It seems like too much youth ministry is happening in a bubble. Observing the way many churches do youth ministry, the consistent picture is one of young students involved in activity with each other, but not necessarily with the rest of the church body. I definitely would not be one to say that there is no place for age-based ministry, but wouldn’t it make more sense if it was done in the context of an ageless church ministry?
I hear people lament the fact that students “leave the church” after graduation and entry into young adulthood (some may come back, some may not), but is it possible that they’re not really leaving the church – because they’ve never really been a part of the church? Is physical presence at a majority of youth functions enough to make a student a part of the church? What if they’re also regular attenders of Sunday morning services? What is it then that transforms a student from being a participant of the ‘youth group’ to an integral body part in the Body of Christ?
It is not youth ministry in a bubble. As long as youth ministry is primarily done ‘on the side’ of the church’s overall ministry, kids will ‘graduate’ from church attendance. When youth ministry is a fusion of young people and the ministry of the church, then students who are following Christ will become involved in the work of His Body. Students need to seek opportunities to participate in the service of the larger church body (outside the youth group). And congregations need to find ways to engage the energetic service that is available to them in the sea of young humanity surrounding them (beyond setting up tables for the upcoming dinner, please).
It is time for churches to burst the youth ministry bubble, and to embrace and work alongside the young followers of Christ they will find inside.