Issues in Youth Ministry: What needs to change?

Issues in youth ministryAbout this series:
Youth ministry faces a lot of issues today. The leaders often feel undervalued, students are under constant pressure, and the ministry itself is sometimes misunderstood as it searches for direction. What’s going on youth ministries today? How do we need to change? What kind of direction do we need to take? That’s what I asked many youth ministry bloggers in hopes of compiling a resource that generates discussion and evaluation of our own ministries as we seek to be as effective as possible in reaching this generation.

Here’s the line-up:

  1. Justin Ross (Youth Pastor) of Let wonder replace worry
  2. Matt Glover (Pastor in Australia) of
  3. Tony Myles (Pastor, Writer) of Don’t call me Veronica
  4. Grant English (Pastor) of Randomness of a distracted tour guide
  5. Josh Griffin (Manager of Doug Field’s “Purpose Driven Youth Ministry”) of Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet
  6. Buddy Rathmell (Youth worker missionary in Japan) of
  7. Ben Gray (Youth Pastor) of Open Switch
  8. Paul Martin (Youth Pastor) of Like a fire
  9. William Berger (Camp Director)
  10. Evan Mattei (Youth Pastor) of Evan’s Blog
  11. Mark Oestreicher (President of Youth Specialties) of
  12. Ben Kraker (Youth Pastor) of That Ben Guy
  13. Adam McLane (Youth Pastor) of
  14. Jason Curlee (Youth Pastor) of Making difference makers.
  15. Bill Scott (Founder of ZJAM Youth Ministries and
  16. Ian Mcdonald (Youth Minister in England) of YouthBlog
  17. Joshua Michael (Youth Pastor) of Junior High Blogs
  18. Dennis Poulette (YM seminary prof in Mexico) of
  19. Greg Stier (President of Dare 2 Share) of Rantings of a Jesus-loving, raving lunatic
  20. Heidi Abbott (Youth Pastor) of Church of the Harvest.
  21. Dot Gosling (Senior Lecturer of Christian Youth Work & Applied Theology) of dot gosling.
  22. Abby Fox (Youth Director) of ..extraordinary...
  23. Other community blog posts.
  24. James Tippins (Associate Pastor) of Being Wise and More Stupid.
  25. Tim Schmoyer (Youth Pastor) of Life in student ministry
  26. Your biggest struggle: Survey conclusion
  27. Summary, highlights and discussion of “Issues in Youth Ministry.”

Conclusion of the series
I’ll conclude the series with my own summary of the top 10 issues in youth ministry based upon the content of these authors, feedback from you guys and the survey running in the right side-column, so your input and discussion is very much requested and appreciated.

If you’d like to write an entry as a part of this series, please feel free to contact me.

Posted on November 16, 2006

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  • I can’t wait to hear the results!

  • Quite the line up! Thanks for including me. Looking forward to a great series.

  • I’m wondering where the female youth worker voice is in all this?

  • Tim

    Dot, I thought of that while I was putting this together. I was trying to think of some good female youth ministry bloggers to be in the line-up, but I just don’t know of any. Can you point me to some?

  • female youth pastors don’t blog. j/k

    wait…I can’t think of any ethier!

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  • Of those top issues, I would add a small one that keeps creeping up in my new (less than 3 months) youth pastor job – theological differences. The issue isn’t just that we have them, which I’m comfortable with, but not always knowing what they are until the message is preached. Thankfully, they haven’t been enough to cause a stink, but it’s still uncomfortable at times.

  • Tim


    There will be some theological issues where ever you go, at least that’s been my experience. I think the issue is finding a church that gives freedom in the non-essentials. As Grant English suggested in his post on this series, I first and foremost support the church and its leadership. When theological issues come up between me and the students that differ from the church’s official position, I don’t knock the church by saying they’re wrong and I’m right. Rather, I say, “This is what I believe and why, but the church holds a different position and here’s why…” And then I always suggest we talk with the pastor together for more insight. Now, even though the pastor and I have different views, we’re supporting each other and working together.

