Three Issues Facing Contemporary Youth Ministry – an Excerpt from Adoptive Youth Ministry

The following is an excerpt from Adoptive Youth Ministry, edited by Chap Clark.


Even as the greater focus on practical theology in recent years has provided the theological framework for ministry and most youth workers have been more theologically deliberate in their ministry thinking and efforts, three related but distinct issues have emerged.

While they have come from different people and directions and for different reasons, none of the three seems to have been the catalyst for the other two, yet all three now make up the bulk of our collective discourse. Each of these issues impacts the other two, but up to this point little has been done to pull them together. In no particular order, the three issues are:

Cover Art• The struggle related to youth ministry’s long-term effectiveness, in that we are “losing” kids once they leave our ministry programs.

• The concern that people in contemporary culture, including an increasing number of young people, report to have written off “traditional” faith (a movement labeled the rise of the “Nones”). Current literature seems to confirm that many young people do not even want to give youth ministry a chance, and there is ample evidence that great numbers of adolescents and emerging adults have a negative view of the church and confirm wanting nothing to do with “us,” meaning the institutional church.

• The widespread recognition that as the world has changed dramatically over the past few years and decades, these changes not only affect how we do ministry but also who we do ministry with— primarily adolescents and their families. The world the young now inhabit is the precarious, often painful, clearly confusing, and “abandoned” reality that middle adolescents (fourteen- to twenty-year-olds) and emerging adults (twenty- to early-thirty-year-olds) live within.

Each of these issues and the corresponding focus that results has created a new day for youth ministry. Over the past decade we have come to recognize and admit that we are losing ground in terms of our ability to theologically engage students in a way that engenders both current and lifelong faith even while we try to go theologically deeper ourselves.

While each issue has received a great deal of attention, there is a growing consensus that these three are born of the same parent. Today’s and tomorrow’s youth worker cannot simply be aware of the dynamics that affect ministry to the young; they must thoughtfully and theologically engage them head-on, recognizing that the day of gathering kids in a dedicated youth wing or living room and getting them to sing and play and listen to a clever talk (regardless of how well delivered it is) no longer guarantees lifelong spiritual interest, much less life transformation.

©2016 by Chap Clark. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.


For more information on Adoptive Youth Ministry, click here.

New Release: Adoptive Youth Ministry

Cover ArtKids desperately need healthy, committed adults who can help them thrive in their faith and become active participants in the life of the church. This requires the efforts of the whole faith community.

Chap Clark, one of the leading voices in youth ministry today, brings together twenty-four experts from a variety of denominations and traditions to offer a comprehensive introduction to adoptive youth ministry, a theologically driven, academically grounded, and practical youth ministry model. The book shows readers how to integrate emerging generations into the family of faith, helping young adults become active participants in God’s redemptive community.


“Chap is this generation’s youth ministry professor, and his insight is deeply appreciated and respected….I will tell everyone I know in youth ministry to read this book.”—Jim Burns, president, HomeWord

“Chap Clark has done us a great favor by providing insights from a wide range of thoughtful and mature leaders who have given decades to youth ministry.”—Ken Knipp, vice president of training, Young Life

“Those of us in youth ministry and those of us teaching youth ministry will long be grateful for this new paradigm.”—Len Kageler, Nyack College

Adoptive Youth Ministry will change the character and culture of your student ministry.”—Ron Hunter, director and cofounder, D6 Conference

“Chap Clark has brought together today’s brightest youth ministry minds to compile the definitive guide for the theory and practice of reaching teenagers.”—Jim Candy, youth ministry veteran, author, and church planter

“Can hardly be neglected by anyone wanting to be informed about the current state of, and challenges facing, youth ministry.”—Dean Borgman, founder and director, Center for Youth Studies

Adoptive Youth Ministry will stimulate the kinds of discussions that will form and forge the nature of youth ministry for decades to come.”—Greg Stier, founder and CEO, Dare 2 Share

“Clark’s adoption youth ministry paradigm offers a reenvisioned lens through which to see youth ministry—a radically welcoming and inclusive spiritual kinship with teens linked together through a solidarity of love, grace, and mercy.”—Fernando Arzola Jr., Nyack College

“This is not just a book. It’s a youth worker’s toolkit essential for building a deeper and more effective youth ministry.”—Megan Hutchinson, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church

“Essential reading for anyone working in Christian education.”—Chris King, president, Dallas Christian School


Chap ClarkChap Clark (PhD, University of Denver) is professor and chair of the youth, family, and culture department at Fuller Theological Seminary, where he is also a coordinator of Fuller Studio. He is on the teaching team at Harbor Christian Center Church in Gig Harbor, Washington, is president of ParenTeen, and works closely with Young Life. Clark has authored or coauthored numerous books, including Hurt 2.0 and Sticky Faith. Follow him on Twitter: @chapclark

For more information on Adoptive Youth Ministry, click here.

