What is the future of youth ministry? And how can we minister to teens more effectively? When I think about the future, I consider certain things I’d like to see more or less of. What do you think about all the items on my list below?
Rethinking Youth Ministry
Here are 10 things I’d like to see less of in youth ministry. Yes, some of these are radical suggestions. But hear me out and consider how they might apply at your church or program.
1. Youth Ministers
First, look in the mirror. Adam McLane notes an inverse relationship between the increasing number of staff and decreasing attendance in churches. This has been occurring for the last three decades. I’m not sure adding more staff will solve our student ministry problems. I did something about this by voluntarily reducing my own hours at church.
2. Worship Services
Many youth ministries have separate worship services on Sunday or Wednesday night. How many other people in your church, outside of the youth ministry, attend two worship services per week (Sunday morning and the youth service)? If we don’t expect adults to go to two services a week, why do we expect youth to do that? Do we really need to do the same thing twice in one week?
Because people are so busy, I think ministry is better served by doing something different than Sunday morning. Let students get their corporate worship in on Sunday morning.
This is related to worship services, because preaching is usually a main component. But more importantly, students need meaningful space to speak and space for authentic relationships to develop. Neither happens during preaching. Again, leave the preaching to Sunday mornings.
I know it’s common to judge how much a church values its youth by how much money it spends on them. Why? Does an increase in financial resources translate into discipleship and evangelism? Does the spread of the gospel depend on money? China, Africa and South America seem to say “no.” Also, see #1. Try cutting your budget by 10% every year and see what happens.
I was having a tough time getting students to show up to an event that was on the calendar. I sent out notices, told people about it, the usual. But due to extracurricular activities or something, I ended up canceling the event.
Then I discovered that a group of students self-organized a Bible study with their peers through texting and Facebook in a matter of days. And lots of people showed up. In addition to reinforcing #1 (they didn’t need an adult to coordinate or lead this), it also made me try to figure out a way to be more spontaneous with discipleship. I’m not sure how to go about this quite yet. But putting items on calendars isn’t working well for me anymore.