Urban youth marginalisation became a key consideration in scholarly and policy literature in the 1990s. This entailed a shift from an emphasis on youth in relation to activism in the struggle to overcome colonial racism – popularly known as ‘the struggle against apartheid’ – to an emphasis on youth as the object of social inquiry and social welfare programmes. Irrespective of how we evaluate this shift, the question in this article is how urban faith communities and youth ministry research are to respond to the agency of youth as dialogue partners – with a focus on social cohesion. This article explores this shift in scholarship on urban youth movements, especially for the period since 1994. It draws from the perspectives of my recent doctoral studies (Nel 2013) in constructing a creative dialogue with youth movements. The ultimate aim of this article is to provide a grounded basis for constructing a methodology for a postcolonial urban theology. In addition, it aims to inform the ongoing Youth at the Margins (YOMA) comparative study on the contribution of faith-based organisations to social cohesion in South Africa and Nordic Europe, with the Riverlea community, in Johannesburg, as one of the case studies.