Unintended Consequences

25 02 2007

a-mistake.jpgA spokesman for Youth Specialties now acknowledges the unintended consequences of their ministry model and the mess it helped to create.

This is a “harbinger” of things to come in the Christian community as newer models of ministry are uncritically adopted in order to connect with a post-modern culture.  Mark Oestreicher puts it this way…

The mess we’re in and the culpability of youth specialties

Monday January 29th 2007, 10:46 am

not too long ago, a blog commenter emailed me and wrote that he noticed i regularly hint at or outright rant about the state of youth ministry: particularly, our wrong-minded obsession with field-of-dreams attractional ministry (“if you build it, they will come.”). he politely asked if youth specialties senses any culpability in this, and, if so, if that has ever been said. i responded that i think i’ve regularly said on this blog that ys shares part of the responsibility for this, and i’ve said it in seminars at the national youth workers convention also.

but i’ve been stewing on this for a couple months. and I think it deserves to be said more clearly.

while youth specialties certainly isn’t solely responsible, i think it’s very fair to say we should bear the brunt of the blame. yes, youth specialties is primarily responsible for promoting – for decades – a model of youth ministry, built on a set of assumptions (mostly unstated), that elevated programming as the best path to successful youth ministry. and for this – i will speak for us, organizationally – we are sorry.

we may have said that other things – like relationships and service and the Bible and Jesus – are more important than programming. but i think we modeled something different. we did this naively and unknowingly, and – this may be the biggest admission – we did this without realizing the implications of the values were promoting. or, maybe we didn’t want to think about the implications…

What needs to be emphasized is that just as it took decades for the effects of the “program ministry model” to become fully known and now apologized for, so too are there now many new ministry models being adopted. They are being implemented with the best of intentions, but they will likewise yield unintended and very likely unpleasant consequences.



7 responses

25 02 2007

I was curious to what new ministry models you might be thinking of in your post. Could you elaborate a little more please? Thanks, brother!

25 02 2007

I applaud your honesty. I think that your critique of yourself and other new models goes to far. Yours nor anyone else has perfect vision into the future offer than God, so taking the blame is either hubris on your part of simply wrongheaded. What you did was exhibit what is best and that was to take responsibility for your contributions to what you see as an error. What confuses me is what is the nature of this error? What would do you see that can either be reconstructed or destroyed or simply needs to changed.

I’m coming from this as someone that attended divinity school and while ago – in the 80’s when there was all the talk of inclusive language and feminism so postmodern acts are framed for me from those events.

I think the real crisis of this momentous age was, and is a crisis of faith. In the past the raw risk and Kierkegaardian “uncertainty” of faith was masked, and even evaded, by the elaborate religious structures within which we lived and moved. When these structures were questioned, and often removed, all of us were confronted with the frightening realization that our faith may have been in the structures (comfortable and certain and familiar) and not in God and mysterious and mighty deeds of today that are “behind” the structures. This continues be frightening the realization and possible the greatest grace of our age: It is continuing “reshaping” and recommitment to the underlying concept still works in and through us. Of course, the ultimate outcome depends on our willingness to risk living as God’s tools; we can, if we wish, cling to our comfortable images and structures. The new may be better than the old; but they are still just images, and not the living God working is way on and through us.

25 02 2007

The ministry models that look to have the highest potential for unintended consequences are those which begin with a departure from the living church culture as it has come down to us through the ages.
This model is known by many names, one of which is actually called “The AntiChurch.” It also goes by such names as “The Open church,” “The Simple church,” “The Organic church,” “The Underground Church,” the “Church Without Walls,” and probably a dozen other names.
Once again, I think this new model of ministry is being adopted with the best of intentions. There may, in fact, be many good things happening in the lives of those involved in these ministries, and they may even be reaching people with the gospel. I hope they are, but aren’t those the “intended” consequences?
I’m concerned about the unintended consequences.

26 02 2007

I appreciate all the time you spend working for Christ. Thanks you for all you work for the Kingdom. It encourages new bloggers like me.

-J. Kaiser

26 02 2007

Thank you for sharing. I appreciate your ministry and thoughts! I do not know much about this type of ministry, except that it too, is another ministry model even though most claim that it is simply organic and outside the traditional church walls.

Maybe I am just old fashion, I tend to think God intended us to reach people, disciple them, baptize them and teach them to observe all things through his local New Testament church that gathers weekly to carry out this mandate.

I understand that there are several ways or models to make disciples, and most of them are done in the context of a Life Transformation Group, Small Group, Sunday School class, etc.

Someone let me know if I am somewhere in left field. =)

26 02 2007

Once again let me say I’m for all who serve and love the Lord Jesus Christ. Many a fine Christian has been bashed so badly by those who are suppose to love them that it is almost impossible to lovingly discuss various views without everyone going to battle stations.

What a shame that is. I don’t want to be guilt of that… ever.

Everyone’s thoughts and opinions are important and deserve the same respect mine do. To be “lovingly honest” is my goal, but sometime the printed word comes across more harshly then intended.

Having said that, let’s think about the “organic church” as simply church outside of church walls. That sounds so natural and harmless. But try to imagine the possible applications of this thinking.

What about organic marriage? If one can have an organic church there is no reason one can’t have an organic marriage. I’ve counseled with couples who defined themselves as “married in the eyes of God and see no reason to have a piece of paper or a church ceremony”. Once they learn the jargon they can just tell everyone they were married in the organic church.

And then, what about the people who say they worship God just as well in the woods as in church? They will undoubtedly adopt the “organic church” ideology, at least the part that says they can start calling what they do “church”.

… but hey, I could be wrong.

26 02 2007

Great post. I would heartily recommend two books that may clarify some of your questions about the organic church movement: “The Present Future” by Reggie McNeal, and “Organic Church” by Neal Cole.

I am in the process of trying to sort out principles gleaned from my reading and from a conference I attended in January.

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