a social dimension to our salvation.

Biblical basis is pretty weak, designed to suit what he wants to say. The cross is inadequately reference. Proclamation is down-played. In the final analysis the fruits of repentance are confused with repentance itself.


Predominately pioneered by Soul Survivor and Mike Pilavachi. Very clear to set out that worship is all of life, but jumps very quickly into the corporate experience in a church.

  1. During worship God is their to heal, to be a time of spiritual warfare.
  2. Role of worship leader is pastor and prophet.
  3. Different from the speaker. Speaker imparts information, worship leader is the minister before God. The role of the worship leader is to act in the same way as the old testament priest.
  4. Worship is about God speaking through the songs
  1. Worship is seen as an evangelistic tool, (people have become christians having seen, experienced, worship).

Pros: Focuses on the relationship with Jesus. Very much about worshipping Jesus. There is an emphasis on the Bible.

Cons: Far too much ascribed to the act of corporate worship. The danger of mis-using the emotions, through the use of mood, music, lightening, etc…


Why have these models developed? Why these reactionary theologies? Reacting to these things:

  1. Over intellectualisation of faith. Conservatives as guilty of this if not more.
  2. Middle class christianity.
  3. Clash of culture. Always will be a culture divide between our youth and the older people in the church. Faults on all sides here.
  1. Lack of love. Are these young people just gospel fodder?

Funnel Model

Duffy Robbins, most recent, best expression of this.

Regular, easy invite meeting is run, invite event, non-christians can come to, get to know Christian youth. Then another meeting that involves more bible, then that brings them in a bit further.

Cons: The gospel is something to be hidden. Hides the Christian community, young people might be put off by the church. Puts the weight off the christian kid, and puts it on to the youth worker. All we have to do is bring this young person along, then youth worker does the rest. Where do your Christian young people get to know each other? False distinction between fun and teaching. The bible comes across as boring! It’s really hard to keep teenagers after about 16, because fun is no longer attractive, or at least the fun you can legally offer them. Statistically, it doesn’t work. No really. It doesn’t. Various research has been done, and effectively proved it. Fun doesn’t make a lasting group.

Note how there is no perfect fifth model.