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Issues in Youth Ministry: Justin Ross

Issues In Youth Ministry: Justin Ross

  • What do you see as some of the main issues youth ministry is struggling with today?

[Ross, Justin] Teens today struggle with many issues that have plagued teenagers (really, all Christians) forever. Issues such as identity, purity, what the future holds, and so on. Something I notice in teens today that differs drastically from 10-12 years ago, when I was in high school, is they are under much more stress that I ever dealt with. I was prepping a bible study a couple of weeks ago and the book I was getting some questions from asked something about the difference between being a “carefree” teen and a “responsible” adult. Frankly, I don’t see teens who are carefree. I see them worried, stressed, and expected to be every bit as responsible as adults.

So where does that leave youth ministry? I see this as all the more reason for us to provide activities and time for teens to be able to be teenagers. Also, it is vital we remind them constantly that Jesus needs to have first priority in their life and He holds their future in his hands. I have kids skipping church and youth group all the time in order to finish homework. Because they have to get a good grade, because they have to get a good grade in the class, because they have to get into a good college, because if they don’t their life will not be worth anything. This is a lie we need to confront head on. I tell teens all the time they need to put God as the top priority in their life, attend worship and bible study and trust in Him that the school work will get done on time.

One more- we need students to be global Christians over national Christians. Last weekend, we had a memorial in our church for a young Navy guy who was killed while riding his motorcycle. His family wanted to have a color guard, consisting of some of the guys family who are in ROTC at the high school. Dave (pastor) explained to them that if that happens in church, the Christian flag would be included and take precedence over the American flag. This is because we are Christians first. We are born in America, but that is not who we are. We are apart of a world-wide family who are all loved equally by our Creator, who longs to save his children. I hope to impress that on my youth group. That being patriots is great and it is true that we live in the greatest country on the planet, but we are Americans second to children of God.

  • What do you see as some of the main issues youth ministry is responding to effectively?

[Ross, Justin] Loving teens. Anytime I read about how teens are unmotivated, or see on report on TV talking about the terrible things teenagers are doing, or hear someone like Ron Luce tell me that my ministry in failing and only 4% of all teenager are “bible believing”- I think about the volunteers who give me hours and hours of their time when they could be doing anything, yet they choose to come and love on teenagers. I think about the 3 guys in my town who get paid for 20 hours a week and work at least twice that, I think about the passion and love I see in the eyes of people at the NYWC, and I know that God is up to something great- and I am honored and humbled to be apart of it.

  • In what ways does youth ministry need to change?

[Ross, Justin] As far as youth ministry as a whole, I am not sure. I feel like support ministries, such as YS, CPYU, and many others, change constantly with culture while remaining solidly grounded in Jesus. In my own ministry, I need to change the sense of community my group has. This may sound weird, but they are too close and it is hard for someone new to get inside. They are not rude or cliquish and they do not do this on purpose, but I notice it and am concerned about it.

  • Justin Ross is a youth pastor in Whidbey, Washington. Find out more about him and his ministry at Let Wonder Replace Worry.

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


Posted on November 17, 2006

  • Tim

    The whole issue of priorities is such a big deal. My parents were big on keeping church our first priority. When my brother was invited to join our community’s travel soccer team when we were little, my parents made him turn it town because church always comes first. They also never went shopping on Sundays because then they’re making the store make employees work on Sundays. I noticed this growing up and now hold church and ministry as a foremost priority because of it.

    When it comes to youth group, though, what I don’t get is that parents will pay hundreds of dollars for their kid’s band uniform but when it comes to a church retreat, they ask me, “What exactly will my kids be doing this weekend? If they only come for part of it, can they pay only $20 instead of $40 for the whole weekend?” Kids observe that mentality and imitate it. Every month I collect $5 from each student to support a missionary in Spain we TOGETHER committed to do. However, almost every month several students will say, “Oh, I don’t have any money.” But then later if I talk about paintball they suddenly have $50 and are willing to fork it all over to play for an afternoon.

    Priorities, man… where are they?

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