According to Darren much of our youth ministry resembles the model of the colonial missions period in history. As much as I would like to disagree with him I think he is right, though maybe over states a little.
to quote him:
In words: The gospel preached to the school students “you are sinners, you are going to hell, you need to be saved and forgiven for your sins, and we will show you how”
In deeds: “We will remove you from your culture, take up the rest of your free time, introduce you to new friends because your old ones aren’t good enough and spend the next few years indoctrinating you.”
Colonial conversion is kind of like what happens to Nemo as he enters the fish tank in FINDING NEMO. He is cleaned up, made to go through an initiation right and indoctrinated into tank society, where he is fed when needed. The problem is that when you do that to a fish, apprently there is no way they will ever survive in the real world of the open sea, I suspect this is the danger of what we do for our young people too...
I know there is a better way, engagement with the world is far better than removal from the world, but it is very problematic. Take my own son for instance who at the age of 7 we removed from the local school and put in a Christian school, where he is largely isolated from non Christians... While my belief is that we should be salt and light it is not so easy to expect a 7 year old ot be that in a situation where he is constantly pressured negatively.
We have another situation where when one of our youth ministries does not operate, at the moment it is due to the leaders being farmer who are calving, those involved tend to get dragged off into the party circuit. I would like to say that the kids involved are there telling their firends about Jesus - but the reality is that try as we might the faith component in many of our young people is fragile. And when fragility is coupled with pressure it often caves in.
The Dilema then is how do we teach engagement rather than avoidance, become partners rather than colonial masters who bring the gospel (like it is something uterly foreign).
I have used many approaches over the years, positive peer pressure, encouraged people to talk honestly about what happens in their world, told people to avoid Christian groups at school etc... but the real issue is living with the mess and tension that real discipleship generates, recognising the danger of extremes and counteracting them when ever possible, but also relying on the Spirit of God that in the words of JK Baxter:
"Blows like the wind in a thousand paddocks
Inside and outside the fences"
Song to the Holy Spirit.