As someone who has been involved in youth ministry as a volunteer and pastor for 18 years, my observation is that youth leaders and youth pastors are REALLY good at focusing on the DOING aspects of ministry. Youth ministries are generally pretty good at engaging young people, connecting with young people and getting young people involved. This is all really good, but I think our foundations can sometimes be a little shaky. I’ll give you some examples:

  1. I often meet youth leaders who are having a faith crisis in their own life and don’t really know why or what they believe about the gospel. They stay in youth ministry by the social appeal, not by a faith conviction.
  2. I often hear youth leaders (and pastors) say things that just aren’t true. Statements like ‘Jesus hates religion and is all about relationship’, and ‘everything will be different when you put God as no. 1 in your life’ are not only false but also potentially confusing to young people that are seeking to follow Christ.
  3. I hear many young adults questioning the teachings that they were taught in youth ministry. For instance, when they see a loved one suffer, or when they are exposed to people with different concepts of God. They are often even shaken when they hear a well-known scientist ‘debunk’ their view of creationism.

What’s the answer?

  1. Make sure that you and your ministry value, guard and preach the truth of the gospel and not just a message that can motivate young people. Jesus didn’t just speak truth; he was and is the Truth.
  2. Invite your pastors to help train your youth leaders on areas that will deepen their faith understanding and confidence, e.g. addressing questions such as ‘how do I understand the Old Testament’? OR ‘why does God let people suffer’ OR ‘what is the gospel’.
  3. Leaders are readers. As well as the scriptures, encourage youth leaders to read books that will not only help to establish them in their faith, but also inspire them. For example, ‘The Reason for God’– Tim Keller, or ‘How To Read The Bible Book By Book’– Gordon Fee.

On that note, if you are feeling God’s call into ministry, then I suggest you engage in SOME form of theological study. Whether you enrol full time in bible college, do a gap year internship at a ministry college or start doing a part time course online, it’s essential that those that disciple and teach the next generation of youth and youth leaders are passionate, articulate, confident and truthful communications of the gospel. Jesus himself trained for most of his formative years in learning and understanding the scriptures.

Article Written by: Tim Lochens – National Youth Director CRC & Deputy Lead Pastor at CFC Seaton, Adelaide, SA

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