Thursday, May 09, 2013


Has youth ministry failed us?

Let me say upfront that I am not against youth ministry.  I spent several years in full-time youth ministry.  I think most youth ministers are committed to helping young people develop a relationship with Jesus.  It was about 45 years ago that churches of Christ became heavily involved in youth ministry.  For decades, youth minister was the second staff position hired in most churches.

And many of these youth ministers entered youth ministry because they were impacted by their youth minister.  And I do think it was a move in the right direction to start calling it Youth and Family ministry. 

But I have to wonder...  

If we have been so heavily invested in youth ministry for all these years then how can we be so worried about losing our young people?  

Or has youth ministry failed us?

Here are some questions I think must be asked.

Has segregating our teenagers really been an effective way to develop faith?  Would we have been better served with a inter-generational model for the church?  

Did families -- and even churches -- abdicate their responsibility to raise our children to have faith?  Did we hire it done?  Did we really think "professionals" knew better than parents the best way to impart faith?

Did we emphasize youth activities to the detriment of teaching God's Word?

And if so... then what is a better way?

Should parents be leading the youth ministries?

Numbers down?  Kids leaving the faith?  Then better start a youth program.  Or fire the current youth minister and hire a better one.  That has been our default reaction for years.

It may have been wrong.  

So is their a place for youth ministers?  I think so but with a couple of caveats.

I think parents and elders should retain control of the youth program.  That is who is responsible for the spiritual formation of our children.  Don't put that off on a youth minister.

I think we should think more in terms of youth evangelists.  What if we hired a youth evangelist with a mandate to equip our youth to share their faith?  What if we expected our youth minister to spend most of his time evangelizing teenagers and their families?

But one last thing seems really important to say.  Youth ministry as usually done may have failed us.  But do not blame the youth minister for your child losing their faith.  It may have been the youth minister's job, but it was the parent's responsibility.

Well, these are just questions I think need to be asked.  Not sure even how I feel about some of them.  Not sure I know the answers.  But I do know we better ask the questions.  

Youth ministry is not about the future of the church.  It is about the eternal destination of our kids.  Big difference.  

We have to do our best to get it right.

Why does leaving the church have to be an age issue-if you find the answer to one group leaving, would it be the same answer for all age groups that leave?

Does anyone ever send out a questioner and ask why someone stopped going to a church? My experience has been people will volunteer information about what they like or do not like at a church. It is easier to ask them questions, than it is to speculate and try and solve a problem.

If you are physically ill, your M.D. is going to ask questions to form an opinion and begin a process to heal your body-should church leaders do anything less?
I think talking to those that leave can be helpful for individual congregations. I try to be sure that we visit with those that leave us -- and those that come from somewhere else. And I think the age question is one we really don't wrestle with enough. Most churches seem to panic over young families leaving but not so much other groups.

Good idea.
not sure why that came up anonymous. Obviously me. :)
Flavil yeakley, ph.d. Did survey those who left. His books can be purchased on amazon. Has anyone ever Thought about the fact that every time we hire someone to do something that we could do ourselves the results are not always the best? To me a youth minister is supposed to be a hotshot, well-versed in the Bible, and also an entertainer. Has anyone ever considered instead of a youth minister sending members of the congregation to talk to the youth. There is much that could be learned from both men and women of all ages within the congregation. Youth can be taught to respect other people.
But talking to the youth is different than talking with the youth. Talking to is like giving a lecture. All the communication is one way. Talking with means you listen to the other person. Youth can be taught other people and with a whip they can be taught to do anything. However, respect goes both ways. People of all ages should at least treat the youth as semi-intelligent human beings who are learning. Atheists treat the youth as intelligent people when making their arguments...
Taught to respect, sorry, typo
You mention wanting to get a youth evangelist. What is your goal? Is it to get them baptized in a hurry or get to them continue (in the same exact way) the church that their parents and grandparents dutifully maintained? Or is to teach them how to preserve and maintain the faith even if it doesn't look like it once did?

Are you gutsy enough to teach the youth how to defend against the attacks by the atheists? To maintain the faith while under attack? To argue back?

The atheists have numerous blogs and people well-trained in introducing sufficient doubt into someone. Are you prepared to teach the atheists' arguments in Sunday school in order to then teach refuting of said argument?
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