There’s been some talk lately about the future of youth ministry. I’ve posted some of my thoughts before, but when I think about the future, there are certain things I’d like to see more and certain things I would like to see less.
Up today, ten things I’d like to see less:
- Youth Ministers – Adam McLane has pointed out that there is an inverse relationships between the increasing number of staff and the decreasing attendance in churches over the last three decades. I’m not so sure adding more youth ministry staff will solve our youth ministry problems. As someone who is youth ministry staff at a church,
I’m not so sure what to do with this. [Update: I did something about this and voluntarily reduced my hours at church]
- Worship Services – Many youth ministries have their own worship services on Sunday or Wednesday night. How many other people in your church, outside of the youth ministry, go to two worship services a week (Sunday morning and the youth ministry service)? If we don’t expect adults to go to two worship services a week, why do we expect youth to do that? Do we really need to do the same thing twice in one week? At a time when people are so busy, I think ministry would be better served by doing something different than Sunday morning. Let students get their corporate worship in on Sunday morning.
- Preaching – This is related to the worship services, since preaching is usually a main component in worship services. But more importantly, students need meaningful space to speak and space for authentic relationships to be developed. Neither happens during preaching. Again, leave the preaching to Sunday morning.
- Money – I know it is common practice to judge how much a church values its youth by how much money it spends on them. Why is that? Does an increase in financial resources translate into discipleship and evangelism? Is the spread of the gospel dependent on money? China, Africa, and South America seem to say, “no.” Also, see #1. Try cutting your budget by 10% every year and see what happens.
- Calendars – I had an interesting experience the other week. I was having a heck of a time getting students to show up to an event that was on the calendar. I gave out notice, told people about it, the usual. But due to extracurricular activities or something, I can’t remember exactly what happened, I think I ended up canceling the event. Then I found out that a group of students self-organized a Bible study with their peers through texting and Facebook in a matter of days. And a lot of people showed up. In addition to reinforcing #1 (they didn’t need an adult to coordinate or lead this), it also made me try and figure out a way to be more spontaneous with discipleship. I’m not sure how to go about this quite yet, but putting things on calendars isn’t working very well for me anymore.
- Programs – This goes together with less money and less calendars, but it also has to do with people’s (legitimate) continuing skepticism towards institutions. And what are programs other than institutionalized forms of discipleship? Discipleship is a personal and communal process, not an institutional program.
- Hype – Maybe I’m biased because I’m a horrible cheerleader, but I’m pretty sure that the gospel isn’t well-served by hype. To me, hype is irreverent. Hype wants to mask reality. Hype is afraid of the truth. Hype is good for getting people elected but tends to be short on results. Let’s jettison trying to drum up any hype surrounding our ministries or youth ministry trends in general.
- Games – Surely we don’t need more of them. So we could probably do with less.
- T-Shirts – In case you missed my previous thoughts on this, read them here. I’m kind of serious.
- Lock-Ins – Come on, we can all agree on this one, can’t we?
What am I leaving out? What else could we stand to use less?
[Don’t like the negativity? Read 10 Things Youth Ministry Needs More.]
Love this post – and I completely agree! We have restructured our services and they no longer include games. It’s been over a month and not a single student has asked where the games went!! Also, I am doing less preaching and more group Bible study/discussion. It gets my students in the Bible at least once a week 🙂 and it allows them to completely interact with the service rather than listen to me for 30 minutes.
Youth ministry is definitely changing and it’s a good thing!!
Thanks for commenting, Mike. Sounds like you are making great strides.
Now, when you figure out how to do calendar-less youth ministry, let me know. I’m trying to figure that one out.
Linda Pizza says
I regret to disagree with you. I rarely purchase t-shirts due to budget confines – However, I find that when do something significant it helps to make everyone feel like they are a group, it gives kids a feeling of solidarity. Games are also good, if you choose a game that teaches something. Food, when have you seen kids who are not hungry – not only for the soul but for the body as well. I see things quite opposite from you in regards worship – have the kids do the worship service – I find that when they have a stake in it they are more committed to it.
Money is always an issue but spending money on youth is not. Good youth ministers are essential to youth minister. Some volunteers are good, others just take up space. Good ministers need to be rewarded, not only in heaven, but here on earth. They deserve a just wage, they have bills to pay.
I am a director of faith formation and I know how youth ministry is the first to go when money is tough. I also know that so little is spent on youth that we are losing them to places that have a vibrant youth leader. I think it is wonderful that you can support your family on a pay cut.. Personally they did budget cuts here and I now take home 250.00 a week and they cut my hours down to 30 a week. Can you live on that..I have to rent a single room because I can no longer pay 650 in rent. What works for you does not necessarily work for others.
