Overboard Ministries just recently had the privilege of publishing Mel Walker’s latest book, Inter-Generational Youth Ministry. As a veteran youth worker, Mel understands the importance of creating a ministry that allows teenagers to interact with other generations in the church. He knows that isolated generations always suffer.
If you have teenagers, work with teenagers, go to a church that has teenagers or you will one day have them running around in your house, do yourself a favor and pick up the book. While it’s geared specifically to ministries with teens, its applications extend to everyone involved with youth.
We sat down with Mel recently and asked him a few questions about his book:
OBM: Tell us about your history of working with teenagers:
Mel: I served in Southeastern Michigan as a youth pastor for several years, and then taught youth ministry in 2 different Bible colleges for about 15 years. Then I served as an editor of church youth materials for almost 10 years. And I started a non-profit youth ministry network and have served in leadership positions in that organization (Vision For Youth) since 1985. I have also had opportunities to speak to thousands of students all across the country and in various places around the world.
OBM: Why did this book need to be written?
Mel: As I state in the book, the “traditional church” tends to isolate the generations exclusively to the detriment of our kids. Today’s teenagers often grow up and never build strong relationships with people from other generations. I wholeheartedly believe in youth ministry, but if we totally isolate teenagers from other generations, we are making a grave mistake. No wonder our kids grow up and walk away from the church. Chap Clark says that in order for a teenager to stay in church once they graduate from high school, they need strong relationships with 5 significant adults (other than their parents). This book is a call to churches to connect the generations. I believe that is essential!
OBM: Have you seen these principles applied before? If so, what was the outcome of an intentionally connecting the generations?
Mel: Yes, absolutely! I’ve seen smaller churches and mega-churches alike work to be intentional about connecting the generations. This is a movement that is just now starting to develop; but to be honest, most churches of all sizes don’t connect the generations very well. That’s why I wrote the book. It’s not time to eradicate youth ministry – it is time to balance the positive aspects of youth ministry with developing intentional inter-generational connections.
OBM: You did a lot of research for this book, with over 200 notations. What piece(s) of information/data caught your attention the most?
Mel: I love the work of Chap Clark & Kara Powell and their team at “Sticky Faith”, plus the work of Reggie Joiner and “Think Orange”. Here are some people trying to be proactive about making the long-term faith journey of teenagers a top priority. Certainly there is a wealth of negative and critical research out there today blaming youth ministry and claiming youth ministry is a failure. In contrast to that, the “Sticky Faith” team is working hard to identify things churches are doing that actually work over the long haul and “Think Orange” is championing the idea of Christian parents and the church working together to help teenagers grow up and go on for God.
OBM: Who should read this book?
Mel: I entitled the book “Inter-Generational Youth Ministry” but it is NOT just a youth ministry book. I called it that because I want churches to realize that we must make a genuine and life-long commitment to the next generation. The “generation-to-generation” principle permeates Scripture and it’s time we make it a priority in the church. So, this book is intended for pastors, youth pastors, youth workers, parents, and other church leaders.
OBM: Do you have plans for another book? What will it be about?
Mel: Yes, I do. I am working on a follow-up book now “Inter-Generational Family Ministry” about Christian parents and the church working together for the long-term spiritual growth of our kids. We want our kids to grow up and go on for God!
OBM: Is it true you had a long and successful career in the NBA?
Just kidding. I actually had a 1-day, free-agent tryout in the 1970’s with the Detroit Pistons. I was a youth pastor by then in the Detroit area and I came back from the tryout that evening and some of my teenagers asked, “Mel, did you make it?” I responded, “Obviously, not. I came here, right?”