What do we see happening in the future of youth ministry? There are two ways to answer this question. The first is to answer it from the perspective of what would happen if we would continue doing what we’re doing in youth ministry right now. This however isn’t very helpful as we can only speculate. The best that could come from this is a sort of shock effect as we ponder for instance the numbers of young people leaving the church, of youth workers quitting or having a burn out.
The second and far more interesting way is to put it in terms of what we think should be the future of youth ministry. If we look at the past and the present state of youth ministry, what do we see that needs to change? Where are we going in the right direction? What methods should we abandon and what new approaches should we try?
Here’s my view on what the future of youth ministry should look like, on what needs to change:
Paid youth workers need to find the balance between seeing youth ministry as a calling and doing it professionally. On the one extreme are people who dislike any professionalism or ‘techniques’ to improve their youth ministry or their own style. On the other extreme are the people who have become professional youth workers and have ceased to see it’s about a God given calling first. There has to be a balance between these two, a compromise where God’s calling is carried out in a professional manner.
Every youth worker needs to find more balance between work (youth work) and personal life if we even want youth ministry to have a future. Sustainable youth ministry becomes key. That means the truth that we are first and foremost responsible for our own family should take root, not only in our own hearts, but also in those that lead us.
As youth workers, we need to take on full responsibility for our spiritual, our personal and our professional growth. That means we should constantly seek nourishments for our souls and minds, in the form of reading books, going to conferences or listening to lectures. We can never transfer this responsibility to someone else and we should never make it the very least of our priorities. I once heard a quote on a leadership conference that I never forgot:
Everything that’s planted is supposed to grow
No matter where God has planted you, you are supposed to grow. An essential part of that growth process is accountability. Every youth worker should have a coach or a mentor and every youth worker should have someone he or she is accountable to. I think churches should make this obligatory for everyone working for them. They should facilitate this in whatever way possible, including offering paid time off for retreats and such.