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The Future of Youth Ministry: Two Major Changes That Need to be Made

This post is part of the series on the Future of Youth Ministry. When we consider what needs to change in youth ministry, we can come up with quite a list. It’s what we did in yesterday’s post. But there are two more major changes that need to be made in in the future in youth ministry, if we want to thrive. We need to focus on discipleship and we need to become missional again.


The recent call for more discipleship is one that we should heed. I think we’ve concentrated too much on making converts and have failed to make young people true disciples of Christ. Discipleship is something we need to focus on again.

I completely agree with Mike Breen on this:

If you make disciples, you will always get the church. But if you try to build the church, you will rarely get disciples. If you’re good at making disciples, you’ll get more leaders than you’ll know what to do with. If you make disciples like Jesus made them, you’ll see people come to faith who didn’t know Him.

Time-intensive mentoring and small group discipleship will be key here, exactly like Jesus did with His disciples. When we focus on discipleship in youth ministry, it will automatically become more missional.

A second key aspect of discipleship in my opinion, is preaching a more pure form of the gospel. We are still preaching the rules far more than we are preaching the relationship and that needs to change. I’ve said it before: the rules mean nothing without the relationship.

We need to do everything in our power to contradict a gospel that teaches that good deeds will get you to heaven. In everything that we say and everything that we do is should be crystal clear that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father and that no one, no one will enter heaven without Him. That message should be front and center at our youth ministry.


Youth ministry (and the church in general) should become missional again. And by missional I don’t mean doing an outreach once a year or bringing a friend to an evangelism event. By missional I mean showing God’s love to everyone in and around the church, mainly by taking care of the weak. We should obey our Biblical calling to support the widows and the orphans, the weak and the oppressed, and not just inside our church. We should feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those who are sick or in prison. We should take far more seriously what Jesus taught us:

“Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.” (Matthew 25:34-36 NKJV)

This is the practical meaning of loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. We need to see where God is already at work and then join Him.

This missional ‘job’, it belongs to the church. Parachurch organizations have done this for way too long and while they have done an excellent job, the church should take over. There are Biblical reasons for this, but practical reasons as well.

In Europe, we see subsidies for Christian parachurch organizations being terminated because the rules for getting these subsidies are becoming more and more strict. It means we can no longer count on government support to do this kind of work, which means the church should rise up and take over once again. We know it’s biblical and we know it can be done, we’ve seen the first church do it:

“Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:44-47)

People were being saved daily, because the church was living out their love for their neighbors. They shared whatever they had and took care of people’s needs. And the church had a stellar reputation.

Surely, we can all agree that the church in general has anything but a stellar reputation right now. But we can change that. We can start being missional in youth ministry, we can show young people that taking care of others is God’s command to us. We can teach them what being a Christian really means. We can challenge them to be part of something that is big, huge even, something that is risky and messy. We need to step out of our comfort zone and make our youth ministries a lot less safe and predictable. I am convinced that this kind of radical Christianity, of authentic ‘hardcore’ discipleship will attract youth.

I haven’t been the only one blogging about the future of youth ministry, you should also check out these blogs:

Mark Oestreicher

Brandon Baker

Terrace Crawford

Lars Rood at The Youth Cartel

UPDATE: Mark Riddle shared some of his thoughts about the future of youth ministry as well

Do you agree with me on these two major changes? How do you see this happen?