Vera Jackson says
We all need to remember that there is no “cookie cutter” way to do youth ministry. Some things work for one and others don’t. We start at 7:30 pm Fri with an hour of hanging out, 20 minutes of worship, 20-30 mins of teaching, 5-10 mins for altar call/prayer, then close with an hour of games to create comradery and everyone must participate. We stress that Youth Group is a ministry, not a social club where some are accepted and others aren’t. We stress a ministry of inclusion and every teen is a minister who shows the love of God to their peers.
It is a joy for our youth group to have a time of worship. In fact, they loved it so much that our youth formed a worship band, practice together and lead their peers into exciting times of telling God how much they love Him! They jump and raise their hands and shout unto the Lord! It has actually caused new members to look forward to being on the team when they mature in Christ. This actually produces leaders among the youth also. Preaching is another time the youth look forward to, we keep it short and interactive. Who wants to sit a long time after school on a Friday night?! We want to hear the hearts of our youth and allow them share and ask questions. They really appreciate that. Many times we get real practical: do role playing to share Jesus in school during activities, team sports, clubs etc.. Our teens sit in regular service on Sunday mornings and appreciate their service on Friday. In fact, once a year we have the youth group run service and the congregation loves the teen worship team.
We also do some major events to kick off seasons where we encourage teens to invite friends. Not one of these events close without giving a chance for teens to give their life to Jesus. Many of them have remained in youth group and still talk about the first time they came to youth. Sometimes we ask the congregation to sow into the youth and the response is amazing because they see the fruit of their seed! We show videos to the congregation so they can see what God is doing in this next generation. I do agree that you don’t need a lot of money to do effective, great and fun things. You can do a lot with a little imagination and creativity.
Our youth group does not have T-shirts but the teens have been asking for them, so this is a possibility for us. Let your teens be involved in some of these decisions and you’ll be surprised at the fantastic results.
As far as calendars and dates, this is especially necessary for parents. We have had no problem putting things on the calendar and many times have 100% involvement. Text communication with parents and teens have been very efficient! FB doesn’t work for us (it’s old school for the teens in our area) but Instagram does. Have one of your teens be the Instagram post person for activities and events.
Also, we do like discipleship programs and have one called “Heroes Program”. It is a six month intense youth discipleship program that teens must apply for and commit to and parents are asked if they can commit as well since they have to drive their children. These teens do Bible study before Sunday service, have monthly church clean up hours, come early to Youth Group for prayer, fun but instructional events and must be part of a ministry in the church (usher, greeter, kids church, etc.). They each have a mentor and do daily devotions through group text. They become leaders and absolutely love the challenge of pressing into God. We stress relationship through the Bible studies and not “works” related approach to God. Then our pastor rewards their diligence by sending them to a Heroes Camp in North Carolina for one week. It is so awesome and life changing!
We all go through seasons of change and these seasons should be embraced because this means that new situations/plans/times are on their way from God. Youth Ministry is not for the fainthearted which I’m sure you know. So do and don’t do what God is instructing you to do or not do. Jesus did what He heard from the Father. Blessings to you.
Bryce Measures says
Hello! I saw your note about a discipleship program called ” Heroes Program”. For the last year ive been developing the same exact thing! it was surreal reading what yall are able to do and ask students for. Im seeking you out because I was wondering if you had curriculum on it, development plans, standards , set rules, etc. Anything to help us develop the program we call “The Village” into what its meant to be : )
Mike, what is your youth service schedule since revamping?
Totally with you on this.
Am I a total party pooper if I add “less junk food”–or less food in general? Maybe that goes under “hype.”
Also, and I’m not sure quite how to say this, less orthodoxy. By that I mean less worry about youth giving the right answer and more on having genuine conversations that might or might not end up where we would like.
Ah yes, junk food! I already banned energy drinks, but that’s another good one.
Oh, and on orthodoxy, I think I would replace that with authenticity maybe? People need a safe environment in order to say what they are really thinking and feeling.
Jeff Greathouse says
I am really trying to figure out # 5 and # 1 as a combined effort. How can we (I) develop the ministry where it is more “organic” (not fond of the over-popular word) where groups spring up and do a study, do a service project, fellowship event … etc
Do I (we) create groups (for some structure) and let them do the stuff or do we let it all be “spontaneous” ….
The more I try and move towards a organic form of discipleship, the more it seems to me that full-time staff become less necessary. I’m trying to figure out where, or if, a full-time staff person fits into all this.
debra blanarik says
I finding SOAPing a great way to deciple any age. S-Scripture O-observation A-application P-prayer. Group of 2 or more read a Chapter(or More)of Scripture out loud, pic one of those scriptures and write down there personal Observation. Then write down how it Appiles to them. Then Pray for God to help them apply it to their life. SOAPing works with all ages at least from 7 and up, personnal experience. SOAPing is a great way to let all hear from God in His personal way. I have used this in other countries and it works. Not my “invention” but itis a great way to teach and journal! You can do it anywhere not just in the “church building.”
