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youth ministry as failed experiment.

You don’t have to look far these days, to find young adults & adults who were once involved in a Church community, and no longer see any need to be.  Many of these have also let go of any felt “need” for Christ/God/etc.  But some feel they’re satisfied Spiritually even without being involved in “the institutional church”.

Often it seems, we graduate teens who then look for an experience of church that is similar to the addictive product we’ve called “youth ministry”.  Instead of moving into adulthood, many times they leave their churches to find alternative “young adult” or “relevant” ministries.  Sometimes these are connected to larger churches, where relationships can occur.  But often, these are simply islands of ministry, offering to “serve” the unchurched, or de-churched.  It’s easy to point a finger.  It’s more humbling to realize what that means for the ministry/church I’m pouring my life into. 

Recently a book has been published, and documentary created (view it for free until Sept. 15th) that point out the problem with much of our modern Youth Ministry.  There are some extreme beliefs in the movie (haven’t read the book yet, it’s on its’ way), such as “not believing in literal 6 day creation = evil”.  But if you can keep watching past that, there is a great call to family/home/cross-generational/Christ-centered Church.  A calling to parents (although they focus on the men usually here – a subject for another blog) to reclaim their role as the primary source of discipleship for their children.  A calling to pastors to sound that call to parents, and become a champion for them.  A calling to the entire church body to become the family for those children/youth who need fathers, mothers, grandparents, etc…who will lead them towards Christ.

Both in ministry, and as a father of 3 little girls, I want to take these truths to heart and practice.  I want these young people that I love, to be drawn to the Family of Christ, both now and in a way that grows roots for a lifetime.  These are all things we’ve been praying/working toward as a pastoral staff, ever since before attending the D6 Conference last year in Texas.  To not create a “family/home ministry”, but to raise what we’ve built, and lay a renewed foundation throughout all we do.  A foundation connecting all that we do and are, that resources families/parents/homes to be the places of discipleship/growth.  As a youth pastor,  I want to come alongside parents and support them as they raise children and teens who look forward to continuing a life-long journey of being part of the “Family of God”, and raising their own children in the same vein, toward multi-generational faithfulness and global/local transformation/Kingdom of God proclaiming.

That may begin with a repentance of worshiping the gods of modern youth ministry.  It’s not about big events, being fun or hip or energetic.  It’s not about emotional worship.  It’s not even about being ambiguously “relevant/genuine”, as if that’s all people are thirsty for.  But it’s also not about denying all these things.  It’s about being the body of Christ. 

I’m a youth pastor.  But I am also a pastor.  I love the people of my family, nursery to nursing home.  I am called to serve all of them.  Called to figure out what changes may need to happen, as with any structure what you change the foundation of – certain things may break/fall.  That may mean a very small “youth group” at times.  But that might be a great place to start…



Husband, Father, Pastor, Missionary, Writer, Poet, Friend, reader, coffee enthusiast, hockey Wing-Nut, musical participator, etc...

2 thoughts on “youth ministry as failed experiment.

  1. I love where you're going with this. I don't know what you have in mind, and would never presume to instruct you, but I have an idea.

    Perhaps you could attempt to create a more family-integrated youth-group with parents (& younger siblings? maybe) invited, or asked, to attend. This could deal with the problem of former-teens going elsewhere to find more of the same by creating a stronger family bond that could remain strong even after the teen years.
    Also, it could be good for teens that come in with unbelieving parents by exposing them to many potential role models and strong family units that would accept them with open arms.

    Just my humble idea, do what you will with it.

  2. Definitely is a start. I've always encouraged/invited parents to come visit us, but I think there must be a difference between inviting and asking.

    But this still has the focus of “the ministry we do here”, instead of the more important happenings/locations of family and home. Many parents have responded to the invitation to attend our trip to Joplin next week, and it seems like a great place to begin/continue this conversation with them…looking forward to it.

any thoughts?

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