We live in an age where youth ministry is under fire. There are those pundits who wax eloquent about the demise of youth ministry and pound the pulpit over the need for something different. Some call youth ministry a ploy of the Devil to take teenagers out of big church and give them pablum instead. Others say that we just need to integrate teenagers into the overall life of the church and all will be well. And some call for a purely intergenerational approach that allows the older to disciple the younger. Still others say it's all about children's ministry.
Ask the typical church member what words come to mind when they hear the words "youth ministry" and most will probably use words like "games" or "fun" as part of their description. Youth ministry is known for its ability to entertain teenagers. But it's also recognized for helping teenagers know and grow in Christ.
If I gave you the choice between drinking a muddy glass of water or a clear one, of course, you'd choose the clear one. Nobody wants their water mixed with dirt and sediment. The clearer the better.
What's true of a glass of water is true of a presentation of the Gospel. The clearer the better.
I talk to youth leaders across the country, many of whom feel like their pastors are not fully behind their youth ministry efforts. Speaking as a former church planter and preaching pastor, here are a few tips that will help get your Sr. Pastor on board with you and your youth ministry:
We've all seen the disturbing statistics of youth leader turnover in the church. I've read differing numbers regarding the average stay of a youth leader in the typical church. The statistics I've read have ranged from as little as one year to as many as four. Regardless of which statistic is correct I think we can all agree that the turnover rate in youth ministry is too high.
The question that haunts me is why? Why are there so many youth leaders leaving their posts after a relatively short stint?
Welcome! This is part 2 of a two-part series. If you missed part 1, make sure to stop now and go check out that one first here — I think you'll be glad you did.
If you've been in ministry for longer than five minutes, you've been around rockstar youth leaders. You know the type — they connect effortlessly with teens, are faithful in showing up week after week, and to top it off, have a devotion to Jesus in a category all its own.
Giving the Gospel in every sermon may seem like a no-brainer to some preachers and a "Whaaaaat?" to others but I am convinced it's beyond crucial. The night before Jesus died he performed the first communion service with his disciples which served as a relentless reminder to his disciples to gospelize their services. Any unbeliever who stumbled into an early church service, at the very minimum, saw and heard the Gospel given during communion time.
If I could get in a time machine and go back to teenaged Greg I'd tell him one thing...learn how to pray.
Sadly, it took me about four decades to begin to truly discover the power of prayer. Once I did, it felt like for the majority of my life I'd been throwing dirt clods at Satan only to discover there was a bazooka in the closet.
All of us want to see our teenagers grow deeper in their faith. But is there a way to kickstart their spiritual growth?
The answer is "YES!" Here are three of them...
1. Pray for them and get them praying!
The great 1st Century church prayer warrior, Epaphras, shows us how to pray with impact. Paul wrote these telling words about his spiritual co-worker, "Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured."
"I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." 1 John 5:13
Recently my 14 year old son, Jeremy, conspired with me to come up with an idea to get a discussion going during his weekly prayer meeting with his friends at school. We came up with the idea of asking them, "On a scale from 0-100% how sure are you that you're going to heaven when you die?"