The State of YTH Ministry in America (2 of 2)
I am encouraged by the direction of YTH Ministry in America. If the Church is in the hands of the young people that I see across our nation, the Church is in great hands.
From my perspective and experience there is great optimism. Each week I am in a different city and a different Church. From the urban center to the rural setting, and from small Churches to large Churches, I have the advantage of seeing the many philosophies at work in YTH Ministry. And it is as broad as it is deep!
Last week we talked about the first two traits of YTH Ministry in America. We covered the Worship Movement and the Diversity Movement. Please check last weeks blog right here, and, the video on YouTube (/jeffgrenell) to see the first two traits. Here are the last two traits that I see in YTH ministry in America.
A Leadership Movement
Watching YTH Leaders across the country is encouraging. There is a major lean to leadership development and delegation. Because the Church is the largest volunteer organization on the planet, we must create a culture of training and core competency improvement of our volunteers. If we do not train these leaders, we are going to fail. The sustainability of the Church is critically dependent upon the children’s and YTH Ministry departments of the Church.
One of the things that I share most often is the percentage of volunteers who are running YTH Ministry. Most of the statistics prove that around 75 to 80% of YTH Ministry in America is run by non-paid staff. With that in mind, we must address leadership development. We cannot continue to haul water to the sea by focusing solely upon paid YTH Ministry staff in the larger Church. But, we must include our focus of leadership development toward the paid YTH Leaders in the Church.
There are three levels of leadership development that must be addressed in YTH Ministry:
THE PERSONAL LIFE OF THE YTH LEADER
THE ADULT VOLUNTEER
THE STUDENT LEADER
Each of these levels of leadership require a concentration on the spiritual and the natural qualities of each leader. The spiritual focus would be upon the disciplines and integrity of the leaders. The natural focus would be upon the skillsets and gifts of the leaders.
If we do not raise the level of volunteer leadership in YTH Ministry, we do not raise the level of YTH Ministry in America.
Here are a few practical ways to raise the level of leadership in YTH Ministry: I have been calling for veteran paid youth leadership to take responsibility for the volunteer youth leadership in their area. By spending time with them and sharing resources, we can impact youth ministry much quicker than by isolating the paid and volunteer leaders.
Another key way to increase leadership development is to have a greater emphasis and priority of training the local youth team (at least monthly), of reading a book together, or of developing the specific core competencies of each youth leader and the volunteers. This would include group and team meetings and also mentoring/1-on-1’s with leaders.
A Theology Movement
Teenagers are under-challenged by the Church. I hear this on a regular basis. There is a greater expectation of teenagers in the school system than we have in the Church. It’s almost as if the Church is treating young people 2-3 grades younger than they really are.
But, have you seen their homework? Do you realize that they are expected to be on time, turn in completed homework assignments, and respect each other in class? They are challenged to focus and to think in school. Are we doing the same in YTH Ministry? Are we starting on time? Do we expect our students to come to YTH Group with their bibles? Is our content challenging students to think about theology.
Theology is simply the study of God. Looking at the biblical literacy in the Millennial and GenZ sets, maybe the reason these statistics are so low is because we have left the bible and theology out of YTH Ministry. Students are not serving God because students do not know God. Because we have focused more upon MEOLOGY than we have THEOLOGY.
It seems that the older we get the more cynical we get. I don’t believe that theology is cynical. I think it is mystical and based upon the factual nature of God. And I believe there are many more childlike descriptions of Jesus than cynical of pharisaical attributes.
Juvenialization is the retaining by adults of the traits from a previous generation or set. Is that really a bad thing? Maybe we should be concentrating on childlike traits of the younger generation. I’m not talking about retaining childishness. But, even Jesus called the disciples to learn from the characteristic traits of the children playing around them.
Maybe the reason why only 14% of people in America read the bible daily is because the Church has done a poor job of raising its children around the excitement of a systematic theology of God. After all, the people who do not service God are the people who do not know God.
Here are a few practical ways to raise the level of theology in YTH Ministry: We need to capitalize on the educational achievement and competitiveness of the Millennial and GenZ set. They are focused upon scholarship because of the high cost of education. Every YTH Leader should be challenging students with greater content.
Some of the elementary content that should be essential for teenagers includes, The Ten Commandments, key bible stories throughout the Old and New Testaments, the Sermon on the Mount material, Pauline Theology from the Epistles, The Fruit and Gifts of the Spirit, and a clear grasp of End-Times and Apocalyptic theology. This can be done through the following practical approaches:
Using the Bible as a YTH Leaders in our preaching and teaching
Asking students to bring their bibles or to get the YouVersion Bible App
Training students to study the bible on their own
Breaking co-dependency of the YTH Ministry and the student by teaching students to serve God in their context and not just the Church
Making sure that our Small group settings are charged with biblical content
Using Social Media to promote theology through memes and posts of scriptural content that helps students redeem their Social platforms
So many other trends in YTH Ministry were noticeable in my travels. Some of the other things that I see would include Outreach/Evangelism, Campus Access, and Social Media strategy approaches. The breadth of healthy YTH Ministry in our nation is encouraging. But these movements of Worship, Diversity, Leadership, and Theology would be a great place to start the assessment and evaluation of your YTH Ministry practices.