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10 Things Youth Ministry Needs Less

There’s been some talk lately about the future of youth ministry. I’ve posted some of my thoughts before, but when I think about the future, there are certain things I’d like to see more and certain things I would like to see less.

Up today, ten things I’d like to see less:

  1. Youth MinistersAdam McLane has pointed out that there is an inverse relationships between the increasing number of staff and the decreasing attendance in churches over the last three decades. I’m not so sure adding more youth ministry staff will solve our youth ministry problems. As someone who is youth ministry staff at a church, I’m not so sure what to do with this.
  2. Worship Services – Many youth ministries have their own worship services on Sunday or Wednesday night. How many other people in your church, outside of the youth ministry, go to two worship services a week (Sunday morning and the youth ministry service)? If we don’t expect adults to go to two worship services a week, why do we expect youth to do that? Do we really need to do the same thing twice in one week? At a time when people are so busy, I think ministry would be better served by doing something different than Sunday morning. Let students get their corporate worship in on Sunday morning.
  3. Preaching – This is related to the worship services, since preaching is usually a main component in worship services. But more importantly, students need meaningful space to speak and space for authentic relationships to be developed. Neither happens during preaching. Again, leave the preaching to Sunday morning.
  4. Money – I know it is common practice to judge how much a church values its youth by how much money it spends on them. Why is that? Does an increase in financial resources translate into discipleship and evangelism? Is the spread of the gospel dependent 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.
  5. Calendars – I had an interesting experience the other week. I was having a heck of a time getting students to show up to an event that was on the calendar. I gave out notice, told people about it, the usual. But due to extracurricular activities or something, I can’t remember exactly what happened, I think I ended up canceling the event. Then I found out that a group of students self-organized a Bible study with their peers through texting and Facebook in a matter of days. And a lot 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 and figure out a way to be more spontaneous with discipleship. I’m not sure how to go about this quite yet, but putting things on calendars isn’t working very well for me anymore.
  6. Programs – This goes together with less money and less calendars, but it also has to do with people’s (legitimate) continuing skepticism towards institutions. And what are programs other than institutionalized forms of discipleship? Discipleship is a personal and communal process, not an institutional program.
  7. Hype – Maybe I’m biased because I’m a horrible cheerleader, but I’m pretty sure that the gospel isn’t well-served by hype. To me, hype is irreverent. Hype wants to mask reality. Hype is afraid of the truth. Hype is good for getting people elected but tends to be short on results. Let’s jettison trying to drum up any hype surrounding our ministries or youth ministry trends in general.
  8. Games – Surely we don’t need more of them. So we could probably do with less.
  9. T-Shirts – In case you missed my previous thoughts on this, read them here. I’m kind of serious.
  10. Lock-Ins – Come on, we can all agree on this one, can’t we?

What am I leaving out? What else could we stand to use less?

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In 2005 Matt was on his internship as a youth ministry major at John Brown University when he read Soul Searching. That book, combined with some serious theological grappling that had been going on the previous 2 years, convicted him to do anything I could to buck the status quo of youth ministry. Matt believes our teens are too important to us to keep letting them down. So, he graduated from JBU in 2006 and have been in full-time ministry at Hope Lutheran Church. In 2008 he started working (slowly) on a M.A. in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary.