on the edge

While reading for my Masters dissertation I rediscovered a very simple model of how youth work relates (or doesn’t) to the adult congregation.

The model is known as the ‘One Eared Mickey Mouse Model’ (Cummings-Bond, S. (1989). The One-Eared Mickey Mouse. Youthworker , 6, 76.).  You can also find it in Dean, K. C., & Foster, R. (1998). The Godbearing Life. Nashville: Upper Room Books.

In my experience the model describes many churches.  The work with young people exists outside what people think is the ‘core’ of the church.  They are linked, just.

For many congregations the defining factor is resources.  Youth work costs money.  It needs resources.  Adults are required to make it happen and it doesn’t contribute, at least not financially.

This all conspires to make youth work peripheral.

So, I have questions.

The first one is:

Can a ‘youth church’ sustain itself?  If it can, how?  Any thoughts?

5 thoughts on “on the edge”

  1. Greetings, Stewart!
    It’s been forever since we’ve checked in, but you’re still in my Google Reader feeds. Congrats on finishing your master’s, byt the way.
    So, I couldn’t resist this one!
    While a youth church may be able to sustain itself if you found enough donors that believed in funneling money solely to it, I don’t think youth churches should exist. Nor should any other age-niche congregation. There’s so much valuable wisdom and relational gold to be mined in community. To take it a step further, I believe it actually shortchanges the youth to keep them in isolation.
    Sadly, as you mention, the one-ear mickey mouse is the de facto model of integration across most congregations. Everyone must want the youth and adults to work together, not just the youth worker. A supremely insightful and provocative (yet common-sense) book that did wonders for our congregation’s thought life on the subject is Family Based Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries. Because I loved it so much, I gave it to a colleague. I’m a book-hoarder, and this is one of the few titles I passed forward, simply because every youth worker needs to read it in conversation with a handful of influencers from their congregation.
    Let me know if you end up diving into DeVries’ book!
    Best wishes!

  2. Imagine if we built our youth group models around the way ministries are starting to work on the “mission field.” The groups came together to find ways to not only help the community but sustain their own work at the same time.

    Perhaps similar to what Claudio Oliver is doing in Brazil: http://www.casadeblundell.com/jonathan/the-parable-of-the-bar-of-soap/

    Or what some of the groups Tom Sine has talked about are doing with bikes for Africa.

    Personally, I think all ministries/outreaches should be working towards this goal – self-sustainment.

    And as Russell said above, “I believe it actually shortchanges the youth to keep them in isolation.”

    Our youth group was always a huge part of the overall church growing up. We took part in the Sunday gatherings, sang in the praise band and often led at various times throughout the year. It was a huge part of our maturity and growth the be recognized as a part of the body and not just on the periphery.

  3. Thanks for the comments and the pointers!

    Russell: I’ve not read DeVries’ book but I’m heading over to Amazon… I hope you’re well!

    Jonathan: Thanks for the thoughts and the links!

    I agree with you both. I’ve always been uneasy about the notion of ‘youth church’ because it denies the richness of intergenerational relationships.

  4. MrC,

    Catching up on Reader and noticed this. My first thought was “youth church” can’t be sustainable.

    The church is an expression of the believers in a given location/time/space (dimension?!) and as such must move with the people or die.

    Then I read what the guys said and thought: they say it better ;->

    Seriously, though. If there’s a gathering of believers and those on the fringes, no matter the age, that’s church, right? Today’s youth church is tomorrow’s crinklies church, isn’t it?

    And I COMPLETELY agree on the intergenerational thing.

    Grace & Peace,


Comments are closed.