May 10th, 2014
What is the goal of your Youth MINISTRY? Every ministry of the local church needs a good strong philosophy behind it or you will simply fall into the trap of mistaking Activity for Accomplishment. Let me begin by making several declarative statements: 1. A Youth Director’s job is not to be an Activities Director. 2. A well-organized youth ministry is to primarily provide for your teens a Life’s Foundation not just Lots Of Fun. 3. The Biblical youth department is the wise parent’s best friend. The youth department and the parents of teens must be on the same page or frustration and failure will be the norm. Let me make three very important observations to help you Experience and Enjoy an Effective youth ministry:
UNDERSTANDING THE TIMES
The teenagers we are now dealing with are called Millennial’s. If your birth years range from the early 1980s to the year 2000 you’re a millennial. Can we reach this generation and still preach standards and stay fundamental and conservative? The answer is absolutely YES but we do need to understand the times. Today’s teens are growing up in a culture that is very different than what I faced growing up in the 60s and 70s. Culture has always been changing but the rate of change has accelerated dramatically. Morality is no longer mainstream in most parts of our country. Just telling teenagers what is right and wrong is not nearly as effective today as it was thirty or forty years ago when the whole church would shout a loud “amen” in answer to any moral dogmatic declaration.
If you go to echoespublications.com you can order a recent Preaching series I preached at our church titled “Developing A Biblical World View For Your Family.” We must do more than yell at them, we must win their hearts and minds for the cause of a Biblical Based World View. Many young people today who are hungry for substance – want a deeper argument with stronger rationale, and the ability to dialogue and intelligently lead a skeptic to Biblical truth. They want to be and should be handled with an Isaiah 1:18 approach. Gun barrel straight preaching is the foundation to a strong youth ministry, but we live in a culture that demands both relational and doctrinal depth. This generation of good and godly teenagers, want strong preaching but they also realize that a more secularized culture responds better to intelligent, rational, substantive dialogue that validates Christianity, than it does to rabid declaration of dogma with no logic. Let me say it a little bit more to the point - every day the young people growing up in our church’s face a culture that incessantly shoots holes in their Christian “beliefs.” I am convinced that they realize how desperately they need depth and solid answers WHY in order to be effective in turning hearts and minds to the Saviour and the Scriptures.
We don’t have to dip our sails, and tone down our preaching to reach today’s teens, but we do need to do more than holler “bless God” when we are preaching. I have observed that when a preacher yells “bless God” what follows will rarely be spirit led and sadly it may even be fleshly. I love the leadership moniker that says, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
UNDERUTILIZING THE TEENS
I have often said, “As goes the teenagers so goes the church.” The teen department can revolutionize the spirit of the church much easier than the church can revolutionize the spirit of the teen department. If the teenagers of a church get on fire it will change a church. The fear of many church leaders is that teens should not be put into any leadership positions. I actually believe that the very opposite is true. Teenagers certainly need to be trained and need to earn any leadership that they are given but it’s called Youth MINISTRY. The culture of our Youth MINISTRY has always been to get teenagers as involved in ministry as possible. We don’t let teenagers sing solos in our church but we have several teenage singing groups that sing regularly in our ministry. Every Sunday night for almost 19 years our 50 plus voice teen choir has performed a featured choir special in our evening service. Our teen choir is known all over the country, having made 7 CD’s and has been the inspiration for hundreds of other youth choirs all over the nation. At Grace Baptist we believe in letting teens serve. Many teens serve in our church Bus Ministry. At one point several years ago four of our bus routes had one of our teenagers as a Bus Captain. Three of those four teens are full time in the ministry today. One teenage Bus Captain was a young lady who is now a missionary’s wife. We encourage teenagers to work in our Primary I & Primary II church services and our Junior I & Junior II church services, and rest home ministries.
Every youth department should be a MINISTRY training ground. Get your teens involved in MINISTRY. This needs to be more than talk however, it needs to the strategy of your entire Youth MINISTRY. Take your teens on mission’s trips not just to amusement parks.
Over two decades ago, I sat all the parents of our teens down and challenged them with this philosophy. I don’t mean to kick anybody’s pet dog but none of our teens are going to play in the NBA regardless of how good they can play ball for our Christian Schools. I think sports are important but they should not be as important as they are in most of our churches. It is far more important that our teens know how to sing, play an instrument, win a soul to Christ and lead a ministry than it is that they are good ball players. We have always been competitive in sports, but never has sports been as important in our ministry as I have observed in many other ministries. But we do have one of the best youth choirs in America. Remember the important principle, “You Will Reap A Harvest Where You Place An Emphasis.”
UNDERVALUING THE TRUTH
You build a youth ministry on the same foundation you build a life, a marriage, a family, and a church. The foundation must be the Word of God. That’s why we must build youth groups around old fashioned, gun barrel straight, red hot, Holy Ghost filled, preaching. You keep people with the same methods that you reach people. If a youth ministry is built around fun then every activity has to be fun, but if you build it on the Book then you can add fun to anything you do. But if you build your youth group on fun nobody will be receptive when you expose them to good strong preaching.
I am convinced that today’s teens are absolutely looking for leaders to show them HOW. They are looking for gracious, biblical, Spirit-filled leaders who will compassionately believe in them, encourage them, influence them, and acknowledge them as leaders for the next generation. They run from those who caustically cut them off, but they run toward those who fuel their passion for Jesus and believe in their potential for the gospel.