Jon Snyder says
mucho props on this post, matt. I think this sentiment has been creeping through the church over the last couple years. i.e.:
i don’t preach,
we cut our budget in half this year,
we have one big event per quarter,
don’t do programs unless they serve a bigger purpose,
hype is not allowed (we even choose our events on this requirement),
we do a game maybe once a month. if we want games, we do a game night
we’ve never done t-shirts
our last lock-in was before I started here
you know what? the kids turn out ok. in fact, they are even learning how to pursue God on their own.
Now, post about how GTD is working out for you.
Historical perspective helps this argument, too. For 1900 years of Christianity, youth ministry didn’t exist. It is possible to disciple young people differently than the current popular trends.
On GTD… I guess I could work on that post.
Nick Ballard says
Very interesting post! It really got me thinking…I agree with much of what you are saying. I believe that today’s youth ministry, in general, is a type of robotic-machine, doing what either (a) has always been done, or (b) what has worked for another church, so it must work at mine. I’m pretty much sold on your list #5-10. It definitely makes my stomach turn when I see an entire youth group wearing the same t-shirts at some type of event. Games are games, they can be done by anyone, anywhere. I’ve always thought that youth ministry should be a place where students get something they couldn’t get somewhere else, an experience, corporate worship, etc. Frankly, youth ministries do a lot of things that can be done somewhere else, and most of the time done better somewhere else.
I’m not sold on #1-4. Maybe because I am a full-time youth pastor, are you saying that some churches are just flat-out overdoing it with youth ministry staff, and that one or two people are sufficient, or are you saying that full-time youth ministers just aren’t necessary? I understand what you are saying about student worship services, however, I feel that a student worship service led by students with preaching geared towards them can be an effective way to connect them with God and also begin to give them roles for church leadership. I agree that if preaching is the only type of teaching they get, it’s not the most effective, for sure. I believe a major emphasis needs to be placed on small groups and mentor-type relationships. Money, I just don’t know about. When you have the Holy Spirit, that’s all you need, money is just money…are you suggesting that the end goal when taking 10% away each year, is to get to a $0 budget?
I love your thoughts, seriously, I’m just curious, what does a youth ministry look like without all of these things? This is not a rhetorical question, it’s a question to seriously generate more discussion…because I am very intrigued! I agree, we need to simplify, and less can definitely be more…are we saying less planning and more organic-type of ministry?
Nick Ballard from JBU?
In my statements, I’m using broad strokes and saying things “in general.” There are always small pockets where churches will buck the trend, but what I am saying is what I think needs to happen generally across western-style youth ministry (or if you read into what I am saying, what needs to happen to the western church in general).
#1 – Youth Ministers. For 1900 years, “youth ministry” didn’t exist, and only until the last 30 years or so has it become common to see a full-time staff person dedicated to youth ministry. Historically speaking, youth ministers are not necessary for faith formation. Now, you might argue that adolescence didn’t exist either for the first 1900ish years of Christianity either, so that is why youth ministers are now necessary. However, Robert Epstein seems to suggest in Teen 2.0 that adolescence isn’t a necessary life-stage and that it is actually harmful to our students. So, maybe by catering to that particular life-stage we are actually doing more harm than good.
Furthermore, go back to the original assertion that as churches have become more professional and hired more and more staff, the church in America has actually gotten smaller. If that’s the case, maybe there is something structurally about over-staffing that is unhealthy for our churches, youth ministry included. I thinking that perhaps youth ministry itself if one of the fruits of copy-cat syndrome in the church whereby we see what the “big church down the street” is doing and so we copy them by “investing” in a youth minister and youth ministry.
#2 – Worship Services. On worship services, if students can lead youth worship, then they can lead adult worship. And, there is wealth of evidence that students who have worship services catered to them have a very difficult time integrating into adult roles in churches when they graduate. They want youth-group still but aren’t going to find it, so they leave the church. The exception are churches that have youth group for adults, i.e. college ministry, but that is simply delaying the inevitable.
#4 – Money. I would be willing to bet that per-capita youth ministry tends to have the highest number of dollars spent on it as any other program in the church. It has become common practice for churches to simply hire a youth minister as the second, or maybe third, full-time staff person after a senior pastor. Why is the senior pastor expected to deal with 150-200+ people in the congregation and the youth minister with less than 50?
And on my 10% budget suggestion, it’s a practical exercise for youth ministers just to see if it can be done. It seems like one of the goals of the youth minister is to increase the budget of the youth ministry in order to show how much a church values its youth. Budget cuts mean that the church doesn’t care about its students. I’m just saying we need to quit basing so much of our ministry around money. As a spiritual practice, I think it would be helpful for youth ministers to voluntarily cut their budget by 10% and make due. If youth ministers have some visceral reaction to the thought of voluntarily reducing their budget by 10%, then my point is proven. Maybe the 10% number should be higher.
