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Youth In Contemporary Culture CHMN 608 Spring 2007. Six Models of Youth Ministry. Six Models of Youth Ministry. 1970’s . 1. Experiential Model Focused on the questions and felt needs of youth 2. Content Model Focused on the need to clarify and teach doctrines and standards.

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Youth In



CHMN 608

Spring 2007

Six Models of

Youth Ministry

Six Models of Youth Ministry


1. Experiential Model

Focused on the questions and felt needs of youth

2. Content Model

Focused on the need to clarify and teach doctrines and standards

Six Models of Youth Ministry


3. Community Model

Focused on the need for sharing and belonging to a group of believers

4. Developmental Model

Focused on the developmental needs of youth and the stages of faith maturity

Six Models of Youth Ministry


5. Spiritual Model

Focused on the unmet spiritual hungers of youth (spiritual disciplines, new worship styles)

6. Cross-cultural/Generational Model

Focused on the need to “understand” and “reach” youth as a distinct social and cultural group

Six Models of Youth Ministry


7. Leadership Model

Focuses on developing youth through leadership, service, and involvement.

The Shift From

Spatial to Temporal Cultures

From Spatial to Temporal Cultures

Spatial Cultures

Colin Morris (building on the work of James Carey) notes that in traditional cultures time bound people together in localized communities where life evolved from generation to generation. Space separated these local cultures and maintained their distinct identities. As we have moved into modern times the situation has been reversed.

From Spatial to Temporal Cultures



The boundaries of space have been overcome (through print, radio, satellites,

internet, etc.) and a global culture has been born. As the pace of cultural change quickens, time (rather than space) increasingly separates people and creates diversity, commonly referred to as the "generation gap." God in a Box: Christian Strategy in a Television Age, p. 181.

From Spatial to Temporal Cultures

Geographical Diversity

Generational Bonds



From Spatial to Temporal Cultures

Generational Diversity



Time Separates

From Spatial to Temporal Cultures

“Generational Peers”

“More and more [young people] seek points of reference among their generational peers rather than their geographical elders. More and more they are shaped by the same global forces, many of them commercial, despite the great distances that separate them. For some the need to belong, the longing for roots and tribe, has been transferred entirely to generational peers . . . . They no longer want to belong to anyone but each other.”

Gerard Kelly/Lowell Sheppard, Their Future Our Passion

From Spatial to Temporal Cultures

“Across the Generation Divide”

“This radical shift represents a huge challenge to the faith community . . . . No indigenous church can assume any longer that the passing of the faith to the new generation will be an easy, natural process. Nor can any one culture assume that its chosen ‘flavor of faith’ will be attractive to its young. Communicating faith across the generation divide is fast becoming as significant a cross-cultural challenge as communicating across oceans and language barriers once were.”

Gerard Kelly/Lowell Sheppard, Their Future Our Passion

From Spatial to Temporal Cultures

The New Missionary

The new missionary will carry out a cross-cultural task increasingly defined by time (generational cultures) rather than by space (geographical cultures). The new missionary’s journey will more likely involve time travel across a generational mindscape than air travel over a geographical landscape.

The Shift From

Postfigurative to Prefigurative Cultures

From Postfigurative to Prefigurative


Immigrants & Natives

“If you are under 30, you are a native. I am over 30, and I am having Ellis Island experiences all the time. I have to learn new languages, and I have to learn new customs. My brain is needing to be re-wired all the time . . . I am an immigrant to a whole new world.

Leonard Sweet

From Postfigurative to Prefigurative


Immigrants & Natives

I need to understand – as any immigrant does – that the people you learn the most from are the natives – for whom this new world is their first language.”

