The Two Things I Believe About Youth Ministry

by Elizabeth

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I was 19 years old when youth ministry bored its way into my bones and penetrated my marrow. I’m 34 now, and youth ministry still pours into my blood and circulates through my veins. I believe in youth ministry, in all that is good and holy about loving and caring for young people in the context of the local church. And these are two of the things I believe about youth ministry:

1. Effective youth ministry isn’t in opposition to involved parenting. It doesn’t have to be “youth ministers are bad and war against the parents.” And it doesn’t have to be no ministry at all. Youth ministry can be respectful of parents and their influence and authority. It can bridge the gaps between parents, teenagers, and the local and global Church.

2. But effective youth ministry needs more workers: more Bible teachers and youth leaders, more Christ followers and relationship builders. Group ministry is great — and I believe in it — but one-on-one discipleship is even greater, and I believe in it even more. One minister or even a ministry team can’t possibly disciple all the youth in the church. So we need more people who care. More people who aren’t afraid of teenagers. More people who think youth ministry means something, something really important. Because youth ministry does mean something. It means the world to every teenager you invest in. So let’s do a little investing. A little guiding. A little caring and a little paying attention. And we just might witness the restoration of lives and the rescue of souls.

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With many thanks to the youth workers who poured into me as a young person, the youth workers who now pour into my own children, the parents who have trusted me to minister to their children, and the teenagers who have allowed me into their hearts and lives over the years. I love you all.

8 thoughts on “The Two Things I Believe About Youth Ministry

      • Yes! I have actually been looking at and praying about attending Eternity Bible College, founded by Francis Chan. Do you have any advice for someone with a crazy passion to counsel or mentor?

      • Hey Meg, what a great question. How much wisdom and humility it takes to ask that question before embarking on an adventure! So first thing, bravo on the question. Second, I don’t know anything about that particular Bible College, but I will attempt to offer some answers for your question 🙂

        There are two paths to take here, and they are not mutually exclusive — meaning, you could do both 🙂 The first thing is, if you want to be involved in ministry, you can do it in the context of a local church. I love the local church. I’ll repeat myself: I LOVE the local church. I believe, along with Bills Hybels, that “The local church is the hope of the world.” I love local church ministry, and in fact believe that it is where most of our life-giving transformation is going to happen.

        So if you want to influence people, volunteering in ministry is one of the first places to start. Attend a Bible study; then lead a Bible study. The relationships you build WILL impact people for good and for God. You will stretch them and grow them and touch their hearts even when you don’t think anything is happening above the surface. Years of experience have taught me that — both the way people impacted me without knowing (until I told them) and the way people told me (later) that I impacted them. Prayer ministry, youth ministry, women’s ministry, any kind of local church ministry, it’s got potential for mentoring. Sometimes it happens casually, and sometimes it happens in a class, but sometimes people will come out and ask for counsel or an ongoing mentoring relationship.

        Ok so that’s kind of the organic impact you can have without training 🙂

        The second route would be to get formal training, as you are considering. It could be Bible training at a Bible college, it could be getting a degree in counseling and then going through the licensing procedure, it could be taking classes on being a coach or a spiritual director or a pastoral counselor. There are tons and tons of options here. 🙂 And the thing is, you can do both. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

        I will say that with both counseling and mentoring, it’s important to know your story, to process it, to own it. It helps with separating out your motives for why you’re doing what you’re doing and preventing yourself from being triggered by other people’s trauma. And that’s an ongoing process, but you kind of have to live long enough to have accumulated some pain, to have sought Jesus as the One and Only answer to that pain, and to have received some healing in His name. You have to have made some mistakes and come to the end of who you are so that you are ready to receive grace — and subsequently, to pour it out on others. You have probably experienced all those things already, but I just thought I’d explain it, as I think it’s important when you are wanting to invest in someone else.

        Hope this helps, and may God guide you as you’re making future decisions. I’m excited to find out what happens!

        Love, Elizabeth

  1. Thank you so much for writing such honesty. I’m a youth worker too, have been since I was 18. I long to see young people so passionate about Jesus in every area of their life! I have the struggle of looking after three churches who appear to not have many who are willing to get involved in serving the young people in providing discipleship. Have you found any affective ways to build a team of volunteers? Blessings, Amy. X

    • This is such a great question! Sometimes it can be hard to build a youth team, but I don’t know why. Teenagers are so awesome! But I think sometimes people are nervous around them. I think teens are way less intimidating than adults though! And having a team is so helpful because for events, you have more people to draw from for leading worship, teaching, leading small groups, etc etc.

      In one of the churches where we served, we ended up asking people if they’d be interested in serving on a youth team. We had regular volunteer meetings to build morale and exchange ideas. Where we are now, we aren’t in charge of the youth team, we’re just on it. I think the youth volunteer team here has just grown as people have come to church and said they were interested in helping out.

      So I guess I would just say to pray for God to send you workers, and pay attention to the hints people drop that they are interested in youth, and then make sure to give them support, encouragement, and thanks for helping out.

      I hope and pray in the coming months that God sends you the youth team He wants for you!

      ~Elizabeth

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