The other day, I stated my belief that event-driven youth ministry is a failure. Sure, it exposes kids to Jesus, puts them into an environment that allows them to hear God speak to them, and encourages them to employ some spiritual disciplines like prayer, Bible study, etc. but, then they come home to “reality, and because those disciplines are really not disciplines and attached to our students, the emotion of the event wears off, and they simply look to the next one to lift them up.
The following day, I stated that youth ministry is not even a biblical practice. When we look at God’s Word, we see the body of believers and parents and families taking seriously their roles in discipling their children. In most cases, this too has failed. I ended that post with what some (many?) would feel is a typical youth minister’s rant. Perhaps.
Here’s what I think.
If you are a parent that loves Jesus, I’m going to be blunt. It is your role to disciple your children. While that may include bringing them to church and youth events, that’s not discipleship. In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, we see two specific commands. The first is teaching. This is an intentional time set aside for communicating God’s Word to our kids. The second is living. This is simply how we live, we care for the hurting, we give of our coin, time and talent; it’s just who we are.
If there is not some time set aside on a consistent basis for teaching, you are not doing the first. If you are not engaged in spiritual disciplines in a manner that your kids observe, then you are not doing the second. For those of you reading this, you must understand that both are required.
This will be difficult, there will be questions and your kids will see you stumble. Those are opportunities for you to disciple and be discipled. This is an opportunity for the church to equip parents to disciple their children.
At Eastview, we are absolutely blessed with a plethora of unchurched and dechurched kids in our youth ministry. This provides a special challenge because as un-equipped as our churched parents may feel (and be), the parents and families of these kids are really un-equipped. Here, we focus on discipleship of the kids. In effect, our church, the youth workers and leaders, take on the discipling role of parents. These kids need to receive the same commitment to discipleship that “our” families have. They receive the teaching on our youth nights and Sunday school, and see the living when we serve at SEMP, go to Mexico, clean at camp, etc. It is this second part that the event properly functions. It provides opportunity for life as a Christian.
In the end, I see the role of the youth minister within the church to be a resource to families, parents and kids, as opposed to the primary discipler of students. While in some cases this is so, it’s not the proper order. Parents, we are here to help you. Helping you does not mean telling you what to do. It means coming alongside you, to communicate God’s desire for your family, and then helping you get there.