I'm working on a project at the moment that is trying to take a big picture look at youth ministry. I've been trying to get the scope of the project pushed wider than we normally use in youth ministry. We often look at individuals or specific churches, maybe even readily apparent trends that impinge on our ministry efforts, when we want to diagnose what is going on with youth ministry. We'll talk about how sports and sports culture means that young people can't come to church because they have to go to practice. Good but not complete.
Admittedly we don't all have time to do massive amounts of research but some of us should push back to get a 30,000 foot view. Our sense of history seems truncated. For instance, how can we do youth ministry without understanding how the education system in North America has changed through history? I get a campus update email and this little piece was in it the other day:
How Higher Ed Has Changed: The greatest boost to higher education came with the GI Bill following World War II. With government funding, college enrollment increased from 160,000 two years before the war to nearly 500,000 in 1950. In 1952, veterans made up 49% of all students. By the time the Baby Boom Generation graduated from high school, college was no longer just for the elite, but had become more accessible to all. Between 1960 and 1980 the number o professors in the US rose from 235,000 to 685,000. America had created a large educated class of people. In the last 15 years, much attention has been given to the lack of interest and spirit of entitlement among many today's college students. Parents are over-involved and students want to be entertained. The quality of college education has been lamented with many students scoring little better than high school graduates of 50 years ago. According to the US Department of Education, nearly half of college students need remedial courses in math and reading. Tuition costs have outpaced inflation and even health care. Thirty years ago, the annual cost of attending a private university equaled 21 weeks of pay for the average US worker. Now that figure is more than 53 weeks, more than a year of work to pay for a private college. (Salvo Magazine Autumn 08)
Now, Salvo magazine might not be the best source for some of these things (as the comments to the article indicate) and they are clearly polemical but Ivyjungle has done a good job representing the salient facts. Those facts should cause us pause when we think about our young people and helping them figure out what they want to do in the world. Larger educational trends through history seem to impinge significantly on our current practice but we may be unaware of how because we don't ever look.
I keep saying "our" and "we" but maybe it is just me. I'm pushing myself to look bigger, to see bigger trends than we normally look at.