Problems with youth ministry today and in the future

Problems with youth ministry[ This post is based on an interview I did last year. ]

These lists could be a lot longer, but here are a couple to get you started. I’d love for you guys to continue these lists in the comments below.

Current problems

1. Youth leaders are not internalizing the Word themselves before they teach it to others, and thus a disconnect between real life and faith is unintentionally communicated.

2. Parents are not being the spiritual role models their teenagers desperately need.

3. Youth ministries are too wrapped up in “doing” ministry rather than “being” ministry. Ministries find their identity in their function instead of seeking the Lord first for their identity and vision and then letting function flow from that.

4. Youth leader don’t pray enough. If we truly believed in the power of prayer, we’d spend more time in prayer than anything else.

Future challenges

1. Perhaps the biggest challenge for youth ministry in the next several years will be defining what community is, and then somehow enabling it to organically take place. The Internet and youth culture continue to change how people view relationships and how they interact. Since we are made in His image and one of the core essentials of that is relationships, we know that community will never go away, but the church’s ideology will either have to shift or be intentional about making a stance. Forming small groups and telling the participants to talk to each other for a couple years is not necessarily community.

2. Somewhat related is that our communication and teaching styles may need to change. Rather than lecturing from a stage or even discussing in a classroom small group, perhaps teaching will need to change to a community-driven experience that interacts with the real world.

What problems do we have? What future challenges do you see for youth ministry? Perhaps most importantly, how are you addressing these problems and challenges in your youth group?

Posted on April 15, 2009

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  • Gary

    I have found that many youth pastors have problems working with teens because they've never been 'called' to youth ministry. They're doing it for the wrong reasons.

  • jamie

    I completely agree with your list of current problems.

    I also agree and see your future problems already at work. I know it's changing with our students already. We are having to change and struggle through how to meet the needs….and what we did before isn't really working anymore. But I don't have any answer yet either. Good post…although I would appreciate more answers next time….just kidding

    Some good questions for

  • I wonder if there is a deeper problem that is nudging youth workers toward sacrificing their time in prayer and in Scripture. If I'm right the problem is two-fold.
    I'd say that this deeper problem is that for the most part most people in ministry still subscribe to the thinking that our value comes from what we produce. With this in mind the two pressures are: 1 – Within ourselves, striving to produce to attain self-worth. 2 – From sr. pastors and boards, pressure from above because those people are finding their value in the stats.

    When we fall victim to thinking that way we fall into a vicious cycle of producing for God instead of being with God.

    • Dude, this is like so prophetic. Great insight! Did you come up with that all by yourself? You so concisely explained exactly what I've been sensing, as well. It's a business model applied to ministry.

  • @Tim
    This is a great and foundational list. Pray is sooooo essential and effective!!!!!! Pray pushes back. Pray is so basic but so hard to do.

    thanks for these reminders.

  • I wonder if we've focused so much on making youth groups and even building youth ministries that we've forgotten to make disciples (and to first be disciples).

  • Wes

    I agree with all of these comments myself and recently have read a book by Mark Driscoll called Radical Reformission. It talks about all that is described here but applied to the church which is what I believe we are doing in youth ministries is being the church. I don't think I agreed with most of what Mark said but I found his cultural insights very valuable, especially where I live, Seattle. That book and Confessions of a Reformission Rev. is another great book about engaging this postmodern culture and what the future may look like.
    Also I have been listening to free youth ministry seminary courses on iTunesU and have found the one from Covenant Theological Seminary fantastic, free and useful.
    Another website is and they do a great job engagin this youth culture and have great resources.

  • (Comment part 1)I agree that the structure of speaking from a stage is not the best way for teens to learn. They have been in a classroom all week and really do not need ot be "taught" something one more time. The issue here though is how good are we doing at discipling our leaders so that they can be effective enought to lead those smaller groups in a more relational way?

    I have been blessed by a good group of leaders that are definitely here through God's calling and desire to see teens not just come have fun, but introduce them to a relationship with God. There was some good posts this past week on YouthMInBlog about building an effective team of leaders. The key is to make sure you are bringing in leaders at the proper timing and making sure they are paired up with other verteran leaders that are effective not just at having a good time with teens, but also at teaching the truths of the Bible and giving them a way to apply it.

  • (Comment part 2)The best way for this to happen and for a change like this to be healthy is to model it. Have a prayer time set aside evry week with your leaders to show them the importance of it. Talk openly with them about what God has been teaching you and challenge them to do the same with the teens they work with. Involve parents as much as possible and encourage them when you notice them doing what God intended for them to do as the spiritual leader for their teen. This can be a good start to get us where God is calling us to be.

  • Thank you for this post. I agree. It's good to have such a reminder.

  • It's basically a conglomeration my thoughts, stuff from Growing Souls by Mark Yaconelli, and The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson. This is stuff that I've been thinking about over the past few weeks since I had the chance to hang out with Mark Yaconelli at a denominational thing and getting all contemplative :) . I've also been doing a series of posts on my blog about Anxiety vs. Love which is all about this kind of stuff.

  • Although… I do think some in the church are quick to throw out the Master-Teacher format. I think some have issues with effectiveness and assume that it is because of the teaching method. Look at every other platform for communicating… Education, Government, etc…
    They all still utilize the master-teacher format to some degree. Yes, it needs to be tweaked and adjusted to the styles of the day, but I don't think churches need to retreat from the sermons as a tool to communicate truth…
    On the other hand… they are just a method. It is the message that is sacred, not the method. If the ineffectiveness is truly because of the method… toss it. Even if it is one that has been around from the beginning of the church. I'm just not convinced the method is the issue… yet.

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  • Jeremie H

    The struggle with youth ministry has always been relevence, from the 60s and 70s when my parents were in youth to the 90s when I was driving my youth pastor nuts. So being a youth pastor now is no different, the method changes not the message. Youth pastors are similar to the youth they lead, we tend to get cought up in the new "buzz words" for ministry like "community-driven experience that interacts with the real world". Just do your best to make it relevent to the students you lead and show them that you care. Most of them just want to know someone cares about them even if they are a pain in the butt.

  • Chansey Cannady

    The youth expierence of today is just that, an expierience. Youth issues and concerns have gone on from the beginning of the bible until now. The same issues still exsist for their is nothing new under the sun the scriptures says. One problem could be the method by which many teach or should I say attmept to reach the youth. The scripture tells us to teach them. Many have become so occassioned to reaching the youth that we have left what the scripture says to do teach. The word is the word is doesnt change. The greater concern for me is those persons who are not conformed to the word themselves who are teaching. The youth of today are very smart and believe it or not they know a fake and often times talk amongst themselves regarding the hypocritcal fake that teach the gospel. We need to be those true epistles translated through and by the word of God for our youth people to read. If the word if taught and walked than all regardless of age can grasp!!!

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