What I say in this blog is controversial, so I put it to one of the top experts in the field and said, “what do you think?” His response came this morning: He agrees and senses that many others do as well. We have a big problem – an elephant in the living room. So, here it is:
There’s a crisis afoot in youth ministry. I’ve got 20 years experience and have a pretty good bird’s eye view on this. The problem is given context when you understand that youth ministers should be heading up the research and development departments of the Church. They are responsible for the next generation of Jesus followers. But, as you look at the big picture, the cupboards are for the most part bare. The laboratory is empty. We should be raising up young people prepared to overthrow the existing order and instead our best idea seems to be to try and co-opt postmodernism.
The root of the crisis can be found in the way youth ministries are structured. In the last 30 years, the Church in America has produced a generation of professional youth pastors. They care about youth and want to impact them for Jesus, but at the end of the day, most are as concerned about their job as they are about the fruit they are producing. To do their job, they’ve got to schedule regular youth group meetings. They need to meet with parents. They have to go to staff meetings. They have to attend conferences. And many of them stay at one church less than two years. At the end of the day, it is a rare youth pastor who is able to spend the time needed discipling individual students.
The average youth worker got into the field because he wanted to disciple young people. But something happened along the way. He embraced a flawed model of discipleship, and so, charted a course to ineffectual ministry and ultimate burnout. That doesn’t mean that many youth pastors aren’t successful, it’s just that the most prevalent model of youth ministry sets youth pastors up for failure. They are trapped by expectations, calendars, and a risk-averse evangelical culture which embraces a theologically sanitized, politically correct version of Jesus that would never take on religious authorities, much less try to cast out a demon or raise somebody from the dead.
More on the subject here: “Youth ministry.”