Those are my thoughts, for now.
Benjer McVeigh says
Awesome…I take some issue with #3, but perhaps I believe even preaching should be interactive. By no means should we take away time for relationships to stand in front of students and talk at them. But I believe it is possible to give instruction in a sermon-type environment to students in addition to Sunday worship…as long as the relationships are there. It doesn’t necessarily have to be either/or.
Thanks for the jolt…needed it. Especially #1 and #4.
Thanks for commenting, Benjer. As Tim says below, if students simply aren’t attending worship services on Sunday morning, it makes it harder to get rid of youth-specific worship & preaching. On the other hand, working on getting them integrated and involved in the adult worship services might yield more fruit than creating youth-only services. I know it’s hard for many to think about getting rid of youth worship services and preaching simply because that tends to be viewed as the anchor of a youth ministry program.
Benjer McVeigh says
True…we actually don’t have worship through music more than once a month in our large group gatherings for that very reason. We do not have a youth service that mirrors what goes on with the wider body in our auditorium. We are clear to students that their first priority should be to be in a worship service, and that I’d rather have them there than in our youth ministry if they have to choose only one. So when I say preaching is important, I’m not implying a full-on worship service, but rather something that happens on a regular basis in the context of our large group gatherings, in addition to discussion (we set up our rooms in round tables and often throw out discussion questions during a “talk”), prayer, interactive worship, and relationship building.
Love the conversation!
Dan Haugh says
Great post and thoughts. I think all youth pastors and youth leaders should read through and evaluate. We need come to different conclusions or realizations, but the process of self-evaluation on a regular basis in vital for sustainable youth ministry.
here in metro NY, “programs” calendars and the such are difficult due to heightened busyness. We strive to be more but do less.
also, money is generally not the issue. it is vision, good stewardship, and passion that often lacks..at least in this area
Even as a full-time youth pastor, I agree with #1 as well.
more volunteers need to be trained and equipped
“We strive to be more but do less.”
Well-put. Thanks for weighing in, Dan.
Thanks Matt, I always enjoy these posts (Adam’s too – these are great points). I think most valuable is the willingness to deconstruct it all, especially those that personally affect us and our families.
I think in some ways, I’ve batted around the lineup. I’m back to we really need solid youth ministry to serve our families (I think it’s most missional). I just posted something the other day called Youth Ministry and the Future Church – it’s just the intro but would welcome your thoughts.
More importantly, I am proud to say that I have not done a lock-in 7 years. When 20 years comes, I’m buying myself something expensive, lavish, time-consuming and completely contradictory to my identity and ministry – to celebrate how ridiculous lock-ins were. And if it pleases you :), we have been reducing our budget and my salary each year as well. Sadly, my context is becoming less and less sustainable for my family (but don’t feel bad for me, all is well).
I appreciate Nick’s words, I think he offers a respectable pushback. I do think there’s a place for all of these things. I am not sold on abandoning professional pastors and relying solely on lay leadership. I am in a congregational church, many people are involved, and while there’s goodness in that, it comes at quite the cost to the body.
Further, there are some church’s worship services that really don’t minister to teens through many of the aspects of the service, including the preaching. As you know, countless churches are missing teens. For those churches that have made an intentional decision to include teens in reaching their audience, 2 & 3 should then be taken real seriously.
Will have to check out Robert Epstein’s Teen 2.0 thanks for mentioning that. I see adolescence has a relatively new phenomena thus, the need for professional youth ministry.
In short however, and I’m sure most will agree, in wrestling with all these points in some way, I really feel that whatever we do, it must, must be about discipleship. Similar to Nick, our youth ministries should be places of meaning and invite students to life in the Kingdom of Jesus.
Thanks for our thoughts, Tim. I read your intro post yesterday and am looking forward to reading more of your thoughts.
“I am in a congregational church, many people are involved, and while there’s goodness in that, it comes at quite the cost to the body.”
I’m assuming you mean that the time and effort necessary to carry on ministry is difficult for laypersons to sustain? I might agree, which is why I have calendars and programs on the list as well. I don’t think we can continue doing what we’ve been doing, just with volunteers. I think that the structure needs to change in order to lay leadership to be sustainable.
Yeah, that’s what I mean.
Indeed, over the years I have seen many youth ministries go without a youth pastor. Some have done a better job than others but as you mention, sustainability is always key. Anyone know of any studies between professional/lay led ministries? Would be curious to know the metrics of that too. (Define “successful”, define “healthy” … 😉
Appreciate you reading my posts. I like the new look here. Didn’t see it at first (bc I usually read through RSS and to answer why I read – it’s a great blog that encourages thought. Only reason I don’t read/comment more is the time factor and not related to you or your content). Keep up the great work here and especially in your home and ministry. Grace and peace.
