“Participation in the process of liberation is an obligatory and privileged locus for Christian life and reflection. In this participation will be heard nuances of the Word of God which are imperceptible in other existential situations and without which there can be no authentic and fruitful faithfulness to the Lord.”
— Gustavo Gutierrez
This week is our last blog on approaches to youth ministry and we saved the best for last in my opinion. Our idea of youth ministry is greatly wrapped up in cultural assumptions and locations in society. We sometimes forget that other people see and experience the world vastly differently from us. The Liberation Approach to youth ministry seeks to see the gospel through the point of view of other people, specifically the marginalized and poor.
To begin we need to have a brief and succinct understanding of liberation theology (nearly impossible). However, a question that can get us started is, “What’s God’s relationship with the poor and marginalized?” Theologians like Gustavo Gutierrez would argue that using this question as a lens, or different point of view, through which we read scripture opens our eyes to a new sense of who God is and what God is doing in the world. It can be argued that this question allows us to see God’s liberating work as an overarching narrative in scripture and God’s particular movement in the midst of oppressed people groups.
Out of this Liberation theology comes the Liberation Approach, which is always concerned with the poor and marginalized because it is amongst them that we see Christ moving and working. This approach to youth ministry seeks to bring awareness and consciousness of ways in which people are pushed to the margins and kept from living a thriving and full life. It seeks to lead teenagers to act on behalf of God’s kingdom. This approach calls them and adults to, together, critically reflect on society and life in Christ and it is in taking action that we are led to transformation.
So what might this look like? It looks like a number of things. One of the major ways is framing questions around concepts of liberation and giving teenagers a new lens to see through when reading scripture. It’s opening our eyes to the marginalized in our community and asking the questions, “Where is God,” “What is God calling us to do,” “How is God liberating them and how can we participate?” This approach seeks to give us an entirely new lens through which we see the world, experience God, and participate in God’s action in our community. It can be one of the most transformative approaches but also one of the most uncomfortable as it draws us into self-reflection of our own privilege and maybe even ways we’ve participated in the marginalization of people in our community.
Yet teenagers are a passionate subset of our culture and given the opportunity to bring tangible hope to people, to show them that God is on their side and begin to participate in God’s action in the world, brings about a transformation unrivaled by any programming. Then we can come alongside them and help frame what has happened and who God is in the midst of that. What a beautiful picture of God’s kingdom on earth!
To conclude our series, youth ministry is more than games, a lesson, some worship, and small groups. Youth ministry is the vibrant action of God through the lives of adolescents. Youth ministry is ministry with and for the discipleship and transformation of not just our teenage friends but of adults, the church, and our community.