When I began my college studies, I was a Bible major with an emphasis in youth ministry. After six months of pursuing this emphasis, I realized that the ministry of philosophy for pastoring teenagers was no different than ministering to any other Christian at other ages. I also came to conclude that youth culture changes every two or three years. So, studying youth culture then would only help me for a few years and then I would have to “start over.” Thus, I changed my emphasis in Bible to expository preaching.
However, my first ministry vocation was youth ministry.
Now, let me answer the question
First, youth ministry is not healthy when it pulls the teen away from the family (Eph 6:1-3). Any ministry at any level that devalues the relationship between teen and parent or does not allow for enough time for the family together is counter-productive to the most intimate discipling relationship we have – the family.
Second, youth ministry is not healthy when it does not disciple its teenagers (Matt 28:16-20). A youth ministry’s focus should not be entertainment or even social activities. The youth ministry should be about disciple-making. That core mission does not change for Christians, no matter their level of maturity or age.
Third, youth ministry is not healthy when we lower our standards of expectation for our teens (I Tim 4:12). A book I would commend to you on this subject is Do Hard Things: a Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations by Alex and Brett Harris. Their case, and it’s a wise one, is that one of the reasons we see such an immaturity in our teenagers as they approach adulthood is that we treat them more like children than adults. We expect them to be childish and this build standards meant for a child.
What youth ministry needs is a biblical philosophy of ministry. What youth ministry needs are youth pastors who understand their role as a discipler who complements the family and doesn’t replace it.
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