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Why Your Youth Ministry Is a Low Priority

Youth ministry is low on the priority list for many churches. It’s sad but not surprising. Many churches (and people) see it as glorified babysitting for adolescents. Because of this view, parishes are dying.

If you work with the next generation, the idea that youth ministry is a waste of time and resources frustrates you. If anything, you know that youth ministry needs to be higher on the priority list. So, why the negative outlook on this ministry? It’s because of: 

LOW EXPECTATIONS FOR THE NEXT GENERATION

Teenagers can give off the impression that they are careless and irresponsible. There are a lot of opinions that suggest that they are a self-centered generation. The reality is that they are very caring toward others and thirsty for something solid.

NEGATIVE OR LACK OF PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

I had wonderful moments in my youth ministry growing up; however, there was one that nearly ruined it all. People who have not had a previous experience or had a negative one might not see the benefit. But anyone who had a positive experience can point to moments, relationships and opportunities that affirmed their faith.

REFUSAL TO GET MESSY

Youth ministry is messy because you are dealing with a fast changing season in someone’s life. Once you engage the messiness, you will start to understand that having a specified ministry for this generation is essential to healthy families and a healthy church.

So, how do we change that? It’s by engaging the challenge and taking the next three steps:

STEP 1: SET A VISION

Youth ministry is designed to cultivate young disciples and commission mature ones. You need to answer the question, “What does a disciple graduating from high school look like?” That means looking at:

  • The disciplines they should embrace.
  • The ways they should be serving in the church.
  • How they can serve outside the church.

When you have a vision, it will then help you (for more on vision, click here):

STEP 2: DEVELOP A STRATEGY

Most youth ministries flop because there is no strategy. To develop a strategy, you need to know what is sustainable. That means starting out small and building on it. Focus on format before content. Without a sustainable program, there is no place to educate teens and empower parents. (For more on strategy click here.)

STEP 3: ADVOCATE INTERGENERATIONAL RELATIONSHIPS

Developing a program is only a part of it. To help others see the next generation as a priority you need to advocate for them by:

  • Plugging them into ministry next to adults.
  • Talking about them in the homily/message.
  • Giving them leadership roles.

When people walk into your parish, they need to see the next generation serving alongside adults. It shows others that they are a priority, and it will bring your church to a new level. (For more on advocating click here.)

Younger disciples will challenge older ones. They will ask big questions and bring an enthusiasm that is sometimes lost. A healthy and effective youth ministry means a healthy and effective local parish. You can’t afford to move it down the priority list.  

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Chris graduated from Xavier University in 2003 with a BA in Communications: Electronic Media. He moved to Baltimore in the fall of 2003 where he served as a Jesuit Volunteer for a year. During that time, he was a Case Manager at Chase Brexton, met his wife Kate and felt God's calling to Student Ministry. In the summer of 2004, he was hired by the Roman Catholic Parish Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland as a Middle School Youth Minister. Today he oversees grades 5-12 as the Director of Student Ministry.