BA Books & Authors on the Web – October 16, 2015

Cover ArtDaniel Block, author of For the Glory of God, was interviewed at Books at a Glance. You can read part 1 here, and part 2 here.

“The pragmatism of the ‘worship industry’ concerns me. Since our understanding of worship is restricted largely to what we do in church as a community, we devote our energies to making our worship that is attractive especially to the unbelievers and the marginal Christians.

We forget that an audience with God calls for a counter-cultural liturgical vocabulary. In Deuteronomy 12 Moses declares that the forms of true worship may not derive either from our own imaginations (v. 8) or the environment in which we live (vv. 29–31). The object of worship alone (i.e., God) determines the nature and forms of true worship.”

An upcoming Syndicate Symposium will interact with Chris Keith’s Jesus against the Scribal Elite, and Chris Skinner will be one of the participants.

Youth Ministry in the 21st Century, edited by Chap Clark, was reviewed at Panorama of a Book Saint.

Publishers Weekly reviewed The Gospel according to Heretics, by David Wilhite.

“This book is ideal for a scholar seeking to study church history, or an educated layperson wanting to know more about church councils, Gnostics, and modern day Muslims.”

At Reformation 21, Robert Yarbrough reviewed Richard Bauckham’s Gospel of Glory.

James K. A. Smith’s Who’s Afraid of Relativism? was reviewed at Just and Sinner.


BA Books & Authors on the Web – September 18, 2015

Cover ArtGuy Davies, at Exiled Preacher, reviewed The Pastor as Public Theologian by Kevin Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan.

“I’d recommend that all aspiring and serving pastors give this book a thoughtful and prayerful read. If the pastor as public theologian is a lost vision, this well written and passionately argued book certainly makes a grand attempt at reclaiming it.

Anything that helps pastors to minister what is in Christ more effectively must be good for us, the people whom we have been called to serve, and the world that so desperately needs to hear the life-transforming message of the gospel.”

At Panorama of a Book Saint, Conrade Yap reviewed Matthew Schlimm’s This Strange and Sacred Scripture.

Cover ArtScot McKnight, at Jesus Creed, discussed Andrew McGowan’s treatment of the Eucharist in Ancient Christian Worship.

“Banquets, a common term for early Christian meals, were common: ‘Groups bound by kinship and by professional, social, religious, or ethnic ties celebrated such meals together to create and express their identity and their beliefs when need or opportunity for celebration arose.’”

Austin McCann reviewed Youth Ministry in the 21st Century, edited by Chap Clark.

Individualism and Youth Ministry – an Excerpt from Youth Ministry in the 21st Century

The following is an excerpt from Chap Clark’s chapter on The Adoption View of Youth Ministry in Youth Ministry in the 21st Century.


The common denominator from the very beginning—despite corrective movements, such as including a greater recognition of the parents’ role in their kids’ spiritual growth, the development of a comprehensive ministry strategy, and the need to recognize how deeply growing up in a fragmented culture has affected all young people—has been youth ministry’s focus on the individual.

The seedbed of contemporary youth ministry, and where Young Life’s Jim Rayburn developed much of his missional theology, was the “tent meeting” evangelism of the early twentieth century. This movement defined evangelism as the church’s job to share the “good news” with “outsiders” (Col. 4:5). To invite them to personally embrace the Christian faith became the garden youth ministry was planted and cultivated in.

Cover ArtMuch of the rhetoric summarizing the emphasis on an individual response to the gospel as the goal of contemporary discipleship has become the bumper sticker theology of youth ministry, regardless of tradition, from “Accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord” (or sometimes “Savior”) to “Become a Christian.” By encouraging a personal decision to conversion, followed by the amorphous “rededication,” the next step for those who had at some point previously “accepted” Christ (usually at camp), youth ministry has been focused on the task of helping “committed” kids to “grow” in their faith.

