Why I Believe In Youth Ministers
The most prevalent "trend" in youth ministry in the last maybe decade or so (maybe less), has been an increasing focus put on family ministry. I say "trend" because, while it has been an emerging focus, it's a focus put on a very biblical tenet, namely that parents are to be the chief disciplers of their children. In this way, it's much less of a "trend" than it is a return to a proper understanding of our role as youth workers, an awakening to the fact that we aren't meant to disciple students on our own. Not only is that not our call, it's extremely challenging given how little time we actually are able to spend personally investing in teenagers' lives (comparatively speaking).
But, there have been some very interesting conversations happening on the web this week that have made me revisit some core feelings I have about youth ministry strategy when it comes to discipling students . . . particularly the value of the youth worker in the local church.
I have had discussions, and read books, and listened to family ministry proponents who advocate what I consider "throwing the baby out with the bath water." The line of reasoning goes like this: "Family-based discipleship is the biblical model by which our students should be discipled. Therefore, we need a new model. And first to go is the youth minister." Now, before I am accused of being irrational or inflammatory, or of painting family ministry advocates in a corner, let me say a few things:
- I will say it again: I believe parents should be the chief disciplers of their children.
- I know that all family ministry proponents do not advocate relieving the youth minister of his or her role.
- I absolutely know that there are a lot of family ministry proponents that DO advocate that youth ministers as we currently understand the role should be done away with. I have met with these individuals. I have sat in on meetings at churches who are thinking this very way. I have read the books.
In light of some of the discussions that are going on, my feelings about the value of youth ministers, or youth workers, were stirred up again.As we continue to consider the expanding model of youth ministry, and how we as youth workers can seek to find the most biblical, most effective, and most appropriate role as disciplers, I want to advocate for the critical role the youth worker in the local church plays. Here are several reasons why I believe we must uphold the position of youth minister in considering youth ministry strategies:
Mom And Dad Are Awesome, But They Are Still Mom And Dad
Let's be perfectly clear: the years of adolescents are tumultuous. We know this is due to many factors, some environmental (the drama that is high school), some biological (hormones, brain development, etc.). Teenagers and parents oftentimes are a volatile combination during these years. And this is perfectly natural! That is why a youth worker in the church is so vital. There are issues, concerns, and questions that a teenager will not talk about with his or her parents. Important stuff. A youth worker who has a relationship with this student is in a perfect position to be a trusted voice of reason or advice, or just a listening ear.
Mom And Dad Are Awesome . . . Except When They Aren't
What happens when students have parents who aren't believers? Or a single parent home where mom or dad has to work two jobs, and even though they want to, find they don't have as much time or energy to spend discipling their children? Where is that adult, or those adults, who will reach out to these teenagers and shepherd them? A youth worker is vital in this area.
Mom And Dad Are Awesome . . . Except When They Aren't, Part 2
This one stinks, but we have to go there. What about those outstanding Christian parents who don't seem to be interested in all at discipling their children? (Sorry, but it's true.) I have witnessed it first hand. I know you have, too. What do we do then? The youth worker in the local church can (and often does) step in when mom and dad aren't doing what they are called to do. (I am the first to realize that many parents want to disciple their children, but do not feel equipped to do so. Yet another reason for having a youth worker in the role of "bridge builder" from the spiritual development initiatives of the church to the parents.)
Youth Ministers Are Uniquely Positioned To Spearhead Spiritual Development
Discipleship could be boiled down to learning the basics of faith, and applying these truths in our lives. Teenagers need to be taught the basics of their faith, the Scriptural foundations of Christianity. And they need to be lead to apply these truths in their lives. The youth minister in the local church is able to spearhead this process in a way that many, if not most, parents are not equipped to do. Just as I am not equipped to fix my car, teach a class of elementary students how to read, perform oral surgery, or take a case before a jury, most parents are not equipped to systematically plan out an approach to developing their children's faith. That's where youth ministers and youth workers are vital. Effective youth workers have a plan in mind to lead students in spiritual growth
Youth Ministers Make Parents More Successful Disciplers
A youth worker is uniquely positioned to partner with parents to help support them in discipling their students. The youth minister, or youth worker, in a local church has the incredible opportunity to be enable and motivate discipleship in the home. From providing the curriculum, to providing the encouragement, youth ministers have the incredible opportunity to truly equip parents to be more effective disciplers.
Want To Keep Young Adults From Leaving The Church? Have A Youth Minister.
OK, so maybe that heading was a little sensational, but studies have shown it to be true: the more meaningful adult relationships teenagers have in a church, the more likely they are to stay in the church as young adults. (Promise I am not making this up. I reference these studies in a blog post you can find here.) The bonds a youth minister or youth worker forms with teenagers oftentimes are some of the most meaningful adult relationships a teenagers has. In a time when we as the church are scrapping to try and make faith a lasting element in the lives of teenagers and young adults, why break a tie that is proven to anchor young adults to their faith? I could go on . . . there are more reasons to uphold and empower the position of youth minister. But, I think I've at least made my passion evident. I strongly believe that as we continue to examine what the future of youth and family ministry looks like, those who believe they would be more effective without a youth minister or youth worker leading a strategy for youth discipleship are missing it. Parents should be the primary disciplers of their students. And youth ministers should be right there with them, supporting, supplementing them as they go.
- What do you think? Are we over-stating the role of the youth minister, or youth worker, when it comes to discipling teenagers?
- What do you think the youth minister's, or youth worker's, role in family ministry should be?