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Issues in Youth Ministry: Ben Gray

Issues in Youth Ministry: Ben GrayWhat do you see as some of the main issues youth ministry is struggling with today?
Cultural relevance is a biggie. Another (for men as well as women) is porn. I think, though, that most youth ministers struggle with practicing biblical principles within their youth group. Like, not giving in to the numbers game.

What do you see as some of the main issues youth ministry is responding to effectively?
I think many youth ministries are doing very well with instilling biblical morals and characters into the students today.

In what ways does youth ministry need to change?
I think it needs to shift its focus. For decades now, youth ministers have seen their students as “little adults” but they’re not. Teens exist within the context of their families since they still live at home. Youth ministers need to understand this and adopt more of a “Family Ministry” rather than a “Youth Ministry.” You can’t take a child out of their family, fix them, and stick them back in like you can a part on a car. You have to view it as surgery. You “fix” the teen while treating the rest of the body as well.

Ben Gray lives in the Atlanta area serving at a small town church as Minister to Students. Check out his blog at www.openswitch.org.

[Read previous authors and posts in this series, “Issues in youth ministry.”]


Posted on November 30, 2006

  • Tim

    First, I think the whole sexuality issue is huge in churches in general, not just in the youth ministries. We're bombarded with sexuality every day, but yet it is usually not addressed in church. Why does it make people uncomfortable to talk with jr. high guys about masturbation and porn? Or to talk with girls about giving oral sex? If they don't hear it from us and their parents, they'll learn about it from movies and their friends instead.

    Second, I agree that a family approach to ministry is very important. That's why I got my M.A. in Family Life Ministry to work together with my B.S. in Youth Ministry. I'm actually in the middle of two awesome situations where I've made connections with community students' parents seeking guidance and counsel from me and the church because of the trust they see we've earned from their students. Through these community students, I trust both their parents will get plugged in to the church and introduced to Christ because of the difference they see the youth ministry has on their kids. It just makes me tingle with excitement. :)

  • Hi Tim! It's been awhile, I know. I've been BusyBob, but I think I'm back.

    I have tried for 4 years now at this church to minister to parents and families of our teens. I call it "The Circle of Guardians." But, honestly, we haven't seen a huge interest on their part to be ministered to. We have great relationships and receive their support, but they aren't willing to give their time to come to a meeting or special event. If you talk to school PTA's around the country, they'll probably give you the same story.

    I've decided to develop our website to include parenting tips on an array of issues. If anyone's got ideas, please share them.

  • The porn issue is huge among both Christians and Christian leaders. Ran a session on this at a British youth ministry conference last month and was overwhelmed by the response – so many youth workers are living with this issue and being eaten up by the guilt. The church needs to find practical strategies for helping these guys, because the embarrassment factor means it's difficult for someone struggling with a porn addiction to seek support.

    One sad/amusing anecdote – I prayed after the seminar with a guy who was struggling with this an internet pornography addiction. He told me that he was planning to talk to his (very conservative) church leadership team about it… I tried to persuade him otherwise (certainly until he feels he's got things under control) – but I'll be keeping an eye out to see if his job comes up in the next few weeks.

  • Tim

    JimmyBob, I agree that the ministering to parents thing is really tough. Whenever I hold a parents meeting at church, probably only 20% of parents actually show up. To me, it's no longer an effective means of communication and ministry if only 1 out of 5 decide to come. So, I've resorted to mass e-mails, which is extremely impersonal, but at least everyone gets the information. I also use The ParentLink Newsletter almost every month as an educational tool for parents. Other than that, I've found that most parent ministry takes place during a crisis and they need someone to turn to.

    GimD, although I believe scripture calls us as spiritual leaders to a higher standard of accountability, I also wish churches would handle sexual sins in leadership with more love, grace and support knowing that all of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Not to say there aren't consequences for our actions, it just seems that a loving Christian relationship is fake if we kick 'em out of our presence and terminate communication because of it. I'm glad God doesn't do that with me!

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  • Paul

    I am constantly amazed by the number of kids whose parents drop them off for youth group at our church who never even get out of their cars to see what is going on. I guess they assume since it is a church youth group everything is ok. I agree that youth ministry needs to be about more than the kids. We need to get their parents and siblings involved as well, but how?

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