Double Down: "to double a bet after seeing one's initial cards, with the requirement that one additional card be drawn (in Blackjack)."
Although I don't play Blackjack, Poker or even the Lotto for that matter, I believe it's time for you, as a pastor, to lay a new kind of bet, a bet on youth ministry. It's time to double down on the strategic importance of having a thriving youth ministry in your church.
1. Family ministry alone is not enough to reach Generation Z.
Some pastors are abandoning youth ministry for a purely family ministry approach. The problem is that most of the teens from Generation Z do not come from fully functional, godly homes. So the "family ministry alone" approach cashes out at anything beyond teenagers with spiritually mature parents.
Of course, when godly parents are activated to disciple their own teenagers it's a huge win. Homes led by spiritually mature parents can have a green house effect on teen godliness. To continue the gambling analogy, when godly parents are present and active, the odds are stacked in favor of the house (sorry, I couldn't resist!)
But in the current culture this is the exception and not the rule.
I come from a broken, urban home and never knew my biological father. My guilt-ridden, highly volatile mom was not a Christian. But my life was forever transformed by a youth ministry in the suburbs that invited me in and invested in me. There I found countless spiritual moms and dads who discipled me and equipped me to disciple others. As a matter of fact, at the age of 15, I had the privilege of leading my own mom to Christ and then disciple her.
More and more teens today are coming from less and less spiritually stable homes. To reach them will take more than just a typical family ministry approach.
2. An effective youth ministry can be super strategic.
When a youth ministry is done well it mobilizes young disciple makers to reach their campuses and communities for Jesus. These teenagers can become a pastor's best church growth plan.
According to Barna 2 out of 3 people who come to Christ do so by the time they are 18 years of age. So why wouldn't we focus on reaching and then mobilizing the demographic that is most likely to come to Christ?
Sure these young people may not be able to tithe much, but our currency is souls, not cash. Our goal is impact not income. Our vision is advancing God's kingdom not hitting our budget. But I believe that, when we focus on reaching young people with the Gospel, God will honor our efforts and provide every dollar and dime we need to lead our church to the next level.
On a practical note, when the parents of these newly reached teenagers see the transformation their kids are experiencing there's a strong possibility that they may come and visit your church too. Yes, a thriving youth ministry can help your church grow on every level.
Of course this assumes that your youth leader is building a Gospel Advancing, disciple multiplying youth ministry built on Biblical values, not passing fads. Typical youth ministry done in the typical way will get typical results.
Don't lay a bet on the "Start it rocking, get them talking, big fun and then we're done" model of youth ministry. Even when it seems to work there is rarely long-term spiritual maturity in the lives of the teenagers in these youth groups.
Like the seeds planted on hard ground in the Parable of the Sower, "...since they don't have deep roots, they don't last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God's word" Mark 4:17.
This is exactly what happens when many of the teenagers in these shallow-ground youth ministries head off to college or into the work force. They abandon the faith because they have no deep roots in the faith.
Sure, youth ministries can (and should) have tons of sizzle to attract teens in, but they must have steak juicy enough to keep them coming back for more.
In this brand of youth ministry the Word of God is taught in a way that makes sense to Generation Z. Teens are activated for the cause that matters most, advancing the Good News of Jesus to what Barna calls the first post-Christian generation in the history of the United States.
3. It could become your greatest legacy as a pastor.
In an excellent sermon entitled "Feed my Lambs" here's what the great preacher Charles Spurgeon had to say about ministering to young people,
"We are specially exhorted to feed them because they are so likely to be overlooked. I am afraid our sermons often go over the heads of the younger folk-who, nevertheless, may be as true Christians as the older ones....We are specially exhorted to feed the young because the work is so profitable. Do what we may with persons converted late in life, we can never make much of them. We are very glad of them for their own sakes, but at seventy what remains even if they live another ten years. Train up a child, and he may have fifty years of holy service before him."
An effective, foundation-laying children's ministry and an effective mission-driven youth group can unleash an army of game changers into the world and into your congregation. These young people become a farm club for your church and can produce a crop that produces thirty, sixty or a hundred fold!
So pastor please don't stop betting on youth ministry! But make sure your youth leader is working the type of youth ministry strategy that's worthy of your wager. To help him/her get there click here.
No more hedging your bets when it comes to youth ministry...It's time to double down!