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How to Fix Your Youth Ministry

Youth ministry has reached a place of crisis. The brokenness spilling over from dysfunctional families has reached epidemic levels. We see the evidence of that in our admissions department at Adventures. A much greater percentage of applicants are struggling with addiction and abuse issues than i…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Youth ministry has reached a place of crisis. The brokenness spilling over from dysfunctional families has reached epidemic levels. We see the evidence of that in our admissions department at Adventures. A much greater percentage of applicants are struggling with addiction and abuse issues than in past years.

Young people are looking for answers, but are not finding them at church – more than half leave the church during their college years.

Given that, what is a youth pastor to do?

I spoke at a conference about how youth pastors can fix their broken ministries. I delved into my own experience to help explain where they can find hope. Turns out they filmed it. Enjoy.

Comments (12)

  • Great word as always Seth! My heart breaks when I think of the many years I spent as a youth pastor desiring to experience the Kingdom for myself let alone my students, and yet could not find it anywhere in the churches I served in. When the system is broke we have to trust that God can and does lead us into something better. As I’ve seen God lead us on our own kingdom journey I am beginning to see and realize the truths you spoke of brokeness and abandonment to Jesus as essential to faith and life with Jesus, anything less is simply not what Jesus is calling us into.

    Have you seen anything out there where families are experiencing kingdom journey’s together, or a community of multiple families are discipling their children together in the Kingdom realities. Part of our Kingdom Journey has found us leading our own tribe, our hearts desire is to see parents faith so active in everyday life that it naturally is modeled for their children / teens where youth ministry is not necessary.

  • Seth,

    I enjoy reading your blog and just had to respond to this post and video. My husband and I run a ministry for young men ages 18-25 who are seeking purpose and passion in life. We have young men from Christian backgrounds as well as those with no exposure to the Gospel. Our community experience lasts 6-8 months and is a perfect GAP year opportunity to discover Who Am I and Why Am I here. To learn more, please visit our website. We agree that the “new orthodox” approach isn’t working and when God moved upon hearts 10 years ago, we simply began walking in obedience to do something to impact this generation. We know of nothing like Narrow Gate because we didn’t model it after anything. Our entire focus is on identity and purpose. Thought you would want to know about us for some of the young men who apply but aren’t ready for World Race. One of our graduates plans to apply for World Race next year. May God continue to use you to make disciples and fulfill the Great Commission!

  • This is great, Seth! Such a great points about how rebelling from “the system” is the best choice you can make!

    Love the bridge between youth ministry and missions 🙂

  • Cindy and I watched your video. The thought that comes to my mind is most youth pastors are probably aged out of the opportunity to do the world race….. And while I agree that many churches might not support it, there are some that might, maybe on a shorter term. Have you considered a Youth Pastor geared world race? Maybe more along the 3 month time frame? Or how about a shortened Race for others who may want to go but can not go for 11 months?? If you start (somewhere) for Youth Pastors, the ripple effect of how it affects them and their ministries could be amazing..

  • Robert,

    Thanks for the idea. Wouldn’t that be awesome? A 3-month World Race for youth pastors. I’d love to see it. Youth Pastors need discipleship if they are to disciple.

    If we could get a group of 25 youth pastors to commit, then I’d do it.

    What I have struggled with is “how in the world would you get youth pastors to embrace such a crazy idea?” It is a paradigm shifter and would require out-of-the-box thinkers. Any ideas?

  • Several ideas, but want to seek God’s thoughts as well. Cindy spoke out, “keep them in the states”, it would cut down on the price and still get them
    Out of their comfort zones. There are plenty of areas in the USA that are in n=
    eed and could rock their (youth pastors) world. My other thought upon reading your response is why not senior pastors as well??? If they are on board it would make a world of difference. Wow, God sure has a lot of work ahead to Make this work!!! Will be in prayer and report what He tells us…., kip and Cindy kopsick .By the way, I think Cindy would go in a heart beat …..

  • There are some good points, but I’m not sure how I feel about all the negativity here. I know some churches with AWESOME youth ministries that are partnering with parents and making a lasting impact on kids life. Isn’t there some positive aspects of youth ministry as it is today? And isn’t more helpful for youth pastors to hear positive encouragement rather than just criticism?

    No hard feelings, just my thoughts! But I would love a response.

  • Colleen – you asked for a response – here goes!

    First, thanks for your thoughts. I agree, There are some awesome youth ministries that we need to learn from. At the same time, when you look at the overall trend for faith in our youth, we have to look at what’s going on and the data is discouraging.

    This video of Jonathan Cahn at the National Prayer Breakfast is a fair assessment of where we are:

    At present, most young people are abandoning their faith before or during their college years. They are not adequately prepared by youth ministry. If current trends don’t change, we can look at Europe for a good picture of where we will end up in another generation.

    Yes, it is both sad and negative, but it is reality.

    The good news is, if we will just follow Jesus and emulate his example, we will experience abundant life. My aim is to point people toward him. He called his way a narrow road, and and in our relativistic society, his high standards look too demanding.

    I’m very interested in sharing the success stories of youth ministries that are doing it right. Please pass them along and I will highlight them.

  • Good work,discussion and explanation to make the life of the the youth better.I so much enjoy your topic and as a youth leader have really learnt alot.Pls can have teachings,material from you or some other youth ministry in order to benefit our you.Thanks.

    In christ
    m2yw coordinator

  • Merry Christmas, Seth, to you and yours!
    I still read your blog faithfully and follow your work.
    Respect, admiration, and best wishes coming your way.
    2014 is going to be a great year!

    Take care,

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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