    If you and the church differ on essential doctrines of faith, though, then yeah, it would be pretty difficult to work there. Hopefully you would’ve read through their doctrinal statement and discussed these issues with the church leadership before taking the position. If not, well, yeah, you’re in for an interesting ride if theology is important to you (and I hope it is). :)

  • Almost sounds like some of the stuff Mark Riddle has been and was struggling with – when he started the reimaginating youth ministry blog …. I’ll see if I can get a link for ya.

  • Here’s something i have been struggling with: a difference in philosophy/ generation gap between myself (age 25) and the other staff i work with (age 50+) it might be nice to hear from both age groups. I think I am doing great ministry, but my staff doesn’t always agree. It might just be me, but I think part of it is generational.

    I am looking forward to this!

  • Great series & blog! The results will be fascinating. I’ve been doing youth ministry for close to 14 years over half that time was spent working with unchurched students, it was edgy work, dealing with difficult issues and broken marginalised people. About seven months ago I moved to work in a traditional church context (the church has been here 350yrs so we’re talking old). But it is a church in great transition with a vision to be a transforming community. But one thing that I certainly expected yet non the less it has surprised and blindsided me is how deep the apathy runs, particulary from Christian parents! The sense of community and the commitment level of my previous unchurched students would put these ‘churched kids’ to shame… but I don’t blame the students, its the parents who must assume responsibility – the spiritual development of their teens is the first to be sacrificed if it gets in the way of their academic development, or some other social dimension (music practice, horse riding, sport etc).

    It seems that many in a comfortable, affluent middle class church such as this, have adopted a consumer/optional extra approach to faith. It concerns me deeply as they are failling to transmit authentic faith to the next generation, the faith that is transmitted is ‘me’ centred with little in the way of ‘cost’ involved. For youth workers/pastors stuck in such a context their work is highly strategic and sometimes ‘the voice crying in the wilderness’ but it is also incredibly disheartening, oftentimes discouraging and if their is not the support even disillusioning.

  • Tim

    Jenna, it’s unfortunate that the generation gap carries such different ministry philosophies. In my experience, I first need to solidly present my ideas, purpose and strategy to the leadership and bring them on board with what’s going on. I need to help them understand why it’s important to do what I do. They may never agree, but at least they understand. I’ve found that as time progresses and trust is established, older leadership tends to be more lenient, but it’s still a tough ride the whole time.

    Paul, man you put that so well. I blogged about this two months ago about how the spiritual values and priorities of the parents and church body are usually the same ones reflected in the youth group. It’s frustrating because people may be dissatisfied with what’s going on in the youth ministry without realizing that the same exact thing is true in the church body as a whole. Community students that attend youth group don’t usually have that “baggage,” which is refreshing, but training people to give up their consumerism approach to spirituality feels almost impossible sometimes.

  • So, Paul B., are we twins separated at birth? I, too, have been in youth ministry for fourteen years, and have worked in a para-church org. with primarily unchurched teens for almost 100% of that time. I moved to my first church youth ministry three months ago. While my issues have been different, there have certainly been some adjustments.
    Thanks to all who have added their two cents to my comment. I have appreciated your input. For now, the theological differences are not huge, more like a thorn than something that’s divisive. My bigger frustration is simply finding out about them the hard way, but there’s not much you can do about that. It’s not like everybody’s going to question you about every theological issue, and vice-versa can’t happen either. Walking on eggshells until I do learn is simply annoying.
    On the plus side… a majority of the parents are supportive, and the student who seems most passionate about serving God is a jr. higher, which means I’ll be mentoring him for a good five years. WooHoo!

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  • Tim

    Just thought I’d leave an update on the female blogger status:

    Since the series started, several female youth ministry bloggers have contacted me who are willing to participate in the series. So, look for some input from women to appear toward the end of the series.

    Thanks ladies! :)

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