Every so often I’ve heard the opinion expressed that goes
something like this: “Youth Ministry is not biblical. Scripture contains
no examples of age-specific ministries or groups.”
The observation is, of course, accurate and—given
our commitment to the sufficiency and inerrancy of Scripture—the
conclusion seems compelling: that we should close down our youth
ministries and disciple our young people within the context of the wider
church activities and programmes.
But before we do this let’s look a little deeper.
What we see around us is a society that is very different from that
described in the New Testament. In those times a child reached Bar or
Bat Mitzvah at age 13 and became obligated to fulfil all of God's
commandments. They were essentially “adults”.
Our present day society is, however, far more complex and as such
greater learning and preparation is required before a child can be
properly considered “adult” and be expected to function as such.
Equally, sociology has documented the widening gulf between children
and adults and the emergence of adolescence, meaning that ministry to
teenagers is something of a cross-cultural exercise that requires
careful thought and effective strategising.
So while youth ministry is not strictly “biblical”, cultural
awareness and sensitivity certainly is. Expecting we can just use the
same approach with teens that works for adults is not only naïve but
cannot be justified by taking a holistic view of Scripture.
However, as is often the case with theology and ecclesiology,
avoiding one extreme can push us to embrace the other extreme that can
be at least as unhelpful if not more so.
That extreme has been played out in many churches over the past 50
years and has seen them delegate youth ministry to a handful of young
adults who may make useful role models but are still growing in their
understanding of what it means to be a lifelong follower of Jesus.
As we’ve delegated this important task of discipling the next
generation to those not much older than them, we’ve created youth
ministry silos in our churches that are high on enthusiasm and passion
but sadly low on depth and substance.
As young people have exited these silos they have had little
connection with the wider church and as such have too often drifted
The two extremes therefore are “no youth ministry” and “detached youth ministry”. Neither approach is helpful nor fruitful.
So what’s the answer? How important is youth ministry and how should we approach it?
It’s the conviction of CCCNZ that ministry that engages young people
is an essential strategy if the church is to thrive on into the future.
Effective organisations, be they businesses or clubs know that the
future is secured by capturing the heart of the young.
It is our further conviction that such ministry is the
responsibility, not just of the few, but of the whole church. What’s
needed is an integrated approach where a youth ministry exists but is
well incorporated into the life of the wider church.
For this to happen churches need to invest well in young people,
resourcing the ministry both financially and with people who not only
love Jesus but also love young people and are willing to get involved in
These people need to be diverse, not only in personality but also in
age. Each generation brings their own strengths and when they are all
present and working together we maximise the probability of producing
Among such people, spiritual depth and passion are essential but not
entirely sufficient. These people need to be given the opportunity to be
trained well in areas such as youth culture, adolescent development and
effective leadership practice.
CCCNZ are committed to helping churches develop effective youth
ministries because we are committed to seeing disciples made and leaders
Do we have all the answers? No.
But we can help churches to find answers, tapping into the resources we provide or are aware of.
We’re currently in the process of developing a national team of
experienced youth workers who have a heart to work alongside all
churches as they look to grow an effective and biblical youth ministry.
It’s a costly undertaking but one we’re convinced God is leading us
into as we uncover youth pastors and key leaders who are excited about
the vision and want to be part of it.
If you need help to start a youth ministry or grow a youth ministry,
contact me. I can assist you with this through our consultancy model,
direct you to training opportunities and help find experienced people
nearby to journey with you as you invest in the present and future