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Why Youth Ministry Could Fail The Church

Jeff Grenell
It would certainly be easier to make this blog about "Why Youth Ministry Could Help The Church Succeed". But, that is not a catchy blog title in our pessimistic society. So, in reading this blog, keep in mind that, if you take each of these 'failures' and turn them around, you are looking at 'successes'

Here are just 5 ways that Youth Ministry Could Fail The Church

Unhealthy Youth Leaders

There is a difference between 'busyness' and 'business'. When Youth Leaders are busy, they burn out. Because they spend more time in programming and gaming than they do in relationships and study. When Youth Leaders are about the business of the Church, they burn on. Because they spend more time in relationships and study than they do in programming and gaming.

Before a Youth Leader teaches or preaches to their leaders and students, they must internalize the Word they have been preparing. Our Personal spiritual health is elementary to us leading others in their corporate spiritual growth. One of the missing pieces in leadership development is Self-Leadership. Create your own personal disciplines before you challenge others to create theirs. Our own ceilings and lids can become detected by those around us when we have expectations for others that we do not live ourselves. Daily reading, weekly fasting, monthly witnessing, annual mentors, and a lifetime of sexual purity must be the kind of commitments we make to our own personal leadership.

An unhealthy Youth Leader will produce unhealthy students, and ultimately, an unhealthy generation who will lead the Church into an unhealthy future.

Mono-Strategy For Reaching A Diverse Student

There are many models (or strategies or approaches or philosophies) to Youth Ministry. The Youth Service, Discipleship, Outreach, Small Group, Fine Arts, Events, and even Campus based models are all popular. To simply emphasize one of these approaches is limiting. The diversity in the youth culture demands that we become proficient in multiple models. Look at the tribes present in our society:

Most Youth Ministries are able (or willing) to function in 1 or 2 of these. Maybe a good youth service and a few outreach events. Or, capable small groups and weekly visits to the Campus. Each Youth Leader will have a core competency in one or even two of these strategies, but, the Youth Leader who can become proficient in 2 or 3 or 4 of these models can have an opportunity to reach more students. And that requires that Youth Leaders have varied skilled and multiple gifted leaders around them.

It takes all kinds of people to reach all kinds of people. And it takes all kinds of models to reach all kinds of men.

An Unwillingness To Be Teachable

The mentoring relationship between the young Youth Leader and the veteran Youth Leader is vital to a healthy Church. In my travels and conversations with so many leaders across the country I have seen an unfortunate relationship between the two emerge. The young leader can often think that the vets are stuck in the scriptures and don't understand culture. That they are dinosaurs who preach a gospel that society isn't interested in and they are living on past successes from 2 or 3 decades ago. On the other hand, the veteran leader can think that the rookie is into cultural trends and doesn't understand scripture. That they are hipsters who preach gaming and videos with more gaga ball and charades than biblical content.

Both of these views are unbalanced and extreme. What we need are young Youth Leaders who honor the wisdom of the veteran Youth Leaders, and, veteran Youth Leaders who value the resources of the young Youth Leaders. As a veteran of 31 years of Youth Ministry, I will say that I have not attained Youth Ministry perfection. I still love to have conversations with the rookies and see the passion in their eyes. But, if they will listen, I have so many lessons learned as I have watched decades of approaches come and go along the way. If they will listen, it could help them to do so much more than my generation of Youth Leaders ever did.

My ceiling is their floor. If the younger Youth Leader doesn't do greater things than I have done in Youth Ministry, I have failed them. Or, they haven't listened.

Poor Youth Ministry Ecclesiology

Youth Ministry today that is focused upon slick Wednesday night programming and pulling off one exciting event each month will produce students who will shed the Church as soon as they graduate from High School. Many Youth Leaders fail to think through the big picture. It is the responsibility of the youth team to be strategic in the connecting and retention of students and leaders into the church body. Youth Leaders who simply build a sub-culture of Youth Ministry separate from the whole church are missing the rewards that could arise from inter-generational relationships.

And aside from the inter-generational rewards, an isolated Youth Ministry misses the opportunity to prepare the next leaders of the Church. It should be clearly understood by all volunteer and paid Youth Leadership in the Church that the future pastors, elders, deacons, department leaders, and administrative staff are coming from within the Youth Ministry. It is detrimental to do Youth Ministry in isolation of the Church.

If the Church is in the hands of the young people that I see across America, the Church is in great hands. The Spirit of God is moving through a generation in ways that reflect a bright future for the Church.

A Lack Of Supernatural Leadership

It was said of King David that he governed Israel with the integrity of his heart and the skillfulness of his hands. King Josiah was 8 years old when he became king, and by the time he was 16 he had removed all of the national idols. And Paul the Apostle placed a great emphasis upon natural and spiritual leadership by stating they could not be separated. The Jews in Thessalonica were enraged at the Apostles and said, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too” (Acts 17:6, NKJV). All of these examples are evidence of the importance of supernatural leadership.

There is no doubt that Youth Leaders must have natural communication, administrative, and relational skill-sets. Storytelling is important to reach this youth culture. Creativity is elementary to this generation. Personality is magnetic. But, these are not sufficient enough to build a remarkable and lasting ministry. Especially in the wake of a dynamic movie and special effects industry. There must be a greater emphasis from Youth Leaders to walk in Spiritual Leadership by seeking the gifts of the Holy Spirit to help build the Church. The Holy Spirit is not intimidated by Hollywood.


If there is one enviable trait that our culture would desire in the Church, it is the supernatural. You cannot deny the central theme of the supernatural in American culture. And there is one place we should see the super-natural working. The Church.

If the future of the Church is in the hands of the young people in our Youth Ministry, we should be placing much more thought and strategic planning in the placement of Youth Leadership in the Church. Because if we are not careful to deal with these 5 fails, we will continue to place unhealthy Youth Leadership in roles that influence a generation of unhealthy students who will then lead an unhealthy Church in years to come.