Youth Ministry in Suburbia

For over two years now, I have had the opportunity to serve in a church in a rather affluent suburban city.
I have been learning a lot about ministry in suburbia. (In the near future, I plan on sharing my experiences in serving in a Korean context for 7 years in a paid position.)

I do have a heart to serve in an urban setting, but am afraid that within the first week, I’ll be so lost and clueless on what I need to do, I’ll be on my office floor in the fetal position.

Doing ministry in affluent suburban areas have not been the easiest of things.
One big difference I’ve noticed is how busy school keeps them. Because these areas have money, the public schools are in far better shape and can offer far more programs than say a school in DC near the Seminary I attended.

A question I have encountered is, how can the church compete with the business of school scheduling?
We (rightfully so) emphasize the importance of education and school.
But, there’s a part of me that is slowly believing that our school district is training our kids to be human doings rather than human beings.
Some students are stretched thin because of their commitments to education and their extra-curricular activities. Throw in a part-time job in that mix, and it’s … crazy. It’s not like they can drop anything, because they have to be competitive to get into the college that they have their goals set upon.
By the time Sunday rolls around, a lot of kids are exhausted with hours of homework ahead of them.

So the question becomes, how do you shift the focus from “how do I fit God into my schedule” to “How do I fit my schedule in to God’s plan”?
And it’s not just our kids who are stretched thin with commitments in our area, it’s the adults too. So, how do we get people to view faith as more of a lifestyle rather than a commitment or a chore/requirement?

The other thing I’ve run into is money.
Don’t get me wrong, money ain’t bad. But, how do you get a kid to see the importance of needing God when they can have everything they want or need?
Sure, a lot of these kids believe in God. But faith goes beyond just believing in God. Faith requires us to trust in God. Depend on God.
But, why need/want God when I can have anything I need/want?

Now. If I were smart and really great what at what I do, the next few paragraphs would be about a possible solution, method for ministry in suburbia.
But. I’m not smart. And I’m only okay in what I do, therefore, I don’t have the answers.
A part of me often wonders, by now, I should have something to work upon, to build upon. But nothing.

I have come to see, though, how important authentic relationships really are.
I know that the Board of Ordained Ministry is going to be real concerned with how involve I have been in youth ministry, thinking that it will leave me inexperienced in “real” ministry.
But, it’s not only the kids that seek authentic relationships. It’s adults too. Our world has become more and more connectional and yet, more and more impersonal.
We can have a conversation without ever meeting face to face. We can send our angry thoughts within seconds after the violation. We can keep in touch with people by “stalking” them through twitter and facebook.

Humans are designed to be in relationships. Real, authentic relationships. Everyone wants to be loved for who they are whether they’re 12 or 92. What better place to be loved and build authentic relationships than the church?

But going back to the original questions of the post, what would you say? What tips, stories, advice do you have about ministry in affluent suburban areas? What are your experiences?

4 thoughts on “Youth Ministry in Suburbia

  1. I’d say you spread truth as much as possible and when they need God, He will show Himself through the truth that you have bombarded them over the years… Because most of the time when you are way up only place to go from there is down…

  2. suburban ministry is contextual ministry. there is nothing wrong or bad with suburbia. it is simply a setting. when we try and cram our presuppositions and desires on our students we become less and less effective. i have found it more fulfilling to view suburbia as a mission field, and work hard at trying to find ways to contextualize the gospel in their context. not ripping them apart for being in their context. good luck amigo.

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