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Church As Rufuge

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Youth ministry must change in order to reach the present generation. Many of our youth ministry assumptions and practices are rooted in approaches that were created during the Baby Boomer and Generation X teen years. But, the Millennial Generation possesses some unique characteristics that challenge our past approaches.

Millennials  are high achievers. They spend more time studying and take heavier course loads in school than previous generations. They are painfully aware that their present performance directly impacts their future opportunities. Boomers and Gen X teens didn’t feel the life-impending pressures of their adolescent faults and failures. Past generations were anxious about nuclear war, violence, and AIDS. Today, teens greatest source of anxiety are their grades and getting into a good college.

With fierce competition for the best colleges, many teens overload on a four-course menu of academics, extra curricular activities, sports, and volunteerism. Many sport involvements have swelled to a semi-professional level, requiring both in and out of season commitments. Most teens, especially in the larger communities have more ways to spend their time than time to spend. To manage their busy schedules, many teens tote PDA’s and Day-Timer organizers, once the exclusive appendage of the adult corporate world.

The amplification of involvement and achievement has come at a cost: pressure and stress. As church, it’s critical that we don’t multiply their stress by heaping on excessive demands, burdens, and requirements (sacramental hoop jumping). Most teens are not hunting for additional programmatic involvement, as much as hungering to be a part of a community that allows them to be themselves (rest). In a similar context, Jesus said to a spiritually overburdened audience, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Maybe the best way to evangelize the Millennial Generation is to offer them a God who is bigger than their successes and failures in an authentic church community that offers refuge for their weary bodies, minds, and souls.


Mary Haley

February 7, 2011


I have done junior high youth ministry for 25 years and have 3 teens. You are absolutely right about this generation. Even at the junior high level the big fun events have dwindled to nothing, but when I run a relaxing movie night where they can just hang out and eat popcorn they turn out. That used to be the high school paradigm, junior high had to be entertained, now they too are exhausted and just looking for a safe landing spot.


February 7, 2011


Thanks, for adding your thoughts, Mary. After 25 years of youth ministry and three teens of your own– I’m listening! It really makes you think when this becomes the profile of junior high teens.


February 12, 2011



This makes so much sense. I just saw a 10th grader’s post on Facebook which said she got 6 college letters and one valentine. I am in my first year of building a program from scratch at my church in the Harrisburg Diocese, and you’re right, these teens have so much stuff going on that its so hard to get them to come out for just one more thing to stick on their schedules. I would love to be able to provide that place of rest for them, and my first goal is give them the experience of prayer as rest, and to build the discipline of daily prayer. Pray for me, this is the hardest thing I have ever done!



February 13, 2011


Shawn– I will pray for you and hopefully I’ll see you in Harrisburg this May! Thanks so much for your thoughts on the post.