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.
Youth ministry can be highly rewarding and highly discouraging...sometimes all within the span of an hour. Helicopter parents, apathetic teenagers and eye-rolling, finger-wagging church leaders can all combine to become a slow-moving vortex of depression that churns deep in the soul of the average youth leader.
So why stay in such a low-pay, high-pressure position? Why not escape to get a "real job" in ministry, a job where you are loved and respected...and where the pay is more than the typical Barista's?
Here are 7 compelling reasons to stay in youth ministry:
1. Teenagers come to Christ quicker than adults.
According to Barna 2 out of 3 people put their faith in Jesus by the age of 18. After that, the odds go way down. In the words of my grandpa, "Get the gettin' while the gettin's good." And the salvation gettin' is good before the age of 18
2. Teenagers spread the Gospel faster than adults.
Because the average teenager has well over 400 online and face-to-face friends they have a huge (and growing) opportunity to share the Gospel like no generation before them. Generation Z, the nickname for this generation of teens, is filled with "Digital natives." They're called this because they've never known a time without digital devices and social media. And because of this they have an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate the spread of the good news through their many social media channels.
As I travel the nation and talk to youth leaders I hear the same things when it comes to this generation of teenagers (nicknamed "Gen Z") and youth ministry in general:
If you're a pastor, church leader, youth leader or parent I am pleading for you to take youth ministry and teenagers seriously. I'm convinced that the right kind of youth ministry is necessary now more than ever before in our history as a nation.
If you are a parent to a teenager make sure they're involved in a solid youth group. If you're a pastor of a church make sure your youth leader is leading in a way that reflects truly New Testament values (not just fun, games and a short Bible lesson.) If you're a youth leader build a Gospel Advancing, disciple-multiplying youth ministry that is thriving for all the right reasons.
But for this to happen churches must begin to take youth ministry seriously and view it as strategic. We shouldn't underestimate it's importance. For instance, some churches subtly de-prioritize youth ministry by bundling it under family ministry and, slowly but surely, teenagers stop showing up because the focus has shifted. When this shift happens (usually showing itself in a huge focus on children's ministry and a dwindling focus on teen ministry) it's obvious to everyone...especially the teenagers.
But where most churches ultimately demonstrate their lack of passion for youth ministry is in their annual budget. D.L. Moody once said he could tell more about a person's priorities by his checkbook than his prayer book. In the same way I can tell more about a church's priorities by their annual budget allocations than their mission statement and stated values. Sadly, youth ministry is usually one of the most underfunded areas of the church. And these numbers show the church's view of youth ministry.
So, allow me to make a case as to why its more urgent than ever for the church to take youth ministry and teenagers seriously. Here are 4 reasons:
Yesterday at 5:30 pm MST I couldn't help but ask myself, "Could this be the beginning of the next spiritual awakening?"