When Youth Ministry comes to mind, many think of pizza parties, dodgeball, uncomfortable icebreakers, video games, loud worship music with flashy lights to get students on a spiritual high, or bible verse memorization games with victors winning iTunes gift cards. But that’s not what Youth Ministry is about.
There is more to Youth Ministry. Our Youth need more than a weekly event. They need adults pouring into their lives, building relationships, and discipling them. It can be all too easy to look down on Youth Ministry as a lesser ministry. As some would say: “Those dang Millennials!”. But our youth are aching for older and wiser men and women to invest in their lives.
Why do our youth need these relationships? In my experience with working with Youth I have found many of them filled with anxiety due to the increasing pressure to be popular. Many crave for attention that they are not getting at home, so they seek it in a Godless world that throws them into mass confusion. They struggle with divorced parents, thoughts of suicide, broken school systems, drug abuse, violence, body image, pornography, sex, and the rise of postmodern thought: “There is no truth”. Lastly our culture confuses our youth on what true love, gender, and identity is. They are trapped amongst ravenous wolves. Our hearts should break over all the garbage the culture throws at them. This should give us a greater passion for the youth and a longing to see lives transformed. The youth are not just our future, they have value just as they are now. It is important to show them their value and their true identity as beloved son’s and daughter’s of their heavenly Father. They can make a difference now.
Sadly many of our youth leave the church after graduation. They go to college never to return, because they no longer have that strong foundation continually pouring into them. We must ask ourselves: “What are we doing wrong? How should we approach Youth Ministry to begin with?”
3 Ways We Should Approach Youth Ministry:
1. Equipping and Making Disciples, Not Entertaining: Fun and games isn’t necessarily bad, they need that fellowship. There is a time and place for it. But more importantly at the end of the day what our youth will remember when they graduate is the gospel-centered relationships and messages that spoke to the depths of their heart. We sometimes have the false mentality that our youth are all immature and can't comprehend higher thoughts, reason, or truth. We feel the need to water down the gospel when in fact we need to dive deeper. Our youth are learning evolutionary science, algebra, calculus, and history. They are miles ahead. When they graduate they will be bombarded with atheist professors in universities. It’s time to dive deeper and make disciples. We need to teach and equip them on a deeper level. We need to teach them the depths of His word, sound doctrine, theology, and apologetics so they can make their faith their own and defend it. We need to make leaders not followers. This wisdom and knowledge is not just for Pastors and Elders. It is for the saints, the body of Christ, so they are to take every thought captive and transform the world through the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” - atthew 28:19
2. The Whole Church Must Invest in our Youth: Our Youth Group should be more than just be a separate group event on a Wednesday night. Older men and women should seek out our youth, including college students, and bring them into their community groups and invest in their lives. We need to also give our Youth responsibilities within the church using the gifts the Lord has blessed them with. It’s not just a Youth Group thing, it’s a church body thing.
“From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” - Ephesians 4:16
3. Parents: This is the most important one of them all. The most important relationship is not with a Youth Leader, but It is with their parents. We need parents who are involved regularly within the church and within the lives of their own kids. We need a church that cultivates an atmosphere that builds up and encourages parents to raise their kids up in the fear of the Lord. We need parents that not only preach the Gospel to them, but are a Christ like example to them.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” phesians 6:4
In the end, our approach and foundation to Youth Ministry should not be based on superficial events. We are not called to be babysitters, but to create disciples, equip, unify, and build relationships between parents and kids, so that the body of Christ can fight sin daily and have a greater passion for His glory, His word, and others in the local community.