There are so many studies that need to be done in youth ministry. This is just one of them. I’m not aware of any.
Nick Ballard says
This is good stuff…I love the conversation. More times than not, we do things in youth ministry because we’ve read in some popular book that’s the way to do it, or we learned it at a conference. Talking like this helps us to examine really why we do the things we do, and if it’s really the most effective way in reaching students for Christ and aiding in the discipleship process.
While it’s true that youth ministry began in response to the beginning of adolescence, I don’t believe that getting rid of youth ministry in churches will get rid of adolescence. The church changes with culture, and though that worked pre-adolescence days, I’m not so sure it would be as effective today. Can churches survive without a full-time youth pastor on staff? I believe they can, and many churches do. But are churches better off without them? Are students better off without them? Again, not rhetorical questions.
The way many youth ministries are running these days are like mini-churches, a church within a church. There’s worship, evangelism, discipleship, services, mission trips, everything that a Senior Pastor oversees, a youth pastor oversees with the students. Matt, I love what you are getting at, and I think this is right, but moving youth ministries so that they are not a church within a church, but a ministry within the church, part of the larger body, not a body on their own.
I feel like it really depends on each individual church when determining if a youth worship service is needed or not. Some youth services have become a large inviting time for students, a non-threatening place where they feel welcome among their peers. Some youth services are cliques that only serve their own purposes.
I’ve really enjoyed reading all of these comments on here. I love youth workers talking about things that Holy Spirit is putting on their hearts. Thank, Matt for continuing to spark talks like this.
I think this requires its own post.
Adam Walker Cleaveland says
Ummm, this might make me bad – but I LOVE designing t-shirts and love youth group t-shirts. I’m all about the t-shirts.
But lock-ins. Of course. Yes. I hate them. Every part of them. Except when I’m having fun at them. But that’s normally not a lot during the event. And I hate how I feel at the end of a lock-in. Ugh.
Pretty helpful thoughts on this….as far as calendaring/programs/etc….yah, I’m experiencing the same troubles. And I have often thought about what a program-less youth ministry looks like….not sure I know, but I’d like to figure that out.
We all have our vices, Adam. 😉
Jon Wasson says
Matt – great list. here are my thoughts/additions. I’d like to see less and less of youth ministry consultants. Unfortunately I think we are really seeing more and more of them. I think there are a lot of former youth workers who got tired of actually doing youth work and have decided to consult. Now I know that I am young and I appreciate the voice of older/seasoned youth workers – but if they have the wisdom/experience/knowledge to consult, why are they not in a church implementing their own ideas first? Isn’t that what the Church needs? I think this might be related to my understanding that ministry, youth or otherwise, is so very contextual and from listening to consultants tell me to do things certain ways that simply don’t “work” in my context. I’ve tried countless curriculum and countless “professional” strategies all to no avail. Why? Because the person designing the curriculum and/or strategy is not familiar with my context. I realize this might be unpopular…but you made the list, so I thought I would add? Would love to hear your feedback.
I also feel the tension of programming/calendaring. We just shifted our entire junior high ministry from a every wednesday night deal (pretty classic 90’s youth group) to a more organic network of groups of students who meet once a week (at a time the students decide) with an adult volunteer or staff member. This came from the conviction that youth ministry is less about inviting students to a rigid program but about inviting them to share in the life of the church – both with each other and with adults who love them. these groups are literally called ‘life together groups’ and have really allowed us to quadruple the amount of adults who pour into students lives on a consistent basis. it’s also taken a lot of pressure off of my staff to put together a program every week for the students to consume and be entertained. It actually has taken more energy during the week to share life with students this way – but its the kind of energy spending that is life giving and not draining like a program.
I feel you on the preaching/worship service gig too. We’ve changed our SS program to not mimic worship services but revolve around prayer and discussion. Thanks for your thought dude!
Also, do you use re:form curriculum for your confirmation?
Nice quality comment here. Love it.
I’ve talked with some of my friends about youth ministry consulting, and while it seems like there are more and more, we are wondering how many are really making a living off of it. I kind of understand how some people might be better at youth ministry consulting than actual youth ministry… it’s just a gifting thing. The thing for me is that hiring a youth ministry consultant is an action that in and of itself has certain assumptions underlying it that I’m not sure are helpful. It’s like hiring a typewriter repair man. Sure, he might be able to fix your typewriter, but is that really what you want?
Sounds like you are doing some good things with your anti-program. I know it’s hard for many because of the cornerstone-type role a midweek worship service has, but it does relieve a lot of pressure for other things to happen. Good for you for making the leap.
Nope, no confirmation curriculum. Pastor has been doing confirmation for years and has his own deal he uses.
