I think I’m doing youth ministry all wrong

Service vs ServantDespite knowing otherwise in my head, the way I actually lead my church’s youth ministry is mostly from the mentality that our youth ministry is a program or service we provide to families. It’s almost like I’m unintentionally feeding the consumeristic perspective by sometimes using language like, “We offer small groups…” and, “We provide connection points for your teens…” Since when was ministry ever supposed to be about what a paid staff member and a couple adult volunteers are expected to spiritually provide for teens and families?

Youth ministry should not be about how the church can serve the youth or even how we can provide programs that help them grow spiritually. That’s the parents’ responsibility. In fact, I don’t think youth ministry should even accidentally enable parents to outsource their God-given responsibility to us, something I know my ministry is all too guilty of. Support parents, yes, but enable them to outsource? No.

The Greek word for “church” is literally “ekklesia,” a community of believers who are “called out” to serve and edify each other and the people around them.

Instead of fueling the consumerism mentality of what a church “offers” or “provides” and which church in town does it best, youth ministry should probably be about helping teens use their God-given gifts to serve the body. It should teach families that youth ministry isn’t just about what the church does for them, but that they are “called out” to think beyond themselves with a servant’s heart. I bet teen church drop-outs would decrease if they actually served as a valuable and essential part of the local body of Christ.

Youth ministry should be less about us doing youth ministry and more about youth doing ministry.

I said that two years ago, but it’s just now starting to really sink in for me. It demands a pretty radical shift, one that I’m not sure I have the vision nor the guts to really carry out yet.

Our programs program people to consume from the church, and I’m programmed to just run programs.

Please note, I’m not necessarily anti-program — I just think that too often we end up serving the programs instead of using them as very dispensable tools to equip teen believers to serve the body of Christ.

What do you think? Should youth ministry be more about providing a service or creating servants? What if focusing on the latter causes all those with the consumeristic mentality of the former to leave the group? Is it okay for your youth group to shrink numerically if it’s for the right reasons?

Posted on February 2, 2010

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