There should be a requisite training component to all youth workers who make it past the 3 year mark in ministry. The organization which pays their salary should set aside the space of 4 months for what I'm gonna call a Re-Boot Camp. I outline the curriculum below:
The youth worker should
- Enrol in a first year level course in Sociology or Philosophy taught by the most ardently atheist professor on the campus of the local University.
- Secure employment at a minimum of two part time jobs: One should be in the service sector (retail, food service, etc) and the other should be in one of the 'labour' jobs (construction, factory, etc)
- Attend the year end student social, party (U of L called it the 'ender bender')
- Make arrangements to live in housing along with other post high schoolers with whom there should be no relational connection. This could be tricky if the youth worker is married so even spending a few weekends could be enough.
- All the money made at the part time jobs should be spent entirely on 'entertainment' – movies, music, sporting events, parties, eating at restaurants, etc.
- The youth worker should be outfitted with the latest technological devices.
This is a method in sociology referred to as participant observation. I think this approach could provide two important learning experiences for the youth worker interested in 'staying in the business'.
- Assuming that the youth worker has a spent copious time with adolescents in the high school context (i.e. spent time with kids), this experience could give the youth worker an valuable perspective on the 'world' that youth will enter upon exiting the 'protection' of high school. This insight should naturally lead to adjustments in what the youth pastor could provide in terms of preparatory teaching for youth.
- This experience could also serve as a great way to create strategies to address the chronic 'drop out' rates that occurs post high school.
If other youth workers are like I was, the context of middle school and high school adolescence can become all encompassing to the point where youth workers lose sight of the destination that youth ministry is working toward. Of course youth ministry is not about getting kids to become healthy adults. Youth ministry should be about helping youth be healthy adolescents. However, losing the destination of where our kids will end means that the scope of ministry becomes limited and ultimately short sighted. Spending some time in the 'world to come' would give youth workers the ability to keep the destination in view as they sort out youth ministry priorities. Unless youth workers spend some actual time in this zone the characteristics of this culture will be lost in rhetoric that seems to stereotype the world that post high schoolers live in. This experience would, I believe, give youth workers a view into the positive and negative aspects of a culture is critical individual formation.
Yesterday in my last class of the semester, I overheard two girls talking about school.
"This is my last class," said one.
"For the semester?" asked the other.
"No – forever!"
"Not really – they say I have to become an adult now," she joked.
"Don't do it!"