Thanks for another great post Matt. I know it’s great because I both love and am disturbed by it. Must be prophetic. As I ruminate on your thoughts instead I tackling one of the lists here is what I wonder…
Your comments seem to counter the reactionary response to culture that youth ministry has engaged itself in the last 50 years in particular. That’s why your comments are so helpful…my concern is that we don’t swing the pendulum so far the other way that we through out the actual Good, Godly, Holy Spirit stuff that has been a part of Youth ministry the last 50 years too.
I’m thinking after this post you should call yourself not the “John the Baptist” youth minister calling folks to repent out in the wilderness 🙂
Thanks for challenging me today.
Full disclosure: I lead a youth worship service (which breaks off into small group discussions half way through), make t-shirts, do programs, and utilize facebook, media, and the web (hype?).
The danger in swinging the pendulum is that we think that success lies in our methodology rather than the Spirit.
I tend to think of it less as a process of pendulum swinging and more as a process of deconstruction. Hopefully the deconstruction process is simply tearing away layers that are working against the Spirit, or at a minimum things that are not filled with the Spirit. Not the best-parsed theology there, but hopefully you get the basics of what I mean.
PS – Using Facebook doesn’t mean hype. To paraphrase a famous supreme court case: “I know hype when I see it.”
Tom Schwolert says
Gotta weigh in on this one a little, I “mostly” agree with
you. 1.Youth Ministers- I think this is more about re-defining what
youth ministers need to be doing. The church is declining for
multiple reasons. How does McLain know it is because of too many
church staff? Is there a study on this somewhere? The church needs
effective leaders. 2. Worship- For the most part, I don’t think
Sunday morning worship is cutting it with youth. Maybe “youth
worship” needs to be recognized as real worship rather than just
the “adult worship” on Sundays. If a “youth worship” is on Sundays,
is that okay? 3. Preaching- Define “preaching.” It can be highly
relational in its delivery. If you are only looking at preaching in
the traditional sense, I agree with you. 4. Money- Money does not
equal ministry. I agree there is not always a direct correlation,
but I think that is because of a failure of leadership and the way
we use the money. 5. Calendars- They are for parents not the kids.
6. Programs- no qualms with this one of course. In my experience,
much of the best stuff simply “happens.” 7. Hype- Agreed 8. Games-
yep 9. T-shirts- For some reason people like to wear them in our
culture but they have no real impact. 10. Lock-ins- You won’t get
any push back from me on this one. Great blog Matt!
1. The question between correlation is always in play when talking about statistics. We’ll never know if one caused the other. Maybe you could say that it would be even worse if we didn’t have the full-time staff we do. What Adam is saying that in spite of having way more church professionals today than we have in the past, we are still declining. And I am saying that if churches are declining, yet staffs are increasing, then a higher and higher percentage of church budgets must be allocated to church staff rather than other things, usually outreach and mission. Which, obviously, could have negative affects on the church.
2. Is Sunday worship any more transformative for adults than youth? That is the question that needs to be addressed. Or are adults more willing to be placated on Sunday mornings than youth?
3. Preaching: one personal talking, many people listening. See #2.
5 & 6. If the best stuff “simply happens” then why do we program & calendar it? That’s what I’m getting at. I’m not saying we should plan things and then not tell anyone because we’re against calendars.
Thanks for your input Tom!
Josh Robinson says
Wow, this is good discussion!
I do have to say that #1-4 are a little off and vague from my perspective.
#1 – Youth pastors to me must shift from a “lone ranger” approach and develop student leaders and give away the ministry, etc. I think that is what you are saying. Invest in adult leaders, families and students to help them grow spiritually. I do think churches need effective leaders to invest in people, not sure how this fits in the post but it is biblical.
#2 – Worship services – I think you brough out a good point but I have seen students develop their giftings during student led worship services and build their ministry to one another. I think they are helpful if they are done right and not just a “big party” but a passionate, student led worship experience.
#3 – Preaching – I think the term” preaching” has taken a bad rap because of so many “yellers’ that turn people off. I think biblicial preaching is not only helpful but needed with students. It should be relevant, interactive and creative. If we put aside preaching the Word to students, we are heading in a bad direction in student ministry. It sets the vision and direction for the small group leaders to continue to invest in the students. Especially I have seen much growth in our message based small group approach. At the same time time, if the person “preaching” is ineffective and unprepared, then a Bible discussion with small groups is a better approach probably.
All of the rest of the discussion is good stuff, but t-shirts can be nice if they are designed well! If they are lame, then well, they are lame, don’t print them. haha.
Hype – yes, we need consistency in relationships with students and not just “hype.”
Lock-Ins – personally DISLIKE them but have done them in the past few years and have seen students come to know Christ so I’m not 100% against it but definitely on the lack of sleep!
Good discussion, thanks for the challenge.
Thanks for stopping by, Josh.
