Saturday, January 26, 2008


Let's start at the beginning. I'm not a youth pastor, but I once was.

I didn't leave the profession because of hurt or burnout. God simply led me to something different. I need to be very clear. I don't hate youth ministry, youth pastors, youth workers, or teenagers. Nor have I given up on Jesus. I still maintain very close friendships with the teens, youth workers, and pastors of the church in which I once served as youth minister. There's no bad blood between any of us!

This blog is a reflection of the effectiveness of youth ministry. That's right, we're going to put youth ministry under the microscope. The thoughts posted on this website are birthed out of years of experiences (mine and others) on the front lines without forgetting to look at it all against standard of scripture.

I believe youth ministry is in need of a reformation.

Some who will read this blog don't.

My conclusions may not sit right with some of you. In fact, they may anger you. They angered me at one time. But be assured - your anger is not my goal, nor is the demise of youth ministry. Many who read this blog found Jesus through youth ministry. That's a good thing.

But it would be a mistake to only look at the good while pretending the bad doesn't exist. If it's OK with you, let's keep the good stuff and throw of the bad (not bad as in "evil" but bad as in "ineffective" or "detrimental"). Or better yet, let's keep the scriptural stuff and throw off the rest.

Here's a statement we can all agree on: Reformation implies change. Consequently, a large part of our discussion might focus on the things that aren't working in youth ministry. The nature of this blog will require discussing the things that might need to change.

And while we're at it: The current form of youth ministry wasn't around when Jesus walked the earth. That in itself doesn't make youth ministry bad - or wrong. But it does imply that we can talk about its faults without feeling irreligious.

I'll likely have my share of critics. That's OK. It's something I expect. But I also expect that those who read will be civil, kind, loving (etc.) in any discussion that this blog might spur. Neglecting the fruits of the Spirit while making a point will not further either your argument or the Kingdom of God. Remember, we're all on the same team.

And I also expect openmindedness and honesty. Let's admit any shortcomings youth ministry might have and allow God to transform them.

It might be a messy journey, but it'll be worth it!


jeremy zach said...

Two things.
First, are you simply expressing your frustrations with no answers. And through discussions are you hoping to find remedies to the many problems in YM.
Also one needs to realize whatever vocation/career/ministry/church/organizaiton one is apart of, it will have many problems. My philosophy is to identity the problems, but some a lot of my time focusing on the solutions. That is why I am so attracted to your blog. I deeply resonnate with your problems you have pointed out in YM. However I am not scared nor never wanting to quit YM. I see this as an extra motivation to keep fighting for the Kingdom.

Second, you stated: The current form of youth ministry wasn't around when Jesus walked the earth.
Yes when first reading this statement there is a kernel of truth to it, although it is a bit out of context. Jesus has a strong passion for the children. I love the Mark 10 passage where the children literally charge Jesus.
So do you think Jesus would eliminate youth ministry? Then, what do we do?

I argue that youth ministry be a department that is in partnership with the church. YM should not been an isolated department, but a department that is fused with the church family.

I heard a old youth pastor say: If one can successfully build a youth ministry, he/she can do just about anything in the world. Youth work is hard work.

Also can I ask you what you are doing now, vocationally, since you left YM?

Do you feel a sense of relief and at peace with your current vocation?
Do you still think you have the YM bug?

I kind of find it funny that even though you have disengaged with the role of the youth pastor, you have solely created a blog completely devoted to figuring out what you encountered in your ym experience.

Cheers! I thank you and appreciate your blog.

jeremy zach said...

I stated: My philosophy is to identity the problems, but some a lot of my time focusing on the solutions.

What I meant to say is: My philosophy is to identify the problems, but spend a lot of my time focusing on the solutions.


HawkOsky said...

In response to Jeremy Zach who said: "You stated: The current form of youth ministry wasn't around when Jesus walked the earth. Yes when first reading this statement there is a kernel of truth to it, although it is a bit out of context. Jesus has a strong passion for the children. I love the Mark 10 passage where the children literally charge Jesus."