What this means is difficult to precisely pin down, but essentially it is to encourage young Christ-followers to live their lives in a way that is a reflection of how a “Christian” in a given context looks, talks, thinks, and behaves. In youth ministry seminars, articles, and books, “discipleship” is described in the “doing” of faith: consistent Bible reading, regular prayer, active church life, response to social issues in light of their faith, involvement in some sort of “ministry” where they serve others, and the like.

Obviously, none of these is wrong or even negative, but are they enough? Or, more important, do they represent the fullness of the call of God in the Scriptures? Perhaps this is what Dallas Willard was describing when he decried the “gospel of sin management.”

For all of the good that youth ministry has done, for all of the lives that have been changed, we have moved into a “post-Christian” culture where the young have fewer relational resources than ever to navigate the complexities of entering interdependent adulthood, and the historic focus on faith as an individual responsibility has left countless young people with an inadequate understanding of the Christian faith.

The danger of youth ministry exclusively dedicated to evangelizing and then personally “discipling” individuals during adolescence is that faith at its core can easily become so personal that both the daily walk and the lifelong journey as a Christian is all about and up to me. One may argue that this is not exclusively an issue in youth ministry but one found in the wider North American church, and contemporary youth ministry is no more or less culpable than the church at large.

©2015 by Chap Clark. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.


For more information on Youth Ministry in the 21st Century, click here.

New Release: Youth Ministry in the 21st Century: Five Views

Cover ArtThere are many philosophies and strategies that drive today’s youth ministry. To most people, they are variations on a single goal: to make faithful disciples of young people. However, digging deeper into various programs, books, and concepts reveals substantive differences among the approaches. In this multiview work,

Chap Clark, one of the leading voices in youth ministry today, brings together a diverse group of leaders to present major views on youth ministry extant. Contributors and approaches include:

    • Fernando Arzola – the Ecclesial Model of Youth Ministry
    • Greg Stier – the Gospel Advancing Ministry Model
    • Ron Hunter – the Family Focused Youth Ministry Model
    • Brian Cosby – the Reformed Youth Ministry Model.
    • Chap Clark – the Adoption Model of Youth Ministry.

Offering a model of critical thinking and respectful dialogue, this volume provides a balanced, irenic approach to a topic with which every church wrestles. It gives readers the resources they need to develop their own approach to youth ministry. Also. the book is supplemented by web-based resources through Baker Academic’s Textbook eSources.


“The insights contained in these pages will lead us all toward more transformative ministry.” – Kara Powell, Fuller Youth Institute

“A model for how to generously and humbly ‘talk amongst yourselves,’ particularly with those with whom you don’t agree.” – Walt Mueller, Center for Parent/Youth Understanding

“Chap at his best, challenging us to think beyond our favorite youth ministry strategies to consider theological roots, ministry implications, and practical outcomes.” – Duffy Robbins, Eastern University

“I love this book. I felt like I was in a room listening in on an incredible dialogue with some of the finest thinkers in the field of youth ministry.” – Jim Burns, president, HomeWord

Youth Ministry in the 21st Century triggers deep reflection about models and motives and will facilitate advancement of that very kingdom enterprise, youth ministry.” – Len Kageler, Nyack College

“This book belongs on the required reading lists of all youth ministry programs and deserves to be on the shelf of any youth pastor who wants a deeper understanding of where they are, how they got there, and where they might want to go in the future.” – Allen Pointer, youth pastor and speaker

“A much-needed push beyond the glut of negative statistics about adolescents and their faith into deeper exploration of the theological underpinnings of next-generation ministry and reimagining of effective models of youth ministry.” – Danny Mitchell, Presbyterian Church in America

“Whether you have a high youth ministry IQ or you are in youth ministry 101, this book will challenge your thinking.” – Steve Vandegriff, Liberty University


Chap Clark (PhD, University of Denver) is professor and chair of the youth, family, and culture department at Fuller Theological Seminary, where he also directs the Student Leadership Project and is coordinator of Fuller Studio. He is on the teaching team at Harbor Christian Center Church in Gig Harbor, Washington, is president of ParenTeen, and works closely with Young Life. Clark has authored or coauthored numerous books, including Hurt 2.0 and Sticky Faith. Follow him on Twitter @chapclark.

For more information on Youth Ministry in the 21st Century, click here.