Leonard Sweet, “Have You Heard the One About the Missionaries” at

Leonard Sweet

From Postfigurative to Prefigurative

The Church as

Immigrant Parent

  • Immigrant parents want to preserve the old world in a new country.
  • Immigrant children – either born as natives or quick to adapt to the new culture – are caught between the old world of their parents and the new world of their peers.
From Postfigurative to Prefigurative

The Church as

Immigrant Parent

  • Immigrant parents, while still clinging to the old ways, need to survive in the new world, and will often turn to their children for help and understanding.
  • As an immigrant in a rapidly changing world, the church is in a similar position with its young.
From Postfigurative to Prefigurative

Anthropologist Margaret Mead studied primitive cultures in New Guinea for five decades and documented the rapid cultural changes these groups went through as they came into contact with modern "civilized" cultures. As a result, she classified three types of cultures, based on their figurative ability -- that is, how they imagined and taught the future from one generation to the next.

Margaret Mead

From Postfigurative to Prefigurative

Postfigurative Cultures

  • Marked by slow cultural change.
  • The world of one generation assumed to be very similar to that of the next.
  • Elders know and understand the world. Their skills, knowledge, and values are revered. They can give authoritative advice to the young.
  • Children learn primarily from adults.
From Postfigurative to Prefigurative

Cofigurative Cultures

  • Marked by more rapid cultural change.
  • The world of one generation assumed to be different in some ways from the next.
  • The young have to rely equally on their peers and their elders to know and understand the world. The insights and skills of both groups are respected. The old share authority with the young.
  • Children learn from peers and adults.
From Postfigurative to Prefigurative

Prefigurative Cultures

  • Marked by very rapid cultural change.
  • The world of one generation assumed to be nothing like that of the next.
  • The young understand the world better than the old. The experience and abilities of the elders are rendered irrelevant by quantum changes. They must rely on the young for insight and survival. Authority shifts to the young.
  • Children teach each other and adults.
From Postfigurative to Prefigurative

So Where Are We Today?

  • Some commentators believe that these three types correspond to the premodern, modern, and postmodern epochs.
  • If they are right, we are currently living in a prefigurative culture.
  • Though a cofigurative culture, where learning is mutual, is often seen as the most ideal form.
From Postfigurative to Prefigurative

Postfigurative Methods Imposed

“Many older members of churches, although not living in postfigurative cultures, impose postfigurative methods of spiritual training. They expect their children to blindly, and unquestioningly, put on the mantle of spiritual expression that they themselves put on. This phenomenon, also observed by Mead in Polynesian and New Guinea cultures may help us to understand the rejection of the church by young people.”

Graeme Codrington, “Living in an Age of Transition” at

From Postfigurative to Prefigurative

Charting the Future


  • We can no longer authoritatively dictate the present or future of the church to our children.
  • We will have to work together with the younger generations to create it.
  • As the pace of cultural change quickens, the church will have to allow its younger members even more voice and authority in charting the direction of the church if it is to survive and thrive in the future.
From Postfigurative to Prefigurative

“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women I will pour out my Spirit in those days.”

Joel 2:28-29


From Postfigurative to Prefigurative

A Cofigurative Remnant

  • The Spirit is poured out on old and young in the last days
  • The voices of young men and women are heard in the community
  • The young are given visions – intuitive imagination
  • The old are given dreams – interpretive wisdom
  • The old and young, dreams and visions, work together in a cofigurative way to negotiate a turbulent apocalyptic culture.
Generational Theory

Neil Howe and William Strauss

  • Wrote Generations, 13th Gen, Millennials Rising.
  • Are America’s leading theorists in the field of generational cultures.
  • Have posited 14 distinct generations in America’s history.
Generational Theory

GenerationBirth Years

G.I. 1901-1924

Silent 1925-1942

Boomer 1943-1960

X 1961-1981

Millennial 1982-2002

Generational Theory

According to Howe and Strauss, these generations have waxed and waned in a similar way (Millenials Rising, pp. 67-68):

EventFrom 1st Birth Year

Public Discovery 15-20 yrs.

Full Possession of Youth Culture 20-25 yrs.

Complete Breakout 25-30 yrs.

Ebbing of Public Interest 30-35 yrs.

