Introducing our newly updated, highly anticipated Life in 6 Words app! Through this app, you can not only share the gospel face-to-face (from 6 feet away:)), but you can also share it using the app's "audio story" functionality from the safety of your own home!
Youth ministry is often dismissed as something less than strategic in far too many churches. Some even view it as a kind of glorified babysitting. In their thinking, teens need just enough games and God to keep them coming back....until they are old enough to make a difference in the church.
The unspoken implication is that teenagers aren't "real members" until they are old enough to have jobs, give offerings and serve in the big boy/big girl roles of the church.
But Jesus didn't wait for the disciples to get out of their teen years to appoint them as "real" apostles. He appointed them to lead the charge while they were still in their teen years.
Do you find that hard to believe? Then check out Matthew 17:24-27 where Peter, Jesus and the disciples go to Capernaum but only Peter and Jesus pay the Temple Tax. If you cross reference this passage with Exodus 30:14 you'll see that this particular tax, originally the Tabernacle Tax, was only applicable to those 20 years and older.
I talk to youth leaders all the time. From Pentecostal to Presbyterian, from coast to coast, from urban to suburban to rural, God has blessed me to be in front of all kinds of youth leaders from all kinds of backgrounds consistently throughout the year.
It's easy to see teens as the "necessary evil" that you, as a pastor have to put up with when leading your church. After all, they are often the ones texting, SnapChatting or just plain old chatting during your sermon. They roll their eyes when you make your best jokes and don't at all look interested in your most insightful sermon points.
It's easy to write teenagers off...but don't.
Throughout history teenagers have been unleashed as primary change agents in almost every significant spiritual awakening. From the early church (the disciples were most likely teens when they began to follow Jesus) to St Patrick and his young posse of preachers to the Reformation to the Great Welsh Revival to the Great Awakening, teenagers have played a central role to advancing the kingdom of God and reviving the church in the process.
Jonathan Edwards, the chief historian of the Great Awakening and preacher of the awe-inspiring "Sinners in the hands of an Angry God" wrote these words about this unparalleled spiritual movement, "the revival has been chiefly amongst the young."
These hormone-filled young people who take risks, break rules and drive us crazy at times can be used by God to accelerate his kingdom forward in fresh and exciting ways. And when this movement comes alive in your church your congregation will never be the same!
"So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body." 1 Corinthians 15:42-44
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.
“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.