Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Youth Ministry - A Place to Practice

In many churches today youth ministry is the place that the church deacons employ young up-and-coming pastors. They deem that youth ministry is like a trial run for big church, or for pastoring the adult or even the whole congregation. Many senior pastors have used youth ministry as the gateway to becoming the main leader of a whole congregation.

Typical youth crazy activities

Let us look at the pros, cons and mindset that corresponds with this process.

Middle to High School students don't know as much about the Bible so it seems a nice place to let green ministers cut their teeth so to speak. The pastor can try out his Bible knowledge and develop a means of communicating messages to people. Youth are more apt to being flexible and forgiving of errors, let us face the fact that the majority of young people will not even notice if a youth pastor blunders a message or gives advice that is mediocre or not totally wise. And the feeling is "what does it matter" the issues a young person faces are not as surmountable as the adults who are making life important decisions daily.

Youth ministry is also considered the place for the less mature pastor to grow and thereby become a more complete, perfected Christian. The youth are in a maturing process themselves so it seem logical to allow a young pastor who needs time to mature to spend years ministering the comparable members of the church.

Most youth ministries are very silly and few mature Christians would want to engage in such youthful activities anyway. It is therefore seen as a win-win situation to place the silliest, most playful leader with the youth.

Then, of course, most congregations have the mindset that the youth need to be entertained and engaged in songs, skits, games, etc. that would never be acceptable on a Sunday morning but are highly palatable on Wednesday nights in the youth service. Loud rocking music, concert lighting, dimmed club-like room settings are the choice of esthetics for youth ministry.

So this is all grand! Is it not? What possibly could be unwise about this arrangement?

Well, it is similar to the blind leading the blind which is birthed from the mentality that the young don't need as much solid teaching and wisdom. From all of the teens I have known this is not so. Teenagers are growing up in an increasingly unprotected evil society and they are faced with unstable family structures and highly unBiblical public education that often lead to being forced to growing up fast.

In Scripture God never gives the church time for mindless play and immature teaching. All saints regardless of their age needs solid Biblical teaching of laying down foundational truths and a pastor that is able to spontaneously react to given challenging situations in a mature Biblical manner. A youth minister has a powerful opportunity to lay the strongest Christian foundation into impressionable minds and quite often tender hearts who have been hurt by adults and peers in their life.

Quite possibly the most grievous downside to church youth ministry is how it separates youth from their family and how it weakens teens relationships with their parents. The public school mindset that parents are a hamper to minister to their our teen children is damaging not only to the individual parent-teen relationship but to the strength of the church body itself. Parents are seen as noising around visitors that are over-protective or unable to relinquish their young to socially exciting events and cool experiences. Viewed as fuddy-duddies that are out of touch parents are excluded from events and thereby miss any opportunity of having shared experiences with their teens. Just like public schools, parents are felt they are intruding on someone else's territory if they try to hangout with the youth ministry. This is a most unfortunate trend in churches.

Teens are naturally growing and looking for answers. They frequently are open to the input of adults in their life beyond their parents. They are seeking to find out if God is real and if His Word can truly help them navigate the trials and obstacles they are facing. Teens need mature ministers that can instruct them in how to apply the Balm of Gilead (Scripture) to their hurts. They need experiences with God that are spirit-led, meaningful and life changing.

Youth is no time for Practicing Pastors. It is quite rationally the most essential age period for reaching the unsaved and for grounding men and women in righteous living and Christian ministry. The prudent church will recognize that youth is the age to ground individuals in a disciplined pattern of Christian response and living.

With all this said, I include this "food for thought" on youth ministry. Christians need to be on their knees seeking the wisdom of God and searching His Word pertaining to the teaching of children. Parents - not the church - are instructed with this high mission. It is folly to try to replace the life on life instruction of a parent in their child's life, and quite possibly a very dangerous mindset. Parents are given the responsibility to train up their children and it is unwise to try to establish a method of living that is extra-Biblical.

The wise deacons of a church will bring in a mature youth pastor who can come along side the parents of youth and equip them to be the best parents they can be to their middle and high school children. The youth ministry with work hand in hand with God's chosen minister (the parents) in facilitating the growth of the teens and work tirelessly to create a family-friendly atmosphere where family units are encouraged to grow in the Word together and to apply teaching in their daily relationships. The youth ministry should be a resource in the Body of Christ that happily welcomes parents and teens to come and learn together and to build strong bonds that will last a lifetime.

Let me end by saying, that among the Kingdom of God there are some churches who are perfecting their children and youth ministries to be family focused and to be Bible Study based. The children and parents are richly growing in God and mutual respect developing into the people God created them to be and assisted by men and woman of God that have devoted their life to the ministry of youth and their families. The key is to honor God and the teachings of His Word in every ministry of the church. We need to search for Biblical precepts before developing ministry and church programs so that we are certain God's will is being done and HE is getting the greatest glory through our time, money and efforts.

I hope you have found this post beneficial and I would be happy to hear your experience and any Biblical insights you may have to add to the discussion of youth ministry.



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