All across our country churches meet weekly. While church is great and our participation is even greater, there are some important areas we are neglecting in the body of Christ. In this post I would like to point out the strengths and weaknesses of the various branches of ministry that I have witnessed during my experience in the field. Many of us will agree, while some of us will not. The main point is simply to bring awareness to both the positives and negatives since many seminaries tend to focus on their methods without producing the “why” in what they do. I’d like to first list all the awesome things we are doing for our youth in the church today, followed by the issues we can improve on. Lastly, to offer some possible solutions to the issues we face and their causes. Before you disregard this post as irrelevant to yourself due to your lack of work in the field of youth ministry, know that everyone in the church has a tremendous impact on our youth even if all you do is attend the worship service (Matthew 5:13, Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
The church as a body seems to be as active as ever in the lives of our young people across America. Much of this ministry is happening in areas where churches are concentrated and located, making large areas of less densely populated regions in more need. Fortunately, more churches and youth ministries are planted daily which will help fill that need. There are more programs available then there ever has been and sometimes there are most likely too many. These programs allow our young people to participate in the learning process and build on their fellowshipping skills. Some ministries focus more on youth participation in active worship allowing them to develop a more mature relationship with Christ and the discipleship that goes along with it (Matthew 21:15-16). There are many churches out there that have also developed in the area of evangelism. They actively participate in and train the young people how to be true “fishers of men”. Generous giving by the church has allowed for the building of physical resources needed in the line of youth ministry and frequent attendance of events such as worship concerts. This allows young people to see that worshipping God can be fun and enjoyable, while also showing how much the church body cares about their spiritual well-being. Investing in the youth is investing in the future Kingdom of God and the church (2 Timothy 2:1-2). A good example is how Paul invested in the ministry of Timothy, which surely helped the church become what it is today. Without the investment in youth like Timothy, we would have been many decades farther behind in the church.
You have heard the good, now it’s time for the bad and ugly. While there is nothing we can do to change the past of immense hurts the church has inflicted upon the people of God, we can put in under the blood of Christ and focus on improving the future of our children. Even though the church appears active in the ministry of the youth, the activity is part of its biggest downfall. Activity seems to have replaced true ministry for our youth. Softball games have been steadily replacing mid-week and Sunday night services, forcing those who really do desire to dive into God’s Word and worship to fade away (Hebrews 10:24-25). Fun time that was once reserved for rewards now dominates the entire worship service, teaching our youth that we don’t have to get serious about our faith and relationship with God. It is difficult to determine if a ministry that neglects its responsibility to seriously give proper Biblical instruction, serves a much greater purpose of not having a youth ministry at all. While it teaches fellowship, it also shows an improper balance of fellowship giving it priority over instruction and worship. Most “churched” areas receive a good coverage of youth ministry options for the kids in the area, while larger “unchurched” areas go without service to youth in the region. Even regions with numerous youth ministries often show areas of weakness where certain demographic groups are not being evangelized. One of the largest under-served demographic groups is youth who are part of split parent homes. It is common to see one parent who emphasizes a relationship with Christ, while the other parent does not. Sometimes neither parent has a relationship with God themselves, making it all the more difficult to reach that child. Regardless of what we say, we can claim Jesus; but the youth are watching if we do or do not live out our faith. As youth ministers, church members, or parents; we have to show our children how to live not just say it.
The positive things we do for our youth as a church shows them how much we care. Unfortunately, the negative has the opposite effect from my experience (Matthew 5:16). On one hand we support our young people by providing transportation for them to come in, teaching them Biblical principles and funding outside ministry ventures. On the other hand, we divide the adults from the youth by the things we do, say, and think. I could spend a whole separate post giving examples of these behaviors, but for the sake of time I will only give a couple. There have been many instances in which I have seen inner-city kids bussed in to a church only to find out there was a shortage of food, supplies, etc. You learn quickly in my part of the country that the fastest way to lose a child’s interest is to not have the same privileges for one as another, or allow them to go hungry while preaching the Gospel to them. There was another instance where a kid was being personally instructed by an older (“wise”) church member on how stupid he thought it was for young boys to “sag” their pants while hanging out in the street. While he surely had good intentions for this coaching session, it was highly irrelevant for a young man who faces violence and street life daily (Ephesians 4:29). That youth’s time would be much better spent hearing the basics of the Gospel first and possibly being convicted of the Holy Spirit later on how to dress (2 Corinthians 5:17). An ignorant moment such as these examples really proves to the youth that we do not truly care, but instead have hidden agendas.
There are many answers to the problems I have stated here, but we have to be willing to adopt a single loving mindset before any of them can be solved. That mindset is being in the mindset of Christ (Matthew 18:1-5). Jesus clearly tells us in scripture how important children are in the Kingdom of God. They are given priority over all others, which should give us some guidance as to how they should be prioritized in the church as well. Our best should always be given when it comes to the youth. Once a foundation is laid for them in faith, the Word is clear that if done properly they “will not depart from it”. As a church, we should provide the best resources possible towards our youth. Being over funded in ministry is practically impossible, but the reality for most of the churches is far from even being partly funded in the department youth ministry. Instead of gold plated china (yes this happens), we should probably prioritize our resources more responsibly by providing some paid passes to the next youth camp. Once we develop the mindset of Christ’s love, everything else will easily fall in line with God’s priorities. If a church board is not in line with God’s Word, there will be consequences in this life and the next. Priorities will be neglected, and the effectiveness of the ministry will be negatively impacted. As leaders of the church we should always be aware of the spiritual maturity and leadership of the individuals we place into important positions within the church. With the help of the Holy Ghost, we will be convicted of the right decisions and actions. I pray your local church can identify these issues and begin to address any problem areas as given here that you may be experiencing. As always, thank you for joining us and God Bless!
Matthew 5:13 (ESV)
13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (ESV)
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Matthew 21:15-16 (KJV)
15 And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the son of David; they were sore displeased,
16 And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?
2 Timothy 2:1-2 (ESV)
2 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men,[a] who will be able to teach others also.
Hebrews 10:24-25 (KJV)
24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
Matthew 5:16 (KJV)
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Ephesians 4:29 (ESV)
29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (KJV)
17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Matthew 18:1-5 (KJV)
18 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.