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Rapid transitions within culture, and a delayed response to these changes, continues to create a loss of connection between many churches and youth. The ensuing result is that several youth are leaving, concluding that we have little to offer their world. In my zealous quest to address this, I’ve participated and led efforts to think “outside the box.” It seems that paradigms comfortable and familiar a decade ago are now becoming obsolete in a rapidly shifting culture driven by technological innovation. Typically, when this occurs, we engage in two common responses. One is to remain committed to our known paradigms (staying “in the box”), hoping to keep our youth engaged by simply altering a few methods. The second involves abandoning the known and paving a new avenue altogether (“outside the box”). Bill Easum and Dave Travis address this reality in their book, Beyond the Box: Innovative Churches That Work.1 Since many approaches aren’t “working,” this caught my attention. Easum and Travis identify three types of “church thinking”—“in the box,” “out of the box,” and “beyond the box.” “In the box” thinking represents churches that are stuck and, as a result, dying. “Out of the box” churches often thrive and grow, but are challenged to find a sense of identity within constant change. Easum and Travis refer to “beyond the box” churches as those which are radically innovative, property agnostic, constantly pursuing opportunity, and mission-minded with a kingdom-oriented vision. These churches foster new ministry, reproduce themselves through multiplication, train and send out leaders, embrace change, operate by flexible guidelines, disciple servants, and equip culture. Cultivating these attributes within our church environments is absolutely essential in our quest for healthy youth ministry.
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