1. Any group will have leadership. You don’t have to pay them to have leadership. In fact, even when paying church staff, they still aren’t necessarily the leaders due to other factors at work. Yes, the church needs effective leaders. I’m suggesting that maybe hiring staff people has a net negative effect.
2. If they are able to provide leadership in youth worship, then why not integrate them into Sunday morning worship?
3. Preaching is good and necessary, I agree. But I’m saying leave that to Sunday morning. There are ways to get students in the Word and to cast vision and equip small group leaders without preaching.
Josh Robinson says
1. I agree with you on paid staff doesn’t mean that they are truly “leaders” but if called as ministers, should be! We’ve seen parents called into ministry here and its been great to see more and more people taking ownership of the ministry.
2. We integrate students in the main worship through musical instruments, running lights, stage hands , running computer and all. It has been great to see the students integrated in the main worship but it needs to be more so in the future if the church is developing true leaders. Wednesday nights are becoming more student led as well and is our goal.
3. I don’t agree with you on taking teaching out of the youth worship experience. I understand your point about leaving it to Sunday, but if done right and with clarity it is effective and will always be effective. Breakout groups help take the message (20-30 minutes at most) and unpack it for the students to apply to their life.
Again, thanks for the challenging post.
Great post! Had RT this one! Thanks for your thoughts and openess!
Brit Windel says
you’re a kiss up Phil… go back to making Geiko commercials 🙂
Well, I appreciate it, Phil. Don’t listen to Brit.
Brit Windel says
This has really got me thinking how close we are to some great things for our church and ministry. I agree with your top 10, but am more curious as to what radical reformer will be nailing the 95 thesis for youth ministry to Youth Specialties & Simply Youth Ministry, Southern Baptist Conventions, Dare 2 Shares, Acquire the Fire, Student Life, Super Summer, Youth Ministry Camps… etc. and others doors. These are all great providers of resources and quite frankly I use them and work for a few. But I see a culture that has found a niche and is saturated with ideas and resources, but it simply drowns the already drenched.
How does one change a cultural philosophy of ministry and development when it is so focused and saturated that the way it is doing things is the way Jesus intended it to be?
Honestly, if you read between the lines on this post, you’ll see that my ecclesiological assumptions out of which I am constructing my arguments affect the whole church, not just youth ministry.
What I am trying to do (I’m not sure how well) is to articulate what some of the implications are for youth ministry within an emerging/missional/postmodern theological landscape.
I’m still torn in a major way with trying to implement some of these things in traditional churches who are stuck in a “Youth Ministry 2.0” (which is, truthfully, ecclesiology 2.0). I’m not sure if it is possible. I just read a post today about a book that says that it’s more effective to close struggling churches and plant new ones than to try to re-culture and rehabilitate struggling churches.
*whack* *whack* *whack*
Brit Windel says
I totally do see that. It is a struggle because it is less about youth culture and more about church culture, it is that which has become excepted.
In response to the blog you read… if that is true what that book said, how does that really make any difference? You close a dying church, start a new hip church that then is filled those same (some new) faces that killed the last one. Moving the cards around in your hand doesn’t change your hand.
Read it for yourself here: Thinking About Church Planting.
John Chappell says
Great Post! One of the things that scares me is when we talk about the youth having their own service and so it basically hinders them from being able to ever join in the main church experience. I believe I have seen this and I am a youth pastor that has a Thur night High school night.. Fri night Middle school night while also running weekend services during the service in a side area from the main service. I think the hard part is I think most youth pastors sense this but Know that they either can’t talk to their Senior Pastor about this problem or they won’t listen. I am def not in a church that views Youth Ministry as baby-sitting but I don’t know if this will change until many of us youth pastors are then Pastors and then We can make the change! I agree a Church service should reach all generations. It seems like Common sense but all of a sudden like you talked about there are hundreds of youth ministries running mini church’s in Church’s because the main church will scare away or not be able to reach the next generation. That scares me! I love some of your thoughts on worship and why preach a sermon? I think these are great questions to ask. I do have to say Hate the Tshirts.. I can say never done it! but.. I have to proudly standup for the Lock In! I feel like I was hit by a truck for a few days after but.. if promoted right… we reach so many students and they also raise alot of money! I’m not saying that there’s isn’t better ways to reach students or raise money but.. this one for me is alot of fun, and the success is in the details i guess. God Bless!
Wow, you make money on lock-ins? I tend to barely break even.
Thanks for your thoughts!
