Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thoughts on Youth (and Children's) Ministry in the Church

I spent ten years as a youth minister before becoming a pastor at the church where I now serve. Over that decade I did a lot of things well intended but ultimately un-Biblical things in youth ministry. Mainly these things concerned leading students to have an over-dependance on me as their spiritual leader rather than their parents and the pastor, spending more time planning activities than studying Scripture and praying, making the hype of an event more memorable than the content of my teaching, etc, etc, etc. Now that said, in spite of my limitations and lack of wisdom the Lord made disciples and was glorified.

About halfway through my 'youth ministry days' the Lord really began convicting me from Scripture to make His Word center in whatever I did. Fun and games have their place but mainly those few hours a week I was with the teenagers was to make the gospel clear, instruct them in the Scriptures, and do whatever I could to reinforce the discipleship that needed to be taking place at home. I began doing things that would see me decrease and the parents increase as the lead disciple-makers of their children.

Some would argue that youth ministry is totally un-Biblical and all age-divided discipleship should be abolished in the church. While we must guard against dividing the family by an over-emphasis on age-specific ministries we do not have to swing the pendulum to the extreme to still hold parents accountable to carry out their Biblical responsibility. After all, the church is called to make disciples, not just make disciples of dads. There is no doubt that the kind of youth ministry that most churches have employed over the last three decades has produced awful results and has a doomed future (READ HERE), the church can still make efforts to come alongside parents to help train their children in God's Word.

Our church must have a clear vision or aim for what we are doing to train our children and teenagers. The gospel must be at the forefront. The methods must be carefully scrutinized so that the message is not compromised. We also must be careful that parents do not abdicate their responsibility because they feel their efforts are inferior to the bells and whistles of the church program. Parents must be equipped. Good youth or children's ministry partners with parents, makes the teaching of the Word central, and makes sure God (not human creativity) is what resonates most in the hearts and minds of our young hearers.

1 comment:

AJ said...

Thank you for the heartfelt and thoughtful post. They may leave because they are offended by the gospel, but if they leave because of superficiality in the church, then we have blood on our hands. God help us to be broken and faithful.