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Youth ministers must disciple!

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 they’ve also got to run a program: They’ve got to schedule regular youth group meet…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

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 they’ve also got to run a program:

  • 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.
  • They
    are expected to fill their calendars with “youth activities.”

Ultimately, many of them stay at one church less than two
years. So, it is a rare youth pastor who
is able to spend the time needed discipling individual students.

If you’re an average youth worker you got into the field because you
wanted to disciple young people. But
something happened along the way. Your
church gave you a flawed model of discipleship, one that involves little
long-term ministry and results in meager fruit.

Expectations, calendars, and a risk-averse evangelical
culture all make your life complicated.

Our culture wants you to work as guns-for-hire, babysitting a
generation sitting back with arms folded and a smirk that says, “Go ahead and
try to hold my attention. I’ve got
satellite TV, an X-box, wireless internet, a cell phone, and a schedule that
won’t quit. See where you fit in that

Jesus said, “Let the dead bury the dead.” His terms were uncompromising; ours should be

If you’re a youth worker reading this, I don’t want to leave
you in the lurch. Let me recommend a few
practical steps you can take:

First, if your heart is telling you, “disciple young people”
and your program won’t let you do it, then decide to get out of your program
and into something that allows you to disciple young people. Don’t let
salary be a major consideration.

Second, consider going to your senior pastor and asking for
permission to apply Jesus’ model of discipleship. Here’s one way – do what a nearby Atlanta
church does, begin by taking those who really want to be discipled on a two-month
summer mission trip. That’s right, I
said two months! How else are you going
to change their habits? Get adult
volunteers to take everyone else to water parks.

Third, consider finding a team who will encourage you to
disciple young people in the same way Jesus did. If you’re consistently discouraged where you
are, you may need to consider the possibility that God wants you to quit your
current job, but if He does, at least you can look for a place that lets you
disciple the way that Jesus did.

Also, check out: A crisis in youth ministry

Comments (7)

  • Man this is a great post. Thank you for putting this out there for all of us youth pastors who really want to make a difference

  • I am 17 and have visited many youth groups and I have experienced what you are talking about and heard the complaints of many others who just aren’t getting what they need out of there youth groups. Well, I finally found one I could invite my friends in that perdicament to and I love it also. Our youth leaders are not trained by college learning just as being deciples themselves of Jesus. They are open to our ideas, and though we have Wednesday youth group and Friday night Bible studywhich is a little more in depth my leaders are open to any of our suggestions, to doing beyond the norm, for rearranging the regular schedual, to do whatever we are being called to do. I think that though scheduals are nice we must also learn to be flexible, we must value that many do want to learn, just they want to learn more and not the basics over and over. Youth are in that difficult stage of changing form a catapiller to butterfly. We are undergoing a metamorphis and we can’t keep chewing on leaves. The time to spread our wings is near and so we need to be able to eat nectar, the sweet taste of our relationship with GOd. The powerful one, the deep one, into trancending truths, into the meat and not just the stories. If you are a youth pastor, don’t give up. Just be willing to follow the call of the spirit wherever He calls you even if it means you need to adjust the callander.


  • We work with middleschoolers during Sunday school. I feel than when we engage ourselves into “their world” we earn their respect and they are more open to accept us as their mentors. We have started this year alternating fun outings with service projects. One kid asked how much will they pay us for raking the leaves on the property of an elderly member of the church. I told them that this will introduce them to the joy and satisfaction of charitable service. I told them if you want to get paid don’t come. We don’t want you for this activity. So a bunch of kids showed up and we helped two older individuals from lunchtime until sunset. It was awesome. I’m so proud of them and thankful to God that these kids are so receptive to discipleship and don’t require much babysitting.

    That symbol’s cool Peevsy. God bless you <><>.

  • I love the idea of taking youth on a 2 month mission trip. How exciting would that be. Can you imagine what would happen to that group when they got back to the church? Talk about some group bonding! On a tangent one of my favorite comments I got from a mom when proposing a junior high trip to work with the homeless was “Will my daughter actually be interacting with homeless people? If that is the case I don’t think I would allow her to go, that’s not safe!” Can you imagine if that was Jesus’ attitude?

  • This is a great post… i am a son of youth pastors and i know the ups and downs…. Our youth group is so young, but it seems like they are more vunurable, they have finally been worshiping and applying the lessons to their lifes…. the other night we had a 4 hour service.. it was awesome…

    Derek 😡
    ps… sorry bout the bad spelling

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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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