Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: Effective Youth Ministry Models

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Effective Youth Ministry Models

Time Magazine ran an article a few months ago outlining the models of youth ministry that were enjoying the greatest success. Success here is defined not only by sheer numbers and a thriving group, but also by the biblical literacy of the various youth models mentioned. Time was reporting that the nation's most energetic and successful youth ministries were those which did not "sugar coat" the ministry. The implications of this lesson extend well beyond the usually cramped corridors of the youth room.

Teenagers will be teenagers. There is a need for fun. There is a need for pizza parties, games, and silliness. But no matter how much the other people in any particular vehicle want to steer the car on the road, ultimately it is the person behind the wheel, the one in the "drivers seat" that makes the car move. For many, if not most youth ministries in our churches, the pizza party mentality is driving the car.

Thankfully, it appears the tide is beginning to turn. Reports like the one in Time Magazine are showing youth groups replacing the foundation of a hyped crazy atmosphere with solid Bible teaching. Students are responding with open arms to the teaching of God's Word, and not a superficial teaching at that. Our teenagers, depsite the presumed lack of biblical knowledge up to this point, can handle and are hungry for doctrine, for what the Bible really says about issues and how we as Christians should be responding. This challenge for youth pastors goes well beyond the stero-typical teen response of "stay away from alcohol" and "don't have sex before marriage." Although admonitions like these are fine as a moral by-product for the Christian life, the Bible is not a tale of morals. It is the telling of an all powerful God who provides a way through Jesus Christ to save the world. We must dig deeper.

Perhaps the pulpits of our churches can benefit from this recent youth movement. Moralizing and self-help topics dominate the sermon material of the day. But, that is a topic for another day.

What are warning signs for "sugar coated" youth ministries? Here, I believe, are a few:

1) Churches who are willing to fill the youth ministry position with unqualified, uneducated, biblically illiterate lay people. Although the hearts and sincereity of these leaders are usually pure, they will always fall back on fun and games. The church is at fault here, not the layperson.

2) Falling into the trap of being a friend to the teenagers rather than a leader. This is easy to do. We want so much for the students to like us that we fail to properly lead them.

3) Failing to hold youth leaders accountable for their teaching and involvement with the students. This is difficult to do because a youth pastor cannot be in 3 classrooms at the same time. But accountability is key.

In another post, I will address what is becoming more crucial to me with youth ministry, the involovement of solid biblical help for parents.


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