Recently, I heard about a conversation between a veteran youth minister and a youth minister in their first year of ministry. The novice youth minister had grown up in a large, very successful parish youth ministry. After graduating high school, the novice went to Franciscan University of Steubenville and studied under the youth ministry concentration. After four years of formation, education and training the beginner took a job at a parish and went to work developing their youth ministry in the same vision as the parish they grew up in. It was a total flop. The youth minister had done everything correctly, but the teens were not responding the way they had when this youth minister was in high school. When the beginner asked the veteran youth minister where the plan had gone wrong, the veteran responded, “In the four years that you were away at college, youth culture drastically changed.”
The Shift in Youth Culture
This is not an isolated incident. I noticed in my own seven years of youth ministry that the teens in my ministries respond very differently to youth ministry methods than the teens that I started with seven years ago. I have spoken with many other youth ministers who have noticed the same trend. In fact, several sociologists have made reference to the fact that the first half of the millennial generation is very different than the second half of the millennial generation (see Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future by Tim Elmore). Teens that were born in the mid 80’s and early 90’s act and project very differently than teens that were born in the mid and late 90s.
Why the Generation Shifts
But how can there be such a sudden and noticeable shift in one generation. If you think about it, since the internet was invented, things in our world have moved and changed at a very rapid pace. In the period of 19 months think about these changes in the world:
- Music delivery went from CDs to iTunes and MP3s.
- Primary Communication went from phone calls to text messaging
- Social networking went from email to Club Penguin, MySpace and Facebook
- Entertainment preferences went from watching TV to streaming videos on Youtube, Hulu and a host of other sites.
- Personal updates went from blog to Twitter.
With the changes happening in the world at such a rapid pace, it has impacted the culture, namely the culture that uses these advances the most – the youth.
Impact on Youth Ministry
With the shift in youth culture comes the need for response in the Catholic Church. Too often, the Church gets stuck in a rut – utilizing catechetical methods that have long become outdated. The Church has to respond by developing new methods of ministry, evaluating what works with young people in 2013. It is for this reason, that I believe that YDisciple is going to have a huge impact on the Church.