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.
Generation Z is busy, yet bored. They like Jesus just fine, but can do without his people. They are cause-centric but, for the most part, don't see any cause worth investing in when it comes to their local youth group. And no amount of fog machines, video games and cutting edge curriculum will change that.
When a youth leader recognizes this for the first time it can feel like a hard slap to the face on a cold day. Over time it can be debilitatingly discouraging. Maybe it's why we have such horrific turn over in youth ministry.
The pizazz and innovation once attached to being a youth leader has now moved into the world of church planting. Perhaps that's why there are more and more church planters and less and less full-time paid youth leaders.
So how do we revitalize youth ministry and start filling the pipeline with holy, humble and hungry revolutionaries who will not rest until every teen everywhere has every last chance to put their faith in Jesus?
The answer is too big for a blog. So, if you're interested in this radical, practical and immensely Biblical approach to youth ministry, I encourage you to read my book Gospelize Your Youth Ministry. You can get a free version of it on the Dare 2 Share store. If you prefer a hard copy you can buy a copy on our online store as well.
Read my book, marinate on it and then slowly, yet steadily, start making incremental changes. While you're at it, why not check the Gospel Advancing website and join our Facebook group? There is a ton of tools and community waiting to help you make it happen.
Youth ministry can be strategic. Teenagers can make disciples and a difference. The Gospel should be advancing. So should your youth group.
Refuse to let discouragement nest in your heart any longer. There is hope for you and for youth ministry! Seize it!