The Future of Youth Ministry – Kicking Off the Conversation

There is a conversation going on in youth ministry circles that you may not be aware of. After years of working with our teens there has been an outcry from within the ranks of youth ministry for something more. Youth ministers experience something that many other ministers do not…after years of working with their target demographic for 4-6 years they watch the majority of those they ministered to disappear into the adult world and fall from faith. There is a growing concern that the paradigm youth ministry was based on that came out of the 1980s is seriously flawed and has proven itself ineffective at best. Let me clarify. What has been recognized over the last 4-6 years is that any model of ministry to our youth that does not involve the direct support and participation of the parents of teens is severely flawed no matter how good your program is. One youth minister cannot effectively disciple 30-70 teens. Jesus stuck with 12 and yet we double, triple or quadruple that and hope that the minister can get that job done for us. It just won’t. work.

Today a post went live over at Wineskins in the hopes that it kicks off an all too important and all too avoided conversation, not about youth ministry and youth ministers, but about the real core issue here – the faith development of our teens and young adults. This is not a conversation about programs. This is first and foremost a conversation about paradigms and parental participation…which is, lo and behold, the way the Bible told us to do this from the very beginning.

The post is by Duncan Campbell and is the first in a series of 3 posts that I believe will spark a dialog on this issue, not just among youth ministers (where the conversation is already happening) but also among elders, parents, and even the teens we are called to disciple. So if you have a few minutes, please read what Duncan had to say and share whatever thoughts you have on this all too important issue. Let me put it this way, if we post on instrumental music…I am convinced we could get 50 comments but I will be severely disappointed if we post about losing our children and proactive ways of addressing the problems and just listen to the crickets chirp as the comments don’t come in. Here is the post,

Tribal Youth Ministry (Part 1): The Necessity of Age Desegregation in Our Churches

4 Responses to The Future of Youth Ministry – Kicking Off the Conversation

  1. Luke Dockery says:

    Matt,
    This certainly is a timely and important topic to discuss. Interestingly, I actually wrote about this just a couple of weeks ago, complete with references and some statistics: http://goo.gl/VJoUe6

    • Avatar of Matt Dabbs Matt Dabbs says:

      Thanks so much for sharing the link. I had a read and appreciate your thoughts. I am going to compile some links and resources after a few more posts at Wineskins and will include yours. Thank you brother.

  2. Lanny says:

    Matt,
    I completely agree. We’re probably all tired of watching all that effort with teens not bear the fruit we’ve worked and prayed for.

    This is precisely the conversation we’re starting as a staff at our congregation. We’re working on a building a “tiered” approach. 1st level is, of course, discipling the teens directly. Second level is to teach/provide information and instruction to the parents so that they are more engaged in discipling their children. Third level is to work directly with 1-3 adults in the youth area and disciple them directly as staff into more significant ministry. We’re also working to implement this in our children’s ministry as well.

    We’re still working on exactly how each level will be implemented. I have high hopes that we’ll have some sort of recognizable structure in place this year to guide our efforts.

    I can’t wait to read more about it!

  3. Mark says:

    Somewhere in there needs to be teaching the defense of the faith. If you go read the blog of the “friendly atheist” he will tell you how the atheists/agnostics treat youths which is not like most churches do nor is it by Insulting their intelligence and thinking ability. I don’t care how much the youth learn for “Bible bowl”, it won’t matter if they can’t make a cognizant argument as to why they believe in G-d.

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