The Shifting Task

of Youth Ministry

The Shifting Task of Youth Ministry

“Generational Cultures”

“I really have problems with that whole term ‘youth ministry’ . . . We should be using the language of generational cultures. What ‘youth ministry’ suggests is that youth is a fixed category that doesn’t change over time. But we’ve got at least five, six, sometimes even seven generational cultures we’re dealing with. Boomer youth were different than GenX youth, who are different than NetGen youth. The question is, ‘What are the peculiar characteristics of this generational culture

The Shifting Task of Youth Ministry

“Generational Cultures”

with which I’m entrusted?’ And that culture is going to change every five or six years. To do this kind of generational ministry, we must keep ahead of the curves to keep updated, to keep going to conferences, to keep learning, to keep listening . . . You have to tailor your learning to the context.”

Leonard Sweet, interview in Group Magazine

The Shifting Task of Youth Ministry

“Marginal Impact”

“Without alertness to the cultural context, pastoral work with the younger generations is in danger of having only a marginal impact. The reason is not hard to find: the key curriculum in the lives of young people is not school or church, or even home after a certain age, but culture and the zone of relationships.”

Michael Gallagher, Clashing Symbols

Generations in Scripture

“We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. . . .. They would not be like their forefathers – a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him.”

Psalm 78:4, 8

Generations in Scripture

Gerard Kelly notes two points about this passage in his book Retrofuture:

1. The concept of distinct generations is not a modern one. It has existed since biblical times. Hebrews understood the concept of generational transition. It’s a theme that occurs often in the OT.

Generations in Scripture

2. God is in the business of renewing his work in each generation. “Where there is disobedience, where hearts have become cold toward Yahweh, where we have not walked in his ways, one of his strategies is to make a fresh approach to a new generation. The renewal of the work of God continues, generation by generation.” (p. 42)

Generations in Scripture

I would add a third point:

3. God charges us with the task of communicating the story of God to the next generation. We are not called to merely pass on our doctrines. Rather, we are to

proclaim the acts of God – His faithfulness and power at work in our experience – to the next generation.

Generations in Scripture

The Psalmist feels a deep burden for this task:

“Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray do not forsake me,

O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.”

Psalm 71:17-18

Generations in Scripture

Where this task has not been carried out, the consequences have been grave:

“After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD

nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals.”

Judges 2:10-11

A Missiological Approach

A Missiological Approach to youth ministry focuses on gaining the cross-cultural skills and resources necessary to relate to today’s rapidly changing generational cultures. These include:

Insertion Strategies

Finding effective ways to infiltrate particular groups of young people

A Missiological Approach

Cultural Literacy

Developing cultural awareness, understanding, sensitivity and response to youth culture

Cultural Exegesis

Learning to “read” youth culture in order to discern meaning, truth, error, and opportunities

A Missiological Approach


Facilitating expressions of faith that are faithful both to the gospel and to the culture of the

young person

Support and Accountability

Establishing the means of support for new methods and ventures; creating a system of accountability to the wider church

Classical/Elitist View

Culture is the “pursuit of perfection” and entails the best of what has been thought, said, or created. It distinguishes between what is “cultured” and what is not. A view detailed in Matthew Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy (1869)

Two Views of Culture

  • Normative – makes distinctions between “high” and “low”
  • Objective – highlights cultural products such as art, literature, and institutions
Two Views of Culture

Anthropological/Sociological View

Culture is a “complex whole” that encompasses a way of life, or “common sense” of a particular group. This includes patterns of behavior, as well as the underlying systems of value, meaning, and perception. A view detailed in Edward Tylor’s Primitive Culture (1871).

  • Descriptive – describes a way of life without making value judgments
  • Subjective – focuses on a way of life based on a common (often subconscious) view of the world
The Cultural Iceberg

Culture is comprised of many things we can observe. Yet clearly the most powerful cultural forces exist in the arena of the unseen and the sub-conscious. Some have equated culture with an iceberg, with the greater part of the whole existing beneath the surface.

