Youth Ministry: An inclusive missional approach

We reviewed Malan Nel's book, "Youth Ministry: An inclusive missional approach," which advocates for an inclusive, congregational, and mission-oriented approach to youth ministry in the Southern African context, emphasising the importance of integrating young people into the larger church community and engaging them in various ministries.

As South African’s we are well versed in the term local is lekker. We frequently apply it to food, sports and various aspects of our local culture. And now, we can also broaden the term to include books on youth ministry. Malan Nel’s book, Youth Ministry: An inclusive missional approach, is not only a local offering but a definitive read for anyone involved with Youth Ministry in the Southern African context.

A youth ministry buffet

Imagine standing in front of a table covered with all the necessary delights of youth ministry.

Is your mind feeling particularly hungry? – then take time to digest Nel’s section on ‘Why do we do what we do’, covering the theological, cultural, educational, historical and teleological foundations of ministry with young people. I recommend chewing slowly.

Prefer not to eat alone? – then let Nel guide you through ‘People involved in youth ministry’. Invited guests include the youth themselves, parents and adult leaders.

Feel like a mix of some old favourites and something new? – then sit down and let Nel serve you some various approaches and models of youth ministry.

Amidst this extensive buffet, Malan Nel argues for an inclusive, congregational and mission understanding and approach to ministry with young people.

An inclusive, congregational and missional approach

With great care, Nel builds the foundation of his approach on thorough biblical exegesis and the sound insights of other respected biblical scholars. From there he portrays a youth ministry that is not separate from the rest of the church (inclusive) but rather an integral part of each and every ministry of the church (congregational), with a unique, and specific focus on how young people express their gifting/interest/talent in that area. So, less youth only programs, activities and services and more whole church programs, activities and services which young people are a part of, with a healthy dose of wisdom to make the generational mix work.

Based on his theological insights, Nel offers the following description of Youth Ministry:

Youth Ministry is the mediation of the coming of God through his Word and through people, by means of all modes of ministry, and in a differentiated and focused way, to, with and through youth as an integral part of the local church.

Even though the world wants to give teens their own table separate from the adults, Nel would argue that Jesus invites us all, young and old, to commune at his table and then, like the Samaritan woman, to tell others, who in turn will proclaim, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world” (John 4:42).

Youth ministry in the South African context

One of the real gifts of the book is Nel’s summary of time spent in a round-table discussion with a diverse group of people about their experience of Youth Ministry in South Africa. The discussion centred on 3 questions:

  • How is youth and Youth Ministry seen and done in your denomination context?
  • What do you think is the state of Youth Ministry in your denomination and in our country?
  • Please discern critical areas in need of serious attention when it comes to youth and Youth Ministry in your denomination and our country.

Here are just a few insights related to the last question:

“The church should develop an intentional viewpoint on and with Youth Ministry. God loves, reaches and saves young people – they are important as all other members.”

“Holistic development with attention to unemployment and family structure, education and empowerment in skills, recognising their life skills.”

“Prepare and assist parents in what they are supposed to do.”

“Family ministry as biblical departure point and the role of family in faith formation. Training and equipping the youth to minister with their desire to be involved and their God-given gifts in the context.”

“Intentionally request theological institutions to equip ministers for Youth Ministry.”

“Building bridges, across cultural backgrounds and being ecumenical. There needs to be more bridge building between churches to minister together to their community.”

“What we confess of Youth Ministry and how it plays out in practice is our biggest problem. Theologically we know what we want to achieve. But are we on the road to get there?”

“Intergenerational faith formation – work on inclusivity and the learning of faith while we imitate.”

“Discern together with youth where God is at work in our country and within a specific context, for example, in addressing inequality.”

“The consequences of urbanisation and the loss of cultural identity of the youth.”

More than a lekker read

Malan Nel’s book, Youth Ministry: An inclusive missional approach, will take you through some theological gymnastics, remind you of the core of youth ministry, challenge you to face the realities of walking with young people in South Africa and offer biblical ways forward.

Why is it not on already your shelf or tablet?

You can source the book here.


Malan Nel’s book, Youth Ministry: An inclusive missional approach, will take you through some theological gymnastics, remind you of the core of youth ministry, challenge you to face the realities of walking with young people in South Africa and offer biblical ways forward.
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Author: Xavier Moran
Xavier is the managing editor of SU Mag. He has a love for story, whether it comes in the form of a book, a movie, a series, a poem, or a play. He lives in the small sea side town of Fish Hoek with his wife and two teenage children.
Published: 18 May 2023
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