Youth Ministry Is Not a Stepping Stone
By Jessica Simpson
It irks me when people imply that someone is “too old” for youth ministry, or that you can somehow outgrow it, or that being a youth leader/pastor is a stepping stone to some “higher” calling—like being assistant pastor or pastor. When people display this mentality, it says: 1) they think young people aren’t worth a lifetime investment; 2) people can’t minister to young people if they’re “old” or have children.
Yet, the most notable youth ministers on the planet are in their 30’s and 40’s, but because they are called to youth ministry–not as a stepping stone, but a life’s purpose–they are able to tap into the hearts of young people.
If someone has the viewpoint that youth ministry is a stepping stone, or that one day they will “move up” to higher places of ministry, that person should never be put over a group of young people. Teenagers deserve respect and should be treated like the valuable resource they are in the local church.
Don’t Even Start
No matter what church, city, or country, within any given youth group exists a delicate balance of positive and negative energy. To successfully tilt the scales and have the positive energy spill over and cancel out the negativity takes someone who has a unique burden and passion for teenagers—not just a good Christian who means well.
Far too often, our churches give young people a second-rate program. Someone within an appropriate age-range is designated the “youth” pastor, regardless of ultimate ministry goals and capacity for dealing with young people. Then, with a half-hearted leader whose eyes are on other ministry opportunities, young people are given church hand-me-downs, broken equipment, and expected to meet in a room entirely unfitting for a successful youth ministry. Herein lies a complete disregard for the spiritual well-being of teenagers.
Society offers them gleaming technologies, funky beats, and powerhouse fun, and we’re supposed to compete with our folding chairs, podium, and 45-minute spiritual speeches? When will young people be brought to the forefront of the church and be shown they are valuable, important, and vital to the success of the local congregation, not just told they are important, but really, honestly shown through investing in what really matters to them?
No Burden, No Position
Young people need a leader who is uncommonly devoted to their spiritual success and called by God to sacrifice, sow, and stretch for the cause of seeing teenagers get to heaven. They need a group of leaders working in tandem with the youth pastor to exemplify unity and teamwork. They need their own identity, their own things, if you will, to help them develop a sense of belonging. They need to be encouraged, excited, and loved. They are not the “future of the church” or the “church of tomorrow,” they are the church, right now, as God has ordained it to be.
When half-hearted individuals who lack vision and motivation (who are not called to be youth ministers), are placed in a position of leadership over young people, then ultimately the outcome will be wayward teenagers, lukewarm young people, and backslidden-on-a-pew kids.
Is the church made up only of adults? Is the only value of a congregation in the tithe-paying members? God forbid we embrace the mentality that young people don’t exist in the realm of importance because they’re not old enough, talented enough, rich enough, smart enough, dedicated enough, or worthy enough.
Is It That Hard?
Young people deserve respect. They deserve to have a voice and opinion. They deserve to worship God in all the freedom that He has given, in any way they choose, and in whatever manner—however non-traditional, progressive, or different it may be.
And most of all, they deserve a leader who will go to the ends of the earth to pull their soul out of hellfire and lay it on the altar; someone who will stand up for them in the face of traditional pooh-poohers who want to hold them back; someone who will lay down his own comfort in order to be a servant; someone who will carry the burden of each young person, no matter how heavy and inconvenient it becomes, and collapse on the altar of God.
That’s what young people deserve.
It’s not for everyone.
It’s a high calling.
“Youth Ministry Is Not a Stepping Stone”. Written by Jessica Simpson.
“This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”