If your purpose in referencing Mark 10 is to say, "Jesus loved and invested in youth", I agree with you.

If your purpose is to say, "Mark 10 is proof that the current form of youth ministry was sanctioned by Jesus", I couldn't disagree more.

There's a book called "The Coming Revolution in Youth Ministry" by Mark Senter III that chronicles the evolution of youth ministry. The earliest "forms" of youth ministry we're familiar with (the YMCA and Sunday School) have roots no more than 200 years old. Maybe that's a discussion for a future post.

jeremy zach said...

I used Mark 10 to illustrate that Jesus loved children so much that He rebuked His own disciples for hindering them.

I did not use Mark 10 to demonstrate, theologically, that the way we do YM is correct.

Jesus deeply loves and cares for children and the way our 21st century church expresses this Biblical truth is by arranging what we call YM.

I agree with you. But there needs to be a method or a demonstration to show kids that Jesus loves and cares for them. And one of those ways is programmatic (define this word as you please) youth ministry.

BrightNail said...

As soon as I TRULY heard God's call on my own life, I became interested in youth ministry. Coming from public school, i was incensed at the lies propagated there with increasing deceptiveness. Basically, I heard a call to bring the truth to teens!
I started as a Sunday School teacher and am now a full time "youth leader guy" (as my kids refer to me). Now, I love my kids (I have about 20 of them), and I must admit I also love that I get paid to spend time with them and 'attempt' to teach them the Word of God.
But I also have to agree that there is something not right in what the outcome of my job seems to be. How many times has the very existence of my position, caused a parent to say, "O well, Jason will go over that better than I could."
And trying to get mentors for these kids is like pulling teeth. How many times have I, myself, not taught my OWN kids, from an unconscious mentality of "well, they are learning what they need to know in their Sun. School classes"
Duet. is very clear in what a parent's role is in the spiritual education of their children. I think it's also very clear in Deut. that blessing comes from obedience, and disobedience brings about...well, NOT blessing!
So, what to do? It seems that as youth ministers, who really love Jesus and our kids, we should be attempting to work ourselves out of a job (at least as far as being "THE" spiritual example in their lives goes).
I'll be the first to admit that I'm new to YM and I hardly know it all, but these have been my thoughts.
All that to say Thank You for doing this blog, and I will be following it closely!

McHonza said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
McHonza said...

Sometimes only stepping back from something can give the clarity to really see it.

It is so easy to get caught in any number of youth ministry modes that don't have much to do with making disciples. I do think that hold true for just about any ministry.

I just read about a large church in my town that is rebuilding it's youth program after a long time leader left. They had hired a consulting firm and created focus groups and have an interim team and have made up a list of goals and measurable checkpoints that sound like a business plan. In fact they even compared hiring the consulting firm to hiring a contractor to build a church building. I scratch my head and pray for all of our "programs."

Revivalfire said...

Good Post, I think I'm with you ('ve trained in youthwork/tehology/ have been in youth ministry for about 7 years...

Anonymous said...

I just read through a lot of your posts, but I think it would've been more meaninful if you were still in ministry. It's easy to sit on the sidelines, even if it's on a court you once played, and yell at those who are still participating.

Roll up your sleeves and see some of these things happen.

JD said...

I just found your blog through a link on Rethinking Youth Ministry, and I have to say, i really like what I have read so far. This past weekend I wrapped up my job as a "full time minister" and will be leaving my title as associate minister to be the Records Coordinator for a treatment center for teenage boys.
Like you, I am not leaving because I am burnt out, fed up, or any other negative feeling for the church.
I agree with a lot of your views concerning Youth Ministry. There is a need to make more intergenerational, not just focused on the teens.
I look forward to continuing to read your posts and hope you stop in on my blog as well.