Youth ministry is awesome! There is nowhere else I would rather be in ministry; I absolutely love it. There are so many good, positive things that come to mind when I think about youth ministry. As someone taking the time to read a youth ministry blog, you probably understand exactly what I am saying.
But, there are some extremely scary truths about youth ministry that many of us need to get real with. Here is a big one…
Our youth ministry is not the students’ church for the rest of their lives.
When our students graduate they have to leave; they can no longer be under our wing of protection, teaching, and mass amounts of fun. Our students will eventually have to move on and that can be really, really scary.
What that means for us is that we MUST take our job seriously. So, what is our job? Our job is to equip, train, teach and prepare students for the next step in their faith. Because they won’t always be with us, they need to be ready to live out their personal faith in the real world. It is crucial that we do our job because here is another very scary, and very sad truth…
Most students walk away after they graduate.
It has been said that about 70% of students walk away from the church after they graduate. Now, I don’t know if this statistic is completely accurate, but I do know that if any student leaves and abandons their faith, it is too many!
Youth ministry is awesome, but it also has extremely high stakes and that is why we need to do our job in preparing our students. Here are 4 steps for prepping your students for a smooth transition into the rest of their lives with Christ.
1. Teach Biblical truth
Provide your students with a Biblical foundation that they can lean on when you are no longer there. Far too many youth pastors succeed in connecting their students to themselves rather than the Word of God. Yes, love your students and pour into them but if your students leave knowing more about you than about God’s Word, you have failed. What will happen when you are no longer around? Provide your students with a strong base of Biblical truth.
2. Point them to a personal relationship with Jesus
Now, obviously you are not the one in charge of this. God is responsible for bringing about the harvest and you can’t make a personal decision for your student about their relationship with God, that’s why it is called a personal relationship. But you can, and must, be very clear about what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus and help push students to pursue that relationship. Many students who walk away do so because they have wonderful relationships with the staff, youth pastor, youth group, and other student leaders, but not Jesus. It is normal and natural for many things to be left behind when students graduate, but Jesus should not be one of those things. All of those other relationships are wonderful but ultimately they are all for the purpose of pointing students to Jesus.
3. Make them understand the purpose of the church and their role in it
This is not just a youth ministry problem, it is a people problem. Too many people believe the church exists solely for them and that is very dangerous. When students believe the church exists for them, what happens when they graduate and are no longer connected to a program tailored to them? Students (and people in general) must understand that we are not merely consumers. The church does not exist only for our benefit, but rather, we are the church and we exist to be a light to the world. We need to teach our students to see the bigger picture and understand that the church exists to reach people for Jesus and that every single one of us is an intricate part of making that happen.
4. Integrate them into the larger body
We cannot isolate students from the rest of the body because what happens when they graduate and have to now be a part of that body? We must be seeking ways to integrate students into the larger church body. Not just to serve the church (a classic and terrible use of students in the church, don’t get me started!) but to serve alongside them and worship with them. Students must know that there is another step in their spiritual journey and church involvement is still necessary once they graduate.
There is nothing better than youth ministry, but there is also a very scary reality that comes along with it. Our jobs matter so immensely and can have such an impact on the lives our students lead. Remember during all the games, silliness, and relationship building to prepare your students for the rest of their lives with Jesus. Thank you so much for being a youth worker and taking on this critical task.
Todd has been in youth ministry for over a decade and has a passion for reaching lost students and training youth workers to do the same. He is the founder of Stoked On Youth Ministry, a speaker, author, and pastor. When Todd is not writing or speaking he enjoys surfing, baseball and most importantly hanging out with his awesome wife and three beautiful daughters. You can connect with Todd on Twitter @TheTodd_Jones, Instagram @Todd_Jones or for speaking inquiries visit TheToddJones.com