Joseph Project – Part Two

A month or so ago in my blog, I suggested that it may be time for us to begin preparing for a youth ministry “famine” that is likely to take place 20 years or so down the road.  I’m not predicting that this will be a famine in the quality of programming or the importance placed on youth ministry, or even a famine in the number of well-trained youth pastors.

I’m suggesting that, given our current economic trajectory and the low levels of enthusiasm in younger generations when it comes to giving to institutions (like the church), there is a good chance there will be less resources available to hire full-time youth pastors 20 years from now than there is today.

If I’m wrong, I’ll sing the Doxology and be thrilled about the fact that we’ll have far more youth pastors are in place than expected.  If there’s even a strong possibility I’m right, though, we might be better served to consider the possibility of developing a whole different kind of youth pastor.

So I offer here a few provocative theses around the Joseph Project so far…

–What if every youth pastor was not only equipped to do youth ministry, but as a required part of his or her training, was equipped to be an entrepreneur?  My experience is that, since much youth ministry requires entrepreneurial skills anyway, this could be a more natural fit than we might think.

–What if the typical youth pastor could be coached in to developing his or her own “company,” designed to generate income that didn’t just trade time for money but held the hope of producing more income for less time 10 years down the road? Could this not have the effect of extending the ministry tenure of many (if not most) youth pastors, providing long-term youth pastors for churches who would not otherwise have been able to support someone with significant youth ministry experience?

–And if we could find a way to make this kind of model work here in the expensive North American context, how might it be simplified and adapted for “youth pastors” in places like Rwanda and Uganda?  I’ve got hopes of trying out a few experiments in those countries in the next year.  I’ll keep you posted.

Joseph Project – Intro

A few weeks ago, I enjoyed a delightful few days with some great youth ministry minds at a Thinktank sponsored by the Lilly Endowment, hosted by the Center for Youth Ministry Training (  We got the chance to talk and dream and scheme about the future of youth ministry and the most significant issues on the horizon.

Though we knocked around over a dozen seismic ideas, the most provocative idea for me came in this question:

Are we getting better and better are preparing more and more people for vocations which will be less and less a part of churches in the next two or three decades? 

Here’s the basis for the question:

  • We know that the younger generation of disciples (at least in America) tend to have much less enthusiasm for investing in the institution of the church than did their parents or their grandparents.  Though young Christian adults may be generous, they tend to give more of their tithe to causes and less to their churches.
  • We know that, therefore, it is likely that it will require multiple young adults in the church to equal the given of the typical 60+ year-old church member, a group of folks who will not be around in droves in 20 or 30 years.
  • It seems not unlikely that churches will have less margin to hire full time youth pastors…unless we do something to prepare for this eventuality.

Is it possible that we can get ahead of the coming “famine”?  I’d like to propose that we start thinking of what a “Joseph Project” might look like, accessing the years we do have to ensure provision for youth ministry when the famine comes.

In my next blog, I’ll do a little noodling on what this might look like.