Youth ministry, as I'm rediscovering, is more about adulthood than it is about youth. It's more about the expectations of maturity than it is about locating God's action in the concrete and lived experience of adolescents themselves. It's more about where they're headed than where they are--it's about getting "from here to maturity."
But for me, this begs the question: do we even like youth? Do we like young people? Or are we so in love with adulthood that we can't tolerate seeing adolescence as a desirable social practice? Are we so in love with maturity that we just have to influence the immature toward our standards of maturity? We seem to love youth about as much as we love a lump of clay before it becomes a pot.
My suspicion has been that youth ministry is more about adulthood than it is about youth. This suspicion seems to be getting confirmed around every corner. And while I do not wish to contend with the fact that development is gonna happen, I wonder if our obsession with development--our preoccupation with "growth" and "formation"--has kept us from actually valuing young people. Girding ourselves in the concrete shoes of condescension, we're slow in seeing where God is at work in those places we've pre-identified as stagnant, immature, and un-adult. I fear, by grafting ministry into the work of development, we're missing out on the action of God in the location we've so arrogantly called "immaturity."