[This post is part of the Youth Ministry 101 series]
Youth ministry is not complicated. It may not be easy, but it's not complicated. Youth ministry is not defined by programs or events, it's not defined by a gathering of teenagers, and it's not defiined by a particular model or philosophy of ministry. A church may not have any weekly programs, any volunteers, or any idea of what to do with the teenagers - but they can have a healthy youth ministry. On the same hand, a church may have tons of programs, a huge volunteer staff, and hundreds of teenagers coming to their events - and they could have an unhealthy youth ministry.
Youth ministry is any way that a body of believers ministers to its youth. This can be as a church hires staff, builds up volunteers, and begins weekly programs. But it can also be as a church, without any programs, teaches parents to parent well, as the welcome teenagers into their congregation, and as they mentor the few teenagers that are present in the congregation.
A Formula For Healthy Youth Ministry
It is commonplace in youth ministry circles to talk about the "future of youth ministry." But the reality is that while philosphies are likely to shift, the reality that teenagers need to know Jesus and they need adults that love and care about them is not going to change. Ministry is not something that is a new invention; one of the most popular commands of Jesus is the command to "Go and make disciples." Youth ministry is discipleship. We are helping teenagers become disciples of Jesus. And the recipe for discipling a teenager is a lot of Jesus plus someone shepherding the student. This could look different in a lot of different contexts, but the reality is the same. Adults that are loving and caring for students is central to youth ministry. Youth ministry without relationships is not youth ministry, it's school.
Photo Credit: J.C.O.