The Cultural Iceberg

Practices, Products, People

Surface Culture

  • Food
  • Fads
  • Holidays
  • Arts
  • Folklore
  • History
  • Personalities/Celebrities
  • Only 15% of culture lies on the surface
The Cultural Iceberg

Beliefs, Values, Attitudes

  • Ceremony
  • Courtship/Marriage
  • Ethics
  • Family Ties
  • Gender Roles
  • Gestures
  • Grooming/Presence
  • Religion
  • Rights/Duties
  • Space
  • Taboos
  • Time

Deep Culture

The Cultural Iceberg

What Lies Beneath

At the subconscious level, culture acts like an invisible filter between the world and us, guiding our assumptions, determining what we will pay attention to and what we will ignore. Deep culture is as natural as the air we breathe. It becomes the “hidden persuader,” with the ability to powerfully shape who we are and what we become.



An ideology is a selective body of ideas, espoused and lived out by a group of people, which consistently portray a particular view of the world.


Blind Spots and Spin

Ideologies claim to present a comprehensive interpretation of the world, yet inevitably create blind spots and distortions of reality.

Those within an ideological system often attempt to win others over to their view, and will manipulate the meanings of words, images, or events in a manner consistent with their definition of the way things are (called “spin” in the political arena).


“Culture Wars”

While the concepts of culture and ideology are closely related, ideology adds a political dimension to the cultural landscape. It means that culture is much more than a benign discussion of preferences and practices; it is also about power, politics, competing ideas, and who controls perceptions of reality. This struggle is what some refer to as “culture wars.”



“Awakening to culture’s non-neutrality is the first step towards a Christian response to culture in practice.”

Michael Gallagher, Clashing Symbols, p. 9

Four Types

of Culture

Four Types of Culture

Dominant Culture

  • Inherited from traditional ways and beliefs
  • Produced by the economically or politically dominant
  • Transmitted in urban cultures by mass media
Four Types of Culture


  • Do not challenge, but negotiate optional styles
  • May disdain or exclude themselves from the dominant group
Four Types of Culture


  • Seek not to replace, but contest dominant values
  • May exhibit illegal or at-risk activity
Four Types of Culture


  • Go beyond defiance and seek to change values and institutions
  • May replace families with communes, war with love or protest, etc.
  • Radical countercultures may seek revolution

(Kenneth Roberts)

Mary Douglas’

Model of Cultural Organization

Mary Douglas’ Model of Cultural Organization

Mary Douglas

Mary Douglas is a distinguished British anthropologist who began her work in Africa. She has provided a four-part model of how cultures organize themselves. It shows how religious forms are dependent upon various types of cultural organization.

Mary Douglas’ Model of Cultural Organization

She maps these these types according to two factors:

Grid – refers to the social expectations of the individual within a culture, as guided by an informal network of assumptions, rules, and interactions

Group – refers to social obedience and belonging to the group as created by allegiance, authority, control, and pressure to conform

Mary Douglas

Mary Douglas’ Model of Cultural Organization

Strong Grid













Weak Grid

Mary Douglas’ Model of Cultural Organization

Strong Grid

  • Heirarchical
  • order
  • Sense of
  • belonging
  • Relationships stable
  • Religion is socialized
  • as part of the community





Mary Douglas’ Model of Cultural Organization

Strong Grid

  • Self at center
  • Relationships
  • temporary
  • Community
  • of competition
  • and status





  • Religion is privatized and called
  • upon to meet people’s needs for
  • self-fulfillment
Mary Douglas’ Model of Cultural Organization
  • Little role definition or social
  • guidance for individuals
  • Relationships optional or highly
  • mobile
  • Religion is
  • secularized,
  • narcissistic,
  • lonely
  • Anchorless
  • spiritual
  • searching





Weak Grid

Mary Douglas’ Model of Cultural Organization
  • Individuals/relationships controlled
  • by authoritarian regime
  • Separation of insiders/outsiders



  • Religion is
  • collectivized
  • within a
  • narrow group
  • or set of beliefs



Weak Grid