Saturday, January 26, 2008

Dissecting Youth Ministry

Have you ever wondered if you were the biggest barrier to your own success?

I have.

I came to realize that some of the things that made me a "good" youth pastor were the very things that kept teenagers from becoming fully committed followers of Christ.

It's going to take several posts to unpack that last statement. Some of you have no idea what on earth I'm talking about.

There's a whole list of things expected of a good youth pastor. Creating engaging programs. Planning outreach events. Developing discipling programs. Delivering relevant talks and teachings. Spending relational time with teens. Organizing serving opportunities. Etc. etc. etc.

But what if some of these expectations kept teens from actually growing in Christ? What if it kept them in the "baby Christian" mode?

Very few who are involved in youth ministry will argue that we've got a great track record of successfully producing long-term disciples. National statistics tell us that most teens leave their faith shortly after graduation from high school (and the church's local youth ministry). By the way, in my personal conversations with scores of pastors and youth pastors from several denominations, none of them reported holding on to more than 40% of their active youth ministry students after high school.

So in the next several posts we'll be taking a look at the system of youth ministry and the position of youth pastor. Realize it or not, this youth ministry system we've inherited doesn't date back to Jesus. To be generous, youth ministry as a program dates back only a hundred years or so. The youth ministry we're most familiar with (complete with youth pastor) can be traced back only about 50 years at best.

Does the youth ministry system we inherited play a role in our lack of "success"? Does it ever get in the way? If so, what should our response be?

Hang on. We're in for a wild ride!

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