Do We Need to Change Youth Ministry?

Do We Need to Change or Rebirth Youth Ministry?

Conversations on the Rebirth of Youth Ministry

After reading Reinventing Youth Ministry by Wayne Rice, I realized one thing: What we “expert” youth pastors are trying to do differently really isn’t all that different or innovative. Furthermore, we don’t need to do things differently or “change” – at least not from the ways “effective” ministry has been done.

I stumbled upon this blog post by a new favorite fellow blogger Paul Martin:

I love what he writes – well, most of it (and honestly, I loved 99% of this and I love the rest of his blog!! So this is just a healthy conversation).

I don’t necessarily believe youth ministries need to re-invent the wheel and take divergent paths.

Some other bloggers have weighed into this idea of re-birthing, re-inventing, and change in the future of youth ministry. Read Lars Rood and Josh Griffin.

Here’s my take: There will NOT be one type of youth ministry (contemplative, emerging, etc.) in the future. That part I agree with. But youth leaders do not need to start inventing all kinds of divergent paths.

It’s simple. We need to do what effective youth ministries have always done. Go big in attraction and get small in relationship, all the while pointing to Jesus.

But we’ve always done it that way, one might say. So obviously we need to re-create how we do things because our current model is not working.

Have we always done it that way? Or have we attempted to do it that way (go big and get small) in an incredibly poor manner?

I’ve been to plenty of churches that say, “We tried to do contemporary worship.” Well, effective contemporary worship isn’t throwing two acoustic guitar players who just started playing and one 11-year old drummer.

Same with effective youth ministry. Have you really tried to build an attractive, energetic youth worship experience? Have you really attempted to train up leaders to get relational with students?

My guess is we are turning to other “divergent paths” because we aren’t effective at leading in these two categories. Don’t re-birth anything. Just get back to the basics.

Center on Jesus. Illuminate him in every way, shape, and form.

Then, go big and get small, and do it exceptionally.

Stay simple and embrace this paradox.

What do you think the “rebirth” of Youth Ministry should look like if anything?

8 thoughts on “Do We Need to Change Youth Ministry?

  1. Wow, a favorite! Thanks.

    Course correction from me: I don’t think youth ministry has to move in divergent paths, but I hope that it starts to realize its freedom in moving that way.

    One thing I react to (and it’s me, not you) is the word “attract.” My culture uses that word in what I think is an unhealthy way. I think for many the attractional model of youth ministry, and ministry in general, is a failed attempt at the bait and switch marketing of the 80’s. You probably didn’t mean that, but any time I hear that word my shoulders jerk straight up into a cringe. 😉

    • Paul, definitely. I’ve loved reading your blog and digging through a bit.

      Oh man, I agree. Some words are so LOADED it’s crazy. Attractional, at least for me, has recovered some of its’ meaning. I do know what you mean when you say that was a word used in the bait and switch model of the 80s! So, either we recover the true meaning of the word in the purest sense of its meaning…or we trash it! I’m okay with either as long as we still find ways to “attract” young people to the truth.

  2. I have a question. You said, “It’s simple. We need to do what effective youth ministries have always done. Go big in attraction and get small in relationship, all the while pointing to Jesus.”

    What do you mean by “get small in relationship”? That can be taken a lot of different ways. I’m sure you don’t mean the first way that popped into my head. Could you please explain?

  3. Hey dude!
    Good thoughts man… i feel it… although i really felt the ‘lets rebirth things’ stuff though training programs in northern ireland. Talking around the thought of training youth pastors in what they deemed ‘secular youth work strategies’
    but yea ill not ramble on about that… heres what im finding now that im in canada…
    People need to play and people need friends, and people need experiences…
    so… we play! theres Hockey, football, soccer, dodgeball, hike, climb, swim, sauna, skate, movie, game/LAN parties etc
    so… we connect people… i guess we tried to just create a space were people can hang out and get to make new buddies… coffee bar style worked for us
    so… we worship together… i always encourage our students out to main church services, we meet for a once a month celebration on a sunday night… and once then half way through the month have a acoustic worship and prayer night… again, it works for us…

    Im not convinced there is a key that will unlock success in youth ministry… i think there are general themes that are helpful… but i guess the only rebirth i can see that youth ministry might need is a rebirth in our attitudes as workers… i think we need to discover what works for us, in our culture, in our context, in our part of town and just go for it
    hope this makes sense lol
    check out my thoughts about rallying volunteers and vision alignment… would love to hear your thoughts

  4. Hey Heather:

    Thanks for commenting!

    I know it’s a bit of play on words, but essentially I view youth ministry on the large scale sense “Go Big” — this is the fun, excitement, events, lights, loud music — the “big” stuff.

    By “Get Small,” I mean just that. If you have a youth ministry of 300 students and yet no one knows who those individuals are (their stories, their lives, their relationship with Christ) — in other words, a relationship — than it isn’t worth having 300 students, in my opinion.

    To be effective, we need both. The “Big” stuff, and definitely the “small” stuff — the more intimate relationships with each other based on Jesus Christ.

    Does that make sense?

  5. Paul, I’m following you on twitter and will definitely check out your blog. I like your thoughts a lot. We’re on the same wave length.

    From Northern Ireland and work in Canada? Interesting. What church?

    Thanks for all the discussion people!

  6. Hey again dude!
    yea random story of God working through crazy circumstances… the band i used to play with toured through canada and we played a few conferences around the US… i landed in thunder bay ontario when looking for an internship to try out youth ministry. arrived here last year and now been directing student ministries at redwood from before the summer! Its awesome… the church is called Redwood Park Church… part of the christian and missionary alliance… is my student mins site

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