Youth ministry is often viewed as a side dish of the church. It is a way of dealing with a problem. The problem is that young people are not involved in church. This problem-oriented approach to youth ministry is bound to fail. What lies at the heart of profound ministry to youth is an unfettered proclamation of the gospel: "the Kingdom of God is at hand." If one concedes that youth do in fact have brains, and are capable of comprehending sermons, and Bible studies, then the uncomfortable question emerges: is there a theology worth captivating their attention? Is there truly a gospel message that speaks to them? If so, what is it? If there isn't one, then what might it be?
Here are some potential theological launching points:
To be young is to be fully human. Adulthood is not a destination, but another step on a journey of faith. Babies, children, adolescents, teens, young adults, adults, and seniors are all human beings. One is not better than the other. Each has specific gifts that it offers to the community of the church at large. Language that puts down teenagers is just as oppressive and inappropriate as racist or sexist language. Furthermore youthfulness is a state of being that crosses boundaries of race, gender, class, etc. The experience of adolescence varies from person to person and group to group, and having dialogue among young people from various social locations can contribute to a richer church.
Bringing young people together in conversation, and adopting a theology that prioritizes their experiences will help contribute to living out the Kingdom of God hoped for by many people around the world. Because young people have an innate sense and experience of what it means to be both privleged and oppressed they are natural bridge builders between disparate groups. In other words, it may not be enough to teach young people how to serve the poor, for example. Instead, placing a mirror in front of adolescents so that they might see how they are at times oppressed, and at times the oppressor would help them see the larger issues of justice and righteousness in the world today. This will lead to a solidarity with people who greatly oppressed in the world. Solidarity will lead to social action and the building of a more just world.
What are the needs of youth? What matters most to you? Creating justice with youth begins by creating justice for youth. This is youth theology.