By Point University Online, Crosswalk.com
You don’t have to think about the purpose of youth ministry before you start connecting adolescents to things like temptation, bullying, and negative aspects of technology and popular culture.
But that’s not all. Don't forget about how a driver’s license, a job, or increased independence can impact their priorities.
In fact, a related life event — moving to college — is the leading reason why young adults stop attending church, according to a survey from Lifeway Research. It found that two-thirds of American young adults who attended a Protestant church for at least a year as a teenager dropped out for at least a year between the ages of 18 and 22.
“We are seeing teenagers drop out of the church as they make the transition out of high school and student ministry,” Ben Trueblood, director of student ministry at Lifeway, said. “This moment of transition is often too late to act for churches.”
What Churches and Families Need to Keep in Mind
It’s probably reasonable to say that, at least at times, and not necessarily out of negative intentions, churches and families can lose sight of the true purpose of youth ministry. They sometimes get caught up in other priorities and distractions.
For churches, the issue is often organizational. Leaders can view youth ministry as yet another way to attract families and grow the church. Those goals are important and have their place, but they can’t be the primary driving force behind creating an effective youth ministry. In a time when terms related to “church growth” have buzz-worthy status in ministry leadership circles, the result can be low-quality youth ministry.
That plays into what can happen for families. When parents and students think about committing to a youth ministry, there can be good intentions that go out the window when busy schedules collide with church activities. Who has time to make it to “yet another youth ministry activity” filled with, to go along with some people’s perception of them, silly games and a Bible lesson? Even when the substance of those activities is of the highest quality, families can ultimately get overwhelmed with everyone’s work schedule on top of teens’ schoolwork, extra-curricular activities, and social engagements.
It’s easy to let priorities and attendance slide. But, given the true purpose of youth ministry, it’s something that churches, teens, and parents must take seriously.
The Purpose of Youth Ministry
Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying:
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
Before you were born I sanctified you;
I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”
Then said I:
"Ah, Lord God!
Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.”
But the Lord said to me:
"Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’
For you shall go to all to whom I send you,
And whatever I command you, you shall speak.
Do not be afraid of their faces,
For I am with you to deliver you,” says the Lord.
Jeremiah 1: 4-8 NKJV
Jeremiah was most likely a teenager — probably between 12 and 17 — when he was called to be a prophet. That’s around the age when Joseph, David, Esther, Mary, and others had life-changing experiences.
In some environments, there’s a feeling that “children are our future” and that, until they’re adults, they won’t truly make a major impact. But the Word of God utterly rejects that sentiment. Children and adolescents already have and will continue to change this world and the next, in service of God and in fulfillment of His will.
Teens today may not literally hear the voice of God (like Jeremiah) or have some clear, divine dream of the future (like David, Joseph, and Mary), but they can have clarity in their place within His kingdom. And they can absolutely make an incredible, God-given impact. Look at how Paul encouraged Timothy in his ministry in Ephesus.
It’s not at all clear how old Timothy was, but what is clear is the place of young people in God’s kingdom. Age isn’t a burden for understanding His purpose and carrying it out. Sometimes, it’s exactly when people begin to understand their place and role in it all. For others, it may take several years to discern exactly how they will glorify God in their lives.
That's the purpose of youth ministry: It engages young people in their faith to explore who God is and what He has to say about their lives. It helps them understand their true value. And it does all of this within an environment of fellowship and mentoring.
Discipleship is the hallmark of an effective youth ministry. And by earning an online bachelor’s in youth and family ministries, you’ll learn how to connect and engage youth and parents in a way that glorifies God and fulfills His will. You’ll explore biblical and theological coursework that promotes healthy spiritual, emotional, and social development of parents and children.
If you already have a bachelor’s degree, the online Master of Transformative Ministry equips you to transform individuals, communities, and organizations for God’s glory. It’s a strong option for a range of career opportunities in church ministry, parachurch ministry, and nonprofit organizations.
Learn in a flexible environment at Point University, which pursues a mission to educate students for Christ-centered service and leadership throughout the world.
Image credit: ©Getty Images / adl21
Founded in 1937, Point University is a private liberal arts institution that educates students to influence culture for Christ in all spheres of life. In addition to our online programs, which provide a broad, comprehensive curriculum designed to prepare students for their chosen professions, we operate multiple ground campuses throughout Georgia.
Point University offers accredited associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees taught by dedicated faculty who equip the next generation to take their faith into the marketplace in new and culturally relevant ways – to erase the lines between who they are and what they do so that they see life and mission as one and the same.