“The Challenge of Youth Ministries”
Pastor Mike Wing
Grace Community Bible Church
Over the past few years I have had an increasingly common conversation with people who are looking for a church. In almost every instance, the first question they ask is, “Do you have a youth group?” Rarely do these people ask about our church’s doctrinal position or where we stand on current issues that are impacting the church. I am afraid that the church today has lost its focus by centering its ministry around its children. Everything is done to attract and keep the interest of children. Any hint of apathy is met with more activities to hold their interest. If they claim boredom, we fall all over ourselves to apologize and try to find increasingly entertaining ways to ensure that the kids are having fun. This unbiblical focus has had a detrimental effect upon the church in general and our children in particular.
Let me state at the outset, I believe that a well run, biblically based youth group has atremendous opportunity to impact the lives for all of those involved. But in our day, youth ministry has become the proverbial tail that wags the dog when it comes to church activities. As I have searched the Scriptures I do not see anywhere a biblical mandate to have a “Youth Group”. While such groups are not unbiblical, too many Christians believe that every church must have a youth group, as they picture it, or else that church is a failure. When a church does desire to organize its youth ministry, the success of that ministry must be measured by its adherence to scriptural principles rather than its pursuit of popularity.
Qualities of a truly successful youth ministry:
1. Parental involvement!!
The Scriptures are clear when they tell us of the parents’ responsibility to train their children in the fear and the admonition of the Lord. It is the parents’ who are to love their children. It is the parents’ responsibility to instruct their children in biblical truths. It is the parents’ responsibilityto lovingly discipline their children when they detect bad behavior and unbiblical attitudes. It is the parents’ responsibility to ensure that their children understand the meaning of ministry, both within and without of the local church. Youth groups should never and can never take over the parents’ responsibility in raising their children. A truly “successful” youth group will simply provide the parents a tool to help them fulfill their God-given responsibilities. (Dt. 6:4-9; Pr. 19:18; 29:15,17; Eph. 6:4) Raising children takes love, time, patience, and self-discipline. We must be careful that we do not fall into the trap of expecting others to raise our children when we ourselves are not willing to fulfill those responsibilities.
With that in mind, what are some things that we can do, as parents, to be involved in any youth ministry that the church might have?
a. Set the example at home. Again, your child will learn far more at home – for good or bad – observing your behavior than they will ever learn at any youth function. “My son, observe the commandment of your father And do not forsake the teaching of your mother; ” (Proverbs 6:20)
b. Be active within the church. We cannot expect our children to be a constructive part of the local church when we are not. We must see to it that our view of the local body of believers is in line with the scriptures.” Paul spoke of, “the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. ” (Acts 20:28) Consistent attendance at services and the exercising of our gifts for the purpose of building up the body of Christ provide necessary examples for our childrens’ growth in those things pleasing to our Lord.
c. Be involved in youth activities. Be willing to drive, supply treats or help plan activities. Your participation will further show your children your love and concern for them and will be an encouragement to those who have the privilege of ministering to your children.
d. Be supportive of those who want to minister to your children.
Parents unwittingly undermine any youth ministry within the church by allowing their children the opportunity to pick and choose which activities they will attend. Talk to any pastor or youth group leader and they will express the same frustration with parents who encourage their kids to go to “fun activities” (while bringing a number of friends with them) and then allow those same children to avoid those activities which they (the children) deem boring!!
2. Priority in imparting spiritual truth.
a. Biblical instruction imparted to produce spiritual growth.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
Somewhere along the line of our cultural decay, we have grown to believe that entertainment and instruction in biblical truth are synonymous. They are not. This mindset then blames the teacher when the child becomes bored with hearing God’s word being taught. Parents … If your child is bored with the faithful proclamation of the truth, the problem is not with the youth group but with your child’s heart! It is your responsibility to do all that is within your power to share the gospel with them and give them instruction on the importance of truth in the life of the believer. I have met many parents who do not seem to understand this. If their kids are bored with the teaching of God’s word, they will find another youth group that is more “fun”.
b. Youth groups should not be designed to entertain our children.
Scripture is clear when it tells us to rejoice in the Lord always. This rejoicing is to be centered on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As a Christian, I am to rejoice in my service for Him. But I can find no place in Scripture where we are told that following Christ and being involved in ministry is to be “fun” as the world defines it. The apostle Paul told his young disciple Timothy, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, ” (2 Tim. 1:8)
Yet children and parents alike define a successful youth ministry as one that is “fun.” To hold the attention of the youth, most programs have to increasingly compete with the world. In the process, the biblical emphasis is diminished in favor of entertaining the kids.
When entertaining children takes precedence over the pursuit of solid spiritual growth you will often see children dropping out of church when they are old enough to make those decisions on their own – or even when they are not. This is understandable when we realize that they have been trained to expect “fun” and “entertainment” at church services.
3. Inclusion of youth in the overall ministry of the church.
It is my belief that any church youth group that does not seek to actively integrate the children into every possible area of ministry has failed. Opportunity for the youth to apply the truths they are learning through God-honoring service and fellowship within the church body as a whole is necessary. We are, after all, seeking to equip our children to be productive members of the body of Christ. I am afraid that too many youth groups are doing nothing more that perpetuating an ongoing childishness and immaturity by separating the youth from the godly example of older saints.
I would like to close with one more observation. Too often, parents who have raised their children and seen them leave the home believe that their work with youth is done. They say that they have “done their time” and no longer want or need to participate in that particular ministry. This thinking is just plain wrong. First of all, it implies that childrens ministry is an inconvenience that needs to be tolerated while we have kids at home but from which we are liberated when the children are all grown up. It is understandable when the world views its children as a hindrance to its own pursuits. It is truly disturbing when Christians view youth in a similar fashion. Second of all, this mindset robs our youth and their parents of the knowledge and wisdom gained by those who have successfully raised their children. Godly, older saints have a wealth of knowledge and experience with which they can be a blessing to subsequent generations.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to give me a call.
Pastor Mike Wing
Grace Community Bible Church