I read the post and I agree with some things however I disagree with some as well. I understand completely what you are saying about Sunday Nights and Lock-Ins but I don’t agree with it for the following reason. In the bible it says we are to make disciples. We are to reach out to non believers. I think that this is a good way to reach out to non believers who are teenagers. I am twenty years old and I can tell you that I, as many, went through a point in my life were I gave up on God and for the Church to do Sunday Night Service with music and worship and fellowship and for the Church to hold Lock-Ins once every quarter or so where you can just interact with Christian teens your own age and talk with people about problems that is common for teens and to hear about topics that are going on in every day teenage life is helpful. Granted I have been to many churches around here and my church does things a lot different then other churches so maybe that is why I agree because I feel this church is making the right moves to help reach out to our community, especially teenagers, who are hurting and need God in their life.
I am not saying that what you said is wrong at all. I do agree that you don’t need a lock-in every month or a Sunday Night Service every sunday night if you are just going to preach but I do think that to have a lock-in every 3/4 months is a good idea and I do think that having a Sunday Night Service where you can just come to the alter and worship God without having the thought in the back of your mind that the adults behind you are judging you for the way you dress or look is a good idea. If you would like to discuss this further please feel free to e-mail me.
Have a blessed day/night.
I agree with you. I have been watching so many stereotypes on my Church that sometimes I feel that people is not enjoying the fellowship time anymore but the hype and the t-shirts seems to say otherwise. Is good to be authentic even if everybody else do the same things once and once again.I would love to read an artcle of you now speaking about women’s ministry. That would be tremendously helpful. I will look at your past writings to see if I can find something about it. Keep the good work!
Emiliano Moran says
I know I’m a little late coming to this post… but I just came stumbled upon it and it really hit home! Thanks for thinking outside of the box of “cookie cutter” youth ministry and encouraging others to do the same!
Quick question for those of you that have cut games out of your services already… What are you doing in the place of a game? For us, the big advantage in having a game in service (in a perfect world) is to add a “fun” and interactive element to the service. Something that changes things up from the monotonous of just having the students sit and listen to some speak for the whole service. I think games are great sometimes, but I keep finding that more and more students seem to be checking out when it comes time for the game. We are considering cutting games in our service, but I’m at a loss of a creative way to still achieve a good “icebreaker” moment.
Better late than never! I didn’t say you can’t do games, I just suggested that we could do with less of them. That doesn’t mean you have to get rid of them during your Wednesday night service (although I don’t really see any harm), but youth ministry goes beyond just Wednesday night services. In fact, I’ve never had a Wednesday night “service.” But that also has to do with my context. Yours might be different. The fact that you are equating youth ministry with worship services gets at my point. The two are not identical.
Dan Kellander says
So, after about 25 years in youth ministry, I have a few thoughts:
-Youth Pastors. I think every church that can reasonably afford one should hire one. It needs to be someone who is looking to stay though, not use the position as a stepping stone. I feel the same way about young singles pastors, children’s pastors, and any other group that would benefit from someone who’s job it is to champion them, and be there for them.
-Worship services. I agree. I think that the church is better served having youth participate in, and and be a part of the corporate worship service. I also think there needs to be some major teaching in churches to all ages, that worship is not just music. Music is a part of worship, but does not constitute all of worship.
-Preaching. Sometimes this is needed, but for the most part I think that opportunities for students to ask follow-up questions to the lesson is a much more powerful method of teaching.
-Money. Always an issue. Many ways to deal with this. None make everyone happy.
-Calendars. This is primarily for the parents and adults who oversee the youth pastor. It sort of validates that they are doing their job. One thing that I did was to start putting all the school activities on the calendar also. This helped balance how many things I offered, and when to offer them. It also gave recognition to the other things that students were involved in.
-Programs. Just like curriculum should never replace scripture, programs should never replace ministry. There are some times that programs are effective though,
-Hype. I think hype is ok as long as it is backed up by depth. It should be the last element, not the first, but it can be a very effective outreach tool.
Games. Again, games can’t replace ministry. What we started doing is telling students that we would be playing games from 6:30 to 7:00 and then the worship/teaching/small groups part of the evening would start. This gave the option for students to be a part of it if they wanted to. Let me say this though, regarding games/activities. At my first church, we played football and broomball almost every Sunday through the fall and winter. Some adults challenged me on whether this was a productive use of my time. I did a one year study, keeping track of attenders etc. After that year I was able to show empirically, that Sunday afternoon recreation had brought more people, both youth and their families, into our church family than all other outreach activities combined. Don’t underestimate the power of these opportunities.
-t-shirts. Every event out there has a t-shirt tied to it. If your going to do a t-shirt, make sure there is a reason for it. Not just a chance to print a t-shirt.
Lock-ins. Lock-ins have faded away for the most part. I would never abandon them, I just heavily limited how many happened. Maybe 1 a year. Only if the students are “begging” for it and commit to helping plan it. I found a good alternative was to have a late night event that ended at 1:00 am. This gave the feel of a lock-in without all the crabbiness. And it left them wanting more instead of wearing them, and me, out.
Just a few thoughts from an old guy.
Thanks for the thoughts, old man.