Concerns about the Future of Youth Ministry

There seems to be a growing undercurrent in the church that the Profession of Youth Ministry has either 1) Never been useful or 2) is the cause of why youth bail the church after they graduate high School.  Groups, particularly this one, are advocating for the abolishment of youth ministry based on the premise that it is a 50 year failed experiment.  While, I’ve covered reasons why I think this movement is not what it’s cracked up to beI think there are several valid concerns about the current state and future of youth ministry:  

Youth Ministers are Fakers

Josh Griffin made some excellent points on his blog:   By the survey that he took, and general observations we are not substantial in our walk with God.  Without that walk, we cannot pour into others, because we are not attached to the vine.  When we lose touch with our faith and our walk, we lose our right to be called Pastors and have no right attempting to lead youth.  I’m not talking about when we get burnt and lose touch with our heart and passion, but when we neglect our spiritual discipline, how dare we engage in ministry proclaiming the same.

Youth Ministers are UNprofessional

We often do things that would make us notorious in any other place of business.  I’m not talking about covering a student with shaving cream and having the rest of the students take it off with supersoakers.  I’m talking about poorly communicating with our colleagues and parents.  Not taking ownership when something breaks.  Not having a vision that can be clearly articulated by your own leadership team.  Not having details of an event more than a week in advance (Schools pass out a yearly calendar, why can’t we?).   Instead of being all things to all people, we try to be BFF’s with our students and come across as juvenile to the staff and congregation of the churches we serve.   It’s not that we’re getting caught offguard by the occassional snafu… most of us admit WE CAN DO BETTER.

Youth Ministers are segregationists

We seem to build our bastions between 6-12th grade and seek to keep to ourselves inside our circles.  I’m not sure how much we are pushed back from the outside, but rather than feeding into family friendly/intergenerational ministry we seek to create youth only mission trips, retreats, worship experiences, etc.  Perhaps its true that the youth desert the church because they have so little engagement with the church body while they spend the last 7 years of their child/youth ministry careers.  (I think the other part is that college kids are transient and they don’t know how to ‘latch on’ to a different church where they end up.  WE NEED TO BE MORE FAMILY BASED AND ENGAGE IN OUR COMMUNITY!

I don’t think Youth Ministry is beyond repair…

Youth Ministry needs to go back to its roots:  We need to become Jesus-Centered.  We need to be more professional and accountable.  I strongly believe we need to be in mentoring relationships with youth ministers who are more and less experienced than we are.  Being in peer mentoring relationship such as the National Network of Youth Ministry will build our profession and expertise.  We need to engage in intentional  soul care to guard our hearts and help us remain engaged and growing in our relationship with Jesus Christ.

4 Responses to Concerns about the Future of Youth Ministry

  1. I would agree with much of what you have said here. I am 32 and have been in youth ministry for over 10 years. I just had a recent conversation with my old youth pastor on the importance of ministers being connected to Christ. Too many people are full-time ministers and part-time Christians (as Pastor Craig Groeschel would put it.)
    As for unprofessional there are those who look at youth ministries as the play ground for those adults who haven’t grown up yet and are just “one of the teens”. I have no desire at all to be that kind of youth minister. This does not mean that I don’t ever do have silly games at our retreats or spend some fun time with our youth but if that is all there is then all the teens will walk away with is remembering the good time they had at youth group and nothing else. I want teens to walk away discipled and equipped to share their faith with their friends and then disciple them. If the teens leave our youth ministry with a few fun trips, some laughs, and just walk away saying, “Yeah I like my youth minister he is a cool guy (or girl)” then we have missed the point.
    As for the segregationist I believe this has to go both ways. Older people in our congregation have to be willing to invest in the lives of the teens. This past summer we had alot going on in the youth ministry and some of those things were separate girl nights out and guy nights out. Several times throughout the summer adults said to me “I was going to sign up to go to that event but then I heard it was a youth event.” I would respond by saying, “Well yes there are going to be youth there but we would love to have you come along and join us. I am sure the youth guy/ or girls would love the chance to get to know other adults in the church.” Usually this was met with “That’s ok no thanks.” As adults in the church we can keep spouting the statistic that 75% of teens leave the church after they graduate but do nothing to try to change that then just dumping the teens off onto the youth ministry. If the congregation as a whole is not willing to step out and invest in their lives now then we can’t be surprised when after they graduate they don’t want to stay around.

    • mattmurphy79 says:

      Thanks Dave. I’d agree with the segregationalist point, part of it is us getting out, other parts of it is the “don’t let the teens ruin the sanctuary floor.”

      • I am going to keep trying, doing what I can to help integrate the younger with the older in our congregation. Like you I see this as so important. If they can develop those relationships now it can have a lasting impact for the future. I believe when we do this it shows the youth the church cares about them and not just those involved in the youth ministry. I believe it also shows those who are older they have something important to share with the younger generation.

  2. Great points, Matt. Thanks for what you are doing with your website.

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