Youth Ministry and the Future of the Church Part 6

Primary Audience – Local Context
Secondary Audience – Fellow youthworkers and Kingdombuilders

This is probably my last post in the “Youth Ministry and the Future of the Church” series for a while but I have enjoyed putting these thoughts out and have especially appreciated my local context friends expressing their thoughts (and at the very least … reading! – Seriously thanks). Be warned, I’ve tried to not be too provocative on these but I am finishing this post while listening to the new Radiohead album (really good).

Had I finished this series without the mention of the word “Missional”, it would only be a matter of days that someone from my beloved seminary would have contacted me for failure to apply practical objectives. But even with that lurking threat, ;) I sincerely believe that youth ministry will need to evolve and become more missional.

Before we dive in to that, a brief recap – My hope is that we will always support parents in the raising of young followers of a more Biblical Jesus with theological integrity. I hope we always provide opportunities for worship, community, learning and serving. Ultimately, I hope that the church will strengthen for the sake of the Kingdom.

That said, there’s only so much parents and youth workers can do for students, and there are some things that a student must see and do for themselves. At some point, students need to read the Bible for themselves and not just be taught about it. At some point, students must pray for themselves and not just be prayed for. And at some point, students must participate in mission and not just be the object of it.

It’s been my experience that if you want to convince a student to become less self-absorbed, you need to show them the physical/emotional/spiritual poverty of others. It’s among the reasons we believe in short-term missions and trying to create a sustainable and more consistent missional culture. This has been among the better aspects of our ministry.

To be completely honest though, I join the many who have always been concerned with the virtues of the short-term missions experience. Looking back on the last five years however, I think our response to the concern has been part of what has made these opportunities helpful. We tell students that they need to share their summer with others. We tell them to be faithful with the opportunities provided on the mission trip and to allow their hearts to be broken. We tell them later, that they can’t care for the homeless in New Orleans or the HIV patient in the Bahamas and curse their mother under their breath and ignore the socially marginalized in their school. In leaving our zip code, God has taught us a great deal about the people in it.

Now “being missional” is more than participational, it’s formational and communal as well. But among our problems is that our youth ministries are limited by the participational aspects of joining in service in the Kingdom.

We use a fair amount of sending language in our youth ministry. We even have students who say things like, “I am salt and light on my team/group/band.” That’s a great starting point for a young Christian and my hope is that we serve our community as individuals, families, and as a local church. To do this, I think a few aspects are needed.

One we need to be missional church-wide. Like many things, it must be part of our culture to serve and not just a “hobby” that the students do.

Two, we need to confront and dismiss the consumer culture that exists in many of our suburban churches. There’s a lot written about that on this blog and so many other places but consumer culture is suffocating us.

Third we need a new metrics of measurements. I know of some larger churches that are doing great things, some not so much. I know a few mid/small being very faithful and powerful and many not so much. Large/Small expired a long time ago, it’s about fruit, power, transformational difference. Instead of “How many are attending this week?” It needs to be more like, “How many new are coming in this year? How many are being sent out? What are they doing/saying/thinking/worshipping in here/out there?” etc. What is the fruit of our discipleship from our homes/churches?”

Finally, and I know how general this sounds, we must collectively pursue the mission of the Kingdom in the way Jesus modeled – liberation, provision, healing, sacrifice, forgiveness, redemption, all in the name of God’s love.

In the ministry I am serving in, we have had some amazing moments, some terrible ones, mediocre seasons and some real beautiful ones too. We are praying that we are on the Spirit-led road in being a strong church following Jesus. I truly believe that what we are doing today not only matters for now but for the evangelical church 30, 40, 50 years from now. Thoughts?


  1. “they can’t care for the homeless in New Orleans or the HIV patient in the Bahamas and curse their mother under their breath and ignore the socially marginalized in their school”–Brilliant! I’m passing this on to others. Great essay. You highlight the need to refocus our youth ministries away from the youth room and out into the world.

  2. Brian, thanks for reading. I love your blog and every time I’m on it, I think to myself, “Why am I not here more?” Appreciate your words. See you around.

  3. The Slothful One says:

    You beat me to the punch, Brian! That indeed was a brilliant statement. Tim, I’ve been simply amazed by your last few series of posts; just wish I had more time to read, reflect, and comment. Cheers!

Speak Your Mind