Generation Y is slowly being renamed “iGens” or “iY’s.” These students (primarily between the ages of 11-21) love everything i-driven: the iPod, iPad, iPhone, the Nike iRun app, Apple’s iLife software, the iCarly TV show. The generation is being identified with i-individualism hence the renaming of iY or iGens.
Public and private schools systems have long used “IEP’s” or Individual Education Plans. This strategy progresses students at their own pace, either faster or slower. The educator is tasked with knowing each student’s abilities and designing curriculum that is person-specific.
That approach is now shifting to student ministry in the local church. But how will churches and youth ministry leaders adapt to this new generational trend? I believe the future of youth and student ministry will also be individualized.
Ministry for the masses is out. Ministry directed toward the individual is in. How will this take shape? Here are some ideas*:
Individualized Discipleship. The i-Student Ministry will create individual, one-on-one discipleship plans for each and every student by creating avenues to grow them up as followers of Christ. Large group teaching and small groups will work for a while, but will eventually find less and less effectiveness, especially as the group grows more and more diverse spiritually.
Individualized Info-Sharing. The i-Student Ministry will not rely on blanket announcements, mass mailing, or ministry newsletters full of dates and details. Instead, they will use direct communication pieces through one-on-one social media and text messaging individualized to the particular student. If they attempt mass mailings or large-scale advertising, it will be lost or ignored. This kind of communication doesn’t cut through the haze of distractions. Therefore, one-on-one communication will be essential.
Individualized Ministry Development. The i-Student Ministry will evaluate each student’s spiritual gifting, talents, passions, and skills, and design ministry projects specificaly for them. Entire youth group mission trips will be exchanged for smaller groups of 2 or 3 doing a particular ministry project together, which is based in their individual interests. Youth pastors will struggle to get the whole group to do a sports camp or build a habitat house together because certain students don’t want to do sports or construction. Therefore, the ministry projects must be shaped around individual interests and skill sets, otherwise they will choose not to participate.
Individualized Worship Avenues. The i-Student Ministry will implement person-specific music forms, liturgical practices, prayer experiences, etc., that are based more in the discipleship level of the individual, not the level of the group as a whole. Wednesday Night Worship with a praise band, media, preaching, discussion groups, game, etc., will be exchanged for smaller worship avenues where students can categorically select things they prefer, such as: reflective, loud, silence, journaling, social, virtual, experiential, artistic, or recreational.
In the end the i-Student Ministry will be less programmatic and more organic to the group. We leave ministry for the masses and move toward the que of one. In many ways this feeds the me-centered nature of the iGen’s, but will in the long run will develop deeper, more committed followers of Christ.
* Additional research conducted by Ms. Holly Davidson and the iGen’s Presentation Group in the Intergenerational Ministries course.