Youth Ministry

Introduction. Most adults will admit that being a teenager is tough. For many, it was the most difficult period of their lives; but still many will also say it was a fun and interesting time. The period from junior high through high school is a time of growth and understanding. It is a time of learning through failure and success, and everything seems new. Friendships are grown and developed. And, as teenagers, people learn how to transition from the time of a childhood to adult maturity (although this transition in many western societies protrudes into a person’s early 20s). There are reasons for a strong youth program in church, some of which will be discussed here.

What is Youth Ministry and Why. According to Youth Ministry Exchange, “80% of Christians become so by the age of 18, with influences such as conventions, camps, retreats” (Youth Ministry Exchange). And of these Christians that became Christians before the age of 18, LifeWay Research has found that, “70 percent of young adults ages 23-30 stopped attending church regularly for at least a year between ages 18-22” (LifeWay Research, slide 6). Of all the reasons given for the break, 20% of them indicated that the respondent did not feel connected people in his or her church (LifeWay Research, slide 10). Youth ministry is the organized effort to train youth, share the gospel to young people, provide service opportunities, offer mentorship, make a way for accountability from leaders and peers, and foster connections with others through relational community (Valley Bible Church).

It would be unreasonable to think that a child could transition from worshiping, learning, and fellowshipping with others in a children’s ministry into an adult ministry, so youth ministry serves to bridge the gap. In addition, youth ministry and youth leaders help shepherd a young person through the awkward and often difficult time of this period. In fact, this may be the most significant time for growth and development in a Christian’s lifetime, especially if 80% of Christians became believers before the age of 18. Youth ministry is a place for foundations to be laid. It is a place for relationships to be developed. There is support found with peers, and there are opportunities for non-believing friends to be invited. And there should be fun and joy along with training, rebuking, and instruction.

Examples of Youth Ministry. Youth ministry may take on many different forms, but it must serve as the Holy Spirit has structured it for the specific area, specific church, and specific group of teens. Often a strong youth ministry program will offer some sort of Sunday school or separate service for the youth. There might be a youth worship team leading worship (which helps foster ministry opportunities for the youth), or the youth might remain with their parents through a time of corporate worship (which helps slowly integrate the group into the adult fellowship) to be released midway through the service. A mid-week evening service should be offered. Fellowship opportunities are usually a normal part of youth ministry, which can include anything from game nights, movie nights, camps, concerts and events, Bible studies before or after school, or just about anything a creative youth leader can come up with. The youth program should also include service opportunities. Some churches will have a service day were the youth help out the community by performing a task like trash clean up or painting. At times, these service opportunities shift to feeding the homeless or serving in a rescue mission. And mission trips are a valuable addition to any youth program. Although few churches do it, the youth ministry is the right time to start integrating small group habits. With the parents’ help, smaller groups can meet in homes together to study, worship, and fellowship in an intimate setting. It is advisable that these are completely youth lead, although with every aspect of youth ministry, there should be supervision from a responsible leader. The only limitations of youth ministry are found in the leader’s mind and the availability of resources.

LifeWay Research. Spring 2007 “Church Dropouts: How Many Leave Church between ages 18-
22 and Why?” LifeWay Website. Microsoft PowerPoint presentation file.
How_Many_Leave_Church_and_Why.ppt [accessed June 12, 2010].

Valley Bible Church. Ten Reasons Why You Should Be Involved in Youth Ministry. [accessed June 12, 2010].

Youth Ministry Exchange. 10 Reasons Why I’m in Youth Ministry.
[accessed June 6—June 12, 2010]. 
*Photo by Flickr user, Leah Manchi.