Low pay, high stress, discouraging results, no respect, church politics, parental expectations, self-induced pressure....The list of reasons why many youth leaders quit youth ministry could go on and on.
In just a week the notorious Zane Black and yours truly will be hitting the road with Winter Jam. Crazy good artists like Newsboys United, Hollyn, Mandisa, Rend Collective, Ledger, Danny Gokey, Newsong and many others, will light up the stage with their amazing sets and God-glorifying, Jesus-honoring, Spirit-fueled music.
Don't worry, Zane and I won't be singing (on stage anyway), but one of us will be in each city for two very specific purposes. And this gets to the heart of why I'm calling all youth leaders to bring all their teenagers to Winter Jam this year!
1. The Gospel will be given clearly!
One of the things I love about Winter Jam is that it is run by, what I love to call "Gospel Guys." In the Christian music industry I've often experienced the opposite. Too many tours, festivals and events are all about
the money, money, money and not the ministry, ministry, ministry.
Instead of New Year's resolutions let's talk about a youth ministry revolution.
Year's ago I devoured Mark Senter's classic book, The Coming Revolution in Youth Ministry. In it he predicted a transformation of the way youth ministry is done. He predicted a massive re-ordering of youth ministry back to the ways of the early church.
This outstanding book was written in 1992 but, sadly, we're all still waiting for the revolution to come. If anything youth ministry seems like it has become more and more institutionalized over the last 27 years or so since Senter's book was written.
"For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." 1 Timothy 4:8
1. It honors the Lord (Romans 15:5,6.)
“It does not take vast amounts of money to fill a nation with the knowledge of the gospel. What it takes is ordinary people, on fire with the love of Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit, who are willing to tell their families, friends, and casual acquaintances what God has done for them.” Steve Addison in Movements that Changed the World
Over the last quarter of a century I've talked to thousands of discouraged youth leaders. I've met them before, during and after our events (and countless others.) Some are discouraged by the apathy of their teenagers. Others are discouraged by the church situation they are in ("Fix-my-kid" parents, dysfunctional leaders, lack of budget, etc.)
But, underneath it all, there's a deeper, more tragic reason for the discouragement beating in the hearts of many of these youth leaders. The dog that gets kicked is the youth group or the puny budget or the micro-managing pastor.
But the real problem is systemic. There is something broken in youth ministry and we all, in our most painful moments of quiet reflection, know it.Typical youth ministry done in the typical way is churning out the same typical results, the same results it's been turning out for decades now. The only change is that our spiritual results are getting worse. Between the forces of packed-to-the-ceiling academic/sports schedules, a crack-like addiction to technology and a growing suspicion of all things absolute, teenagers have been increasingly just not showing up to youth group.
I'm always surprised when I talk to a youth leader who has no student leadership team. Think of Jesus, just hanging with the crowds, and not investing in the disciples.