Josh Loveless wrote a very interesting article in the current issue of Relevant talking about how his 20-something ministry is shifting to an intergenerational separate campus as opposed to a ministry option. Two quotes stood out to me as a Student Minister.
“I’ve noticed the more transitions and graduations that have to happen for someone to be a part of a church, the more difficult it is on a person’s spiritual formation.”
“Relationships formed over a lifetime with people who are just like you is, honestly, a form of self-worship.”
In many ways specialized student ministry is a necessary evil. Everything around us tells us that we have to divide people according to their age, and in more places than just church there is animosity between different generations. However the bottom line is that those transitions are hard on students. It is hard to enter the 6th/9th grade and it seems to be extremely hard to integrate into the larger church body after being with people of the same age for the previous 18 years.
So where is this headed? Could the role of student minister become a relic of bygone times in the next 50 or 20 years? I think it might, or at least the roles that person fulfills will look vastly different. Getting to a point of change will not be easy.
Perhaps a good place to start may be to blur the lines of the program. If transitions are the contributing to the disconnect that many students are experiencing, these transitions may need to be softened. I think it would be unwise to think that 6th graders and 12th graders can share commonalities in life, but it may be good to give 7th-9th graders some mobility. The way that many student ministries are setup there is a demarcation line from middle school to high school. What if we are able to design programs that were more based on philosophy and not grade, allowing students to have freedom of choice in what to get involved in. By giving some of these bridge ages some mobility it mitigates some of that transition anxiety.
I feel as though I am a bit all over the place on this issue, but I definitely have the sense that something is stirring.
Would really appreciate any feedback or thoughts you may have on this.