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What our past teaches us about youth ministry now Craig Roberts From a Ministry for Youth to a Ministry of Youth: Aspects of Protestant Youth Ministry in Sydney 1930-1959 by Ruth Lukabyo
hen I was a youth in the 1980s, I looked forward to
Tuesday nights when I could watch the next episode of The A-Team. The A-Team were four disavowed former members of a US Special Forces unit who fought injustice. Every episode included some derring-do and always finished with the team’s leader, John “Hannibal” Smith, saying, “I love it when a plan comes together”. Reading Dr Ruth Lukabyo’s 2020 monograph, From a Ministry for Youth to a Ministry of Youth: Aspects of Protestant Youth Ministry in Sydney 1930–1959, Hannibal’s catchphrase rang in my ears. That’s because the research helps fill a missing piece in Australian church history and draws conclusions about effective youth ministry. It is first and foremost a scholarly work not aimed at popular culture, but it does teach us from history how we might most fruitfully engage with popular culture to reach the next generation with the gospel. This is exciting for those invested in youth and children’s ministry – which should be all of us. The book maps the contours of Christian youth ministry in Sydney over the past century and, in doing so, provides pastors,
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parents and church leaders with historical proof that a principled approach to youth ministry is key to a successful ministry to young people. Lukabyo considers “success” in terms of numerical growth of young people involved in a resilient ministry that has an impact on the wider church. In other words, a ministry that raises up and replenishes its leaders and positively contributes to local churches. She shows how the beginning of the 20th century saw a move within liberalism from emphasising individual salvation to championing the social ramifications of faith. From the 1930s, as liberalism began to recede within Sydney’s churches and conservative evangelicalism gained ascendency, the focus of youth ministry changed from one of psychological improvement – advancing a new social order and an emphasis on the nurture of those youth who attended – to outreach-focused witness. Lukabyo observes four distinct characteristics in this effective witness: 1 peer ministry;
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