I’m no alarmist, but people are talking. They’re nameless, faceless people and some other people call these people “experts”. They’re saying that youth ministry as it is now is nearing its end; in five to ten years tops, we won’t even recognize youth ministry anymore. It’ll be gone.
Why would I care about what “they’re” saying? Well, one reason is because I have a college degree in Bible and Youth Ministry. What the heck am I gonna do with THAT if youth ministry goes belly up?
But more importantly, why do I not care about what “they’re” saying? Let me give you a few reasons that will paint a picture on my take on the rumors swirling around about the imminent expiration of student ministry:
1. Student ministry isn’t going anywhere because people won’t tolerate not having sex, which will (eventually) produce teenagers. That point might be a throw-away point, but its true nonetheless.
2. When the Church stops focusing on the younger people in the crowd, the Church signs its own death certificate. My first internship was at a Reformed church in New York. When you walked in the front door on a Sunday morning, you experienced 2 things simultaneously: you could smell the Ben-Gay and you could hear the coroner’s clock ticking. No joke.
3. Student Ministry morphs. Its part of its beauty. In fact, when student ministry stops morphing, it becomes adult ministry. Just kidding. Mostly. The wonderful thing I love about most of the student ministry leaders I meet is their insatiable appetite for effectiveness in their calling and mission. And they’re not going to stand idly by and let any shift of any paradigm NOT include a seriously passionate revolution of how students are reached, discipled, and multiplied.
So, no. I don’t think ministry to students is going anywhere. But I DO think that student ministry as its been done has got to make some hard shifts:
First off, we need to do a better job of connecting students with the Kingdom of God. We think we do, but most are doing an awesome job of connecting students with their own programs and activities.
Next, maybe you’ve heard the words “Intergenerational Ministry” thrown around. The concept here is that there is a stronger tie among the age groups in a local church. Whether that means all ages worship together all the time, some of the time, and whatever–that’s got to be something all ministry leaders think about.
Those two things will likely lead us to this result: Teens feel better connected to the community of the whole church, not just to the student ministry. They get to see adults’ faith in action and they get to shape the faith of the younger children too. What if students weren’t plucked out of the family, entertained, and plunked back in after 2 hours each week? In other words: What if student ministry addressed the whole family as a part of the whole church?
So youth leaders everywhere, put down that iPad (you used the ministry budget to pay for) that you’re now using to craft your resignation. If student ministry is dying any type of death, its the good kind of death that happens whenever something has run its course. That won’t mean you’ll stop doing youth ministry, it means you’ll stop doing it the way its been done. And that my friends, is called progress.
Whether you’re a youth leader, a teenager, a parent, a lead pastor, or someone else who’s reading these words, I’d love to hear your thoughts.