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3 Things That Aren't Changing in Youth Ministry

A few years ago, Richard Nelson Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute?, was interviewed about the constant changes in the job climate. Bolles asserted, as he often does, that people are asking the wrong question. People always want to know What’s changing when they should be asking, What has remained constant?

As we look at what 2012 brings, perhaps we need to ask the same question. There are plenty of voices offering conjecture about the future and whining about how everything is different. I implore you to ask, What hasn’t changed?

In youth ministry there are plenty of people sitting around, scratching their beards and philosophizing about what they think doesn’t work anymore. It’s a little frustrating at times, especially when many of us are witnessing God doing amazing things through youth ministries across the country—sometimes using the very methods so heavily criticized by these beard-scratchers.

Forget these skeptics. What still works?

I’ve witnessed three staples that I believe will never change in youth ministry—three constants.

1. The priority of one-on-one relationships
Caring adults hanging out with kids. It will never get old. God loves relationships and so do his people.

Jesus is the perfect example of relational ministry. God saw how utterly lost we were and knew that the best way to reach us was to come down and “dwell among us” (John 1:14). We need to always strive to do the same; regardless of how high and mighty we rise on the hierarchical scale. If we ever get too big to rub elbows with others, we’ve lost sight of Christ’s model of leadership (John 13).

Most ministry can be divided into two categories: outreach or discipleship. In 20 years of ministry I’ve seen both accomplished most successfully one-on-one. Think about it for a second. One-on-one conversations about putting our trust in Christ. One-on-one discipleship. I find that some of the best ministry is done when two people sit down and talk face to face. That’s why I always spend plenty of time training my leaders to connect, …which brings up the second staple…

2. The importance of empowering others
The Lone Ranger was a cool TV show, but a really lame philosophy of ministry. Don’t do it alone.

In all four Gospels, one of the first tasks Jesus went about was collecting his posse of disciples. Jesus knew that the best way to reach out to the masses was to equip others for ministry. We need to do the same.

Unfortunately, many neglect this daunting yet vital task. We get so busy with ministry that we don’t make empowering others a priority. Huge mistake. We should always be recruiting and developing adult and student leaders who will join us in our cause.

But we can’t expect to impact others if we aren’t being impacted ourselves. Hence…

3. The necessity of a stable foundation
It’s impossible to lead a solid ministry when you’re standing on shaky ground.

Years ago, Bolles, the same author quoted above, proposed, “I have always argued that change becomes stressful and overwhelming only when you’ve lost any sense of the constancy of your life. You need firm ground to stand on. From there, you can deal with that change.”

What is your foundation?

Jesus ended the Sermon on the Mount with a simple story about two men who each tried to build a house. The materials and design of the house didn’t matter—only the foundation. The largest of ministries have collapsed when they were built on the sand.

What are you building your ministry on? Jesus said, “He who hears these words of mine and put them into practice…” (Matthew 7:24) are you doing those two things? Are you plugged into a place where you regularly hear God’s word? Is it changing you so you can put it into practice? Because those who do are “like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

The world as we know it is changing rapidly. Technology expands every minute and kids listen and interact differently than they did just a few years ago. Change is a constant. The only question is how you’re going to respond. Are you going to sit around and scratch your proverbial beard… or are you going to focus on the constants?

What do you think? Do you agree/disagree with Jonathan’s assessment?

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Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Guy's Guide to Four Battles Every Young Man Must Face; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources on TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. Jonathan and his wife Lori live in Northern California.