we know better

Did you know that the use of UMYF (specifically the F) went out of existence over a decade ago? Of course you didn’t & many haven’t either. I don’t think it was ever a bang, but our church dropped the “F” from UMYF because we were more than just fellowship. (take a look at our mixed message)

Go ahead, I’ll let that one sink in before we move on…..

There is this observable phenomenon in sociology / anthropology circles called a “Culture Freeze.” Essentially a culture freeze is seen when someone from a certain culture, let’s say eastern Russia, moves into another culture, say America, and sets up their home just as they remember it in their home culture. You probably know these folks. When you visit their home it is like walking into another country.

Back in high school I had this friend Jimmy, he was from South Korea and his parents immigrated to this country and settled into town. When I would visit their home I could expect a few things, the best oriental dumplings ever!! (gosh I loved those), then scent of soy sauce, having to take off my shoes at the door, and all the decor that would remind me of 1970’s Asian kung-fu movies. Jimmy’s parents home lived in their concept of 1970’s South Korea.

The funny thing about the action of ‘culture freeze’ is that they had stopped in time what South Korea was and would be. It never moved, reshaped, improved from that point on.. Tragic part is, that South Korea itself & those living in it did reshape, move, and improve. So if they went back to South Korea (which I am sure they have), it would look much different than from what they remembered. Stranger still, people who engage in ‘culture freezing’ will acknowledge that their home culture they’ve replicated will have changed, but they are not able to update their frozen lifestyle (being willing to or having the knowledge to is hinder to that).

Coming back to UMYF now..

How many of us have frozen our current youth ministries into a time when we were youth? How many of us have parents or pastors who would reference that UMYF was great for them? Then the inference being that it should be good enough for their kids… Or someone might reference “old school” teaching or growing up. Same stuff.

I have not been to Disney since the early 80’s. I remember when Epcot was first built (circa ’82 I believe). Back then I remember that Space Mountain was the most killer ride in all of the magic kingdom. You had to be a certain height and you had to keep your arms in cause it was all indoors. I loved that ride. If I were to talk someone into going to Disney I could reference that plus some big ball, plus some a few other spots. Doubt that Disney would be much of anything today if they froze themselves in time in the 1980’s. We’d be saying something like..

“remember that place in Florida?”


“What ever happened to that place?”

Disney adapts itself all the time. As do many other entities we can see that garner the attention & loyalties of our teens and their families.

What parts of your youth ministry have been culturally frozen? What parts need thawing? What are those nostalgic items that cannot be let go of? How do you see youth culture shifting today and our churches & youth ministries poor response to shift with?

Any other thoughts? Venting is welcomed..


  1. Great post and a great challenge to us all not to get “frozen” in our youth ministry ways. I agree, it’s good to look at all the parts of our ministries and consider whether they are culturally frozen. It might be time to thaw…

    Thanks again!

  2. Hi. I’m wondering why you wrote that the use of UMYF went out of existence over a decade ago. I’m an associate pastor (read: youth minister) in the middle of the ordination process so I’ve had to read a lot of the book of discipline. In the discipline under Part 5, chapter 1, paragraph 256.3b it describes the “United Methodist Youth Fellowship.” What gives?

    As for the rest of the article, I agree. We’ve got to reimagine what youth ministry will look like to each group of young people we work with. Every year the group changes and every year the dynamics and effectiveness of our ministry will be challenged. What doesn’t change is the priority of connecting young people to Jesus Christ. I find that too often we want to teach young people about God and fail to give them opportunities to experience God. Helping young people to experience God will take on different forms for different youth. Let’s not get frozen in our methods!

    Thanks for the post!

    • From my perspective what changed was the branding attempt by the UM Publishing House which was unfortunately unrelated to the BOD. I distinctly remember a wave of t-shirts and stickers they wanted us to buy.

      In addition the last handbook (circa 1999) emphasizes UMY and drops the “F” completely.

      United Methodist Youth Handbook by Michael Selleck ISBN: 0-88177-286-0

  3. I’ve got nothing against the change, but if that’s the case, then perhaps there should be some sort of “official” change? The UM Graphics Library from currently offers BOTH UMYF and UMY logo downloads, on top of what Brian mentioned about the BoD. If UMPH is implying a change in the name of one of the ministries of the church, it kinda implies an institutional change, doesn’t it?

  4. Oh, and agreed with the point about “ministry freeze.” Very creative way of reframing the “But we’ve always done it this way” issue so many of us face.

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