There was an interesting bit on the food programme (Radio 4) a few years ago, that got me thinking about youth ministry and church . . . although, the topic was milk.

Before “pasteurisation” all milk produced was “raw”, essentially, straight from the cow.  The process of pasteurisation heats the milk to get rid of the bad stuff (but this also has the side effect of getting rid of some of the good stuff) . . .

I just got to thinking about what is it that makes raw milk attractive?  Depsite the scare stories . . . sales are up (it is banned in Scotland!) in England.

A farmer interviewed for the Food Programme commented that people who purchase his milk have a direct “connection” with the land, with the farm, with the cows even – in the community.  The taste of raw milk is unique to that farm, that heard of cows.

Not so with pasteurised.  You buy a regular bottle of pasteurised milk from a big supermarket, you could have bought it anywhere in the country.  It looks the same and tastes the same.

It made me wonder what youth ministry looks like.  Raw or Pasteurised?  There are some churches that you could walk into (anywhere in the country) and hear the same songs from the youth worship band, a similar talk, ice-breaker, group activities, in fact have a pasteurised (anaesthetised?) experience of church and with a striving for excellence in terms of presentation much of the “bad” appears to have been removed.  But, Raw youth ministry – isnt it more authentic?

How does our youth ministry reflect a local community, local culture . . . and ok, maybe at times, the singing isn’t up to much (and that song written by one of the youth group is it theologically sound?) but isnt that more authentic?  More real? More, well, raw?

Another process with milk is homogenisation – which spread the fat particles within milk equally throughout the milk, so no cream at the top, the whole thing is the same from the first sip to the last drop.

The challenge with so much of the Christian world (especially through christian media, social network sites, magazines, tv etc) is that we are encouraged to consume (be part of) the pasteurised / homogenised church :: purchase THESE worship albums, read THESE books, listen to THESE speakers – are we missing the richness, the vitality and the difference – that still has something to say to the wider church?

NOT, in a way that says, “unless you read this – you havent really got it” but in a way that says, “being rooted in Christ and being part of His Church does not mean all looking (and sounding) the same”.

In fact, Jesus modelled this Himself, by choosing 12 very different disciples (and man, were they a “raw” bunch!) where is this “difference” manifest in the Church and in youth ministry today?

P.S. I am not endorsing or recommended RAW milk – illustrative purposes only 🙂