What Young People Offer the Church

Youth ministry needs a new way of thinking, says Sharon Ketcham, associate professor of Christian ministries. On April 5, the national organization Youth Specialties sent an independent videographer to Gordon to interview Ketcham for an upcoming training event aimed at youth workers. Ketcham’s scholarship explores biblical and theological perspectives on the role of community in shaping the faith of young people, and how the local church can best address adolescent faith development. She speaks and teaches often on the topic. Here’s a snapshot of what Ketcham said last week:

“The community of faith has an inherent purpose to it, one that addresses the questions many young people ask today. But does the community of faith offer today’s youth a sense of that purpose in such a way that they are captured by the story and that they can be invited to be a part of that story themselves? Are kids contributing to that community, or are they merely expected to be passive recipients of the faith that’s being transferred to them? If the church or ministry is only a service provider, one that doesn’t recognize the contributions of its youth, why would they want to continue to be a part of that faith tradition? If Jesus is just another commodity they consume in our culture, then really the Christian faith becomes nothing more than anything else they consume in our culture. And as consumers we easily discard. Genuine Christian faith, though, as seen throughout the biblical story of God’s people, is an invitation into a community to be an active contributor and participator, and that happens as young as a little one can walk across the floor of the church building. The question we need to ask, then, is whether our church ethos is one that honors the contributions of our young people.”

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