If you’ve spent any time at all involved in youth ministry, or thinking or reading about how the church can more effectively disciple young people, then you’ve probably come across lamentable statements about how young people are graduating from High School and walking away from their faith. A number of books and articles explore the bleak statistics regarding just how many students seem to be checking out of church after graduation. Anecdotally, I can put names and faces with those statistics to verify, at least in my own experience, that far too many students who seem faithful to participating in youth ministry disengage after high school (if not before).
This is probably a topic for a different post, but my contention with these statistics is that ‘participating in youth ministry’ and being vitally engaged in the mission that Christ is accomplishing in and through his church are not the same thing. From a cynical vantage point, it seems like many of the students who we see as ‘walking away’ have never really been connected with Jesus, they were just connected to some of Jesus’ people who happened to hang out at youth group. That can (and should) lead to connection with Jesus, but it’s not automatic. It seems that some (maybe a lot) of what happens in youth ministry, just isn’t making much of a difference long term.
But, we want to make a long term impact, right? We want to know that the work of our ministry isn’t just some fleeting set of crutches to help teens through an awkward period of time. We want to make a difference for life. I would suggest that aiming toward these 5 attitudes in our students would go a long way toward doing just that.
1. A permanent attitude of worship. Worship is not a sing-a-long; it’s what I do with my life.
2. A kingdom view of God’s church. The church is bigger than me and the way I do things. What is God doing in His people throughout the world?
3. A passion for revealing God to people who don’t notice Him. I can’t change another person – but recognizing God changes everything.
4. A commitment to local service as the church. I don’t have to wait until I’ve established myself as an adult to participate in the life of the church – I’ll serve now.
5. A hunger for depth in the relationship with God. The more I know Him, the more I want to know Him more.
As I think of the most meaningful ministry I’ve done with students, these 5 characteristics show up over and over again. They are touch points that I come back to and characteristics that I want to see my students develop. As we dig in to each of these foundations over the next several weeks, I hope you’ll find some helpful thoughts and share your insights about what you can do to indelibly impress these attitudes with the teens you know.
But first, how do you exhibit these characteristics in your own life so that young people can see them?
Here are the links to the rest of the Foundations of Youth Ministry series. Check out the other posts and be sure to use the subscribe field at the top to get new content via e-mail: