Youth Work After Christendom by Jo Pimlott, and Nigel Pimlott follows on from Post-Christendom: Church and Mission in a Strange New World by Stuart Murray. It attempts to look at how ministry should be done in a post-modern world, a world where Christianity isn’t really well known, a world where biblical illiteracy is increasing.
In one sense this book is the Anglo version of Marko’s book Youth Ministry 3.0: A Manifesto of Where We’ve Been, Where We are and Where We Need to Go which I reviewed here.
Similar to Marko, the Pimlott’s book has very few answers, lots of questions, and lots of things I struggle with. Many youth practicioners struggle with the church at the moment – youth ministry (probably as usual) is ahead of the adult church in the way that it is engaging in mission and then developing discipleship from these new forms of mission. This can lead to big frustrations, so I enjoyed this quote from a frustrated church worker:
The church isn’t good at change. There are now glaciers moving with greater pace than that with which our church is embracing social change.
I felt the most helpful part was their deconstruction of modern youth ministry, especially the challenges around the role of festivals and camps in a young person’s spiritual life. They were very strongly of the opinion that many of these festivals are a left over of Christendom with a traditional mode of preaching and worship and that they highlight the consumeristic state of modern Christianity.
The other big jump out point was the discussion around the mission of God and the Homogenous Unit Principle (HUP). Maybe I’m too modern to get this. I understand that young people feel most comfortable in their own context and interest, e.g. skaters interest other skaters, goths hang out with other goths and in the church where I work we run a number of groups that are targetted at certain types of young people. But I would be concerned if we were to start splintering our youth ministries to focus our work with these groups – partly due to a lack of resources, and partly because I do think there is something important in a mixed body of Christ. This is certainly an area where I’d love to do a half-day with some other youth leaders and bounce ideas on this.
More helpfully, I think the church needs to understand that in the last century it has developed a focus on buildings which means that mission is much more about inviting young people into church rather than meeting them where they are at. This leads to very few young people having a missional perspective towards their friends and peers. This is a real challenge to those of us working with young people on a regular basis in churches, and something we’re exploring at the moment with a 3 week series on mission on our Sunday evenings.
It’s a good book that asks some great questions, and leaves me wanting a large lunch with some of my youth worker friends to bounce ideas over.