Every now and then I'll come across people talking about the need to re-think the way youth ministry works. Whenever I see or read something coming from this angle I typically get annoyed quickly. I've heard in a variety of settings things like, "This method just doesn't work anymore." Or, "We're trying a totally different approach to our ministry."
The problem I have with this is that it assumes methods were the things that worked previously. That for one generation or time a specific strategy worked and for another period of time a different method is most successful. The idea is that if we figure out which method works - perhaps switching from a loud band and jumping around to being all contemplative with candles set up - then our ministry will start "working". But youth ministry at it's core is not about the stylistic nuances of youth culture, it's about loving students. It's about people genuinely caring about a teenager's relationship with God, not whether or not our music is appropriately styled.
I'm not saying those things don't matter. If we start playing Steven Curtis Chapman at our youth events, people are not going to be happy. If we go on a trip and bore kids to death because I try to have them knitting, I won't have a job for long. So i'm not saying being relevant doesn't matter, but the environments we create in our ministry, although important, is not youth ministry. The environments we create just provides the context for youth ministry to happen.
Youth Ministry is and will always be about relationships.
Styles will change, cultures will change, and what is popular in youth ministry circles will change. But some things will never change - the need for Jesus in the lives of students and the need for loving adults in the lives of students. This isn't a new idea. A genuine relationship is always more effective than a compelling sermon or an exciting event and that's because relationships is where ministry happens.