By Melissa Wuske
What’s New in Youth Ministry
A Barna Group study, in partnership with Youth Specialties and YouthWorks, talked to senior ministers and youth ministers about the priority they place on youth ministry and the challenges and changes those ministries are currently facing. Most churches (61 percent) say youth ministry is one of the highest priorities in their church—that number climbs to 81 percent in churches with youth groups of 50 or more students. Outside of regular group meetings, most ministers reported that mission trips were a valuable priority (74 percent of youth ministers and 61 percent of senior ministers).
The study found that many youth ministers faced challenges of a consumer-oriented culture; teens and parents, they said, evaluate youth groups as a consumer product and both groups don’t take sufficient ownership. Busyness of youth was the most commonly mentioned challenge (86 percent); other youth-focused challenges included lack of interest among youth (20 percent) and lack of youth taking leadership roles (19 percent). Challenges focused on parents or other adults included lack of interest from parents (41 percent), breakdown of families (31 percent), and lack of adult volunteers (22 percent).
Low Numbers of International Adoptions
International adoptions by Americans are at a 35-year low. In 2015, there were 5,648 children adopted from other nations, compared to the all-time high of 22,884 in 2004.
The reason for the decline is multifaceted. Much of the decline is connected to China, Russia, and Guatemala. Russia banned foreign adoptions in 2012, Guatemala suspended foreign adoptions because of address fraud and corruption in the system, and China has increased efforts for children to be adopted domestically.
“I don’t expect international adoptions will ever be over 20,000 again, for a lot of reasons,” said Mike Douris, president of Orphan Outreach. “They’ll always be a part of orphan care, but not the major thrust. I think domestic adoption and foster care in these countries is going to emerge and be a big growth over the foreseeable future.”
A Chance for Boko Haram to Repent
Forces from Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad, Niger, and Benin formed a military coalition to fight the radical Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram. Their new initiative is Operation Safe Corridor, “geared towards rehabilitating and reintegrating the repentant and the surrendering Boko Haram members back into normal life in the society,” explained Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar of Nigeria. The program focuses on vocational training so that former terrorist fighters can reintegrate as productive, contributing members of society.
But the coalition is still primarily a military force, and the future of the program is uncertain. The coalition warns Boko Haram fighters to “see wisdom in surrendering now, thereby saving themselves from imminent calamity that is about to fall on them, in the event of military mop-up if they continue in their unwholesome acts.”
Police Help Find Shoes
Several Indiana police officers ran into a man at a Waffle House who was dealing with homelessness. “They sat and chatted about life. The officers found out he lost his home in a fire. He’s going through a season of life that’s challenging,” said Deputy Chief of Police Gary Woodruff. When the officers asked the man how the department could help, he said his shoes were in bad shape, but since he is 7 feet tall and wears a size 17, he hadn’t been able to find another pair. Undaunted, the officers contacted the Indiana Pacers NBA team to see if they knew a good place to get some shoes. Instead, the team donated a pair of size 17s made for former Pacer Roy Hibbert.
Melissa Wuske is a freelance editor and writer. She and her husband, Shawn, live and minister in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Find her work online (melissaannewuske.com).