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Youth Ministry is Flatlining

If I were to plot out the average youth ministry attendance in a local church this is probably what it would look like.

So when I say, “The way you are doing ministry is failing to reach students. It’s not you, it’s your strategy.” Youth workers look at me and say, “No, that’s not true. We are actually reaching more students than we were 10 years ago with less budget.

And from their vantage point, looking at that one view of the population of adolescents in their community, they could be right. They are reaching 10-15% more students than they were 10 years ago.

Flatlined growth

However, when you compare students engaged in youth ministry to the overall student population in your school district it looks a lot like this.

This is what I mean by “you are failing to reach students with the programs you currently offer.

Statistically speaking you are flatlined. (As in– no heart beat!) You’re reaching just about the same percentage of people you’ve always reached. That may be OK from a church politics situation but I’m not sure I’m OK with that from a theological position.

And I’m positive that this flatlining has lead to the following problems in youth ministry over the last decade:

  • A general cynicism about youth ministry internally and externally.
  • A decrease in youth ministry staff and general budget funding.
  • An increase in expectations that new youth ministry staff grow the program immediately.
  • Lots of great youth workers moving on to other ministries or careers.
  • The rise of family ministry models designed to circle the wagons. (Historically, youth ministry existed for evangelism. Popular models today are primarily interested in keeping church families engaged.)

Students are involved… just not in youth ministry

According to this 1995 study, 79.9% of all high school students were involved in an after school activity. I know that this study is 17 years old– but we would all agree that that percentage likely hasn’t changed much in 20 years, correct? (Maybe +/- 10%)

Every youth ministry strategy I know of is trying to wedge their way into this pie graph. They are looking for students, ultimately, to forego involvement in one of the programs at the school and invest in their program.

After nearly 40 years of youth ministry we know that this isn’t going to happen. Even the best youth ministry program model might only wedge their way in there by 2-3% of total student involvement.

A theologically appropriate number of students are not going to stop involvement in other things to get “fully engaged” in a local youth ministry program. And even if they did this it wouldn’t be a good strategy for continued growth, would it?

It’s 2012. You have flatlined for the past decade. Are you ready to try a new strategy?

This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Ephesians 5:14

Stay tuned, subscribe via RSS or get my daily email. This year we are going to look at new youth ministry strategies that are breaking this model and reshaping the way students engage with Jesus. 

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46 Responses to Youth Ministry is Flatlining

  1. David Grant January 2, 2012 at 8:46 am #

    Like it!  What if youth ministries encouraged students to be Jesus where they are?  What if we made sure students have time, space and freedom to be in the school play (or other activity) instead of coming to youth group?

    If the goal of youth ministry is to make sure kids want to come to church so their parents are happy… I’m out.

    Can’t wait to hear more.

    • Adam McLane January 2, 2012 at 10:16 am #

      I’m with you David. I’m excited to go on this journey. I’ve got some ideas… but I really want to find people whose ideas are currently working. I have a feeling there are LOTS of non-traditional ministries that have broken this model. 

      • Jody January 4, 2012 at 7:10 am #

        I’m currently working in a mainline church that hasn’t had any real youth program in roughly 20 years. A few attempts here and there, but nothing lasting. I’m looking at this as an opportunity to re-imagine what youth ministry could look like and am currently walking the church leadership through that process. Not only is the traditional model failing, it doesn’t appear to be something that anyone (including those who are not directly connected to youth) desire. We are looking at trying to establish an intergenerational paradigm, in hopes that our youth and even their parents will be able to learn from the experience of those who have gone before us in the way Christ has called us to live. Again, we are just starting this process.

      • Brenda Seefeldt January 4, 2012 at 7:41 am #

        I would love a forum to be developed for those non-traditional youth ministries to be recognized.  They are out there and I believe they are seeing fruit, especially long-term fruit.  Here’s hoping that is may be that forum.

        • Adam McLane January 4, 2012 at 7:44 am #

          Stay tuned. I’m making a very significant investment in developing this forum for 2012 and beyond. 

    • Luke Trouten January 3, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

      I understand the sentiment behind this idea, that it should be about sending rather than attracting them. But, if we aren’t gathering as a group, when exactly will we be encouraging students to be Jesus where they are?

      • Adam McLane January 3, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

        @a9f8a8602eb49b99cc7bbd6108542094:disqus Does it matter that I can point to 40+ years of this model in thousands of communities around the world and say that it hasn’t made much impact? 

        I don’t think that youth workers are the problem. But I do think that the strategy we employ IS the problem. 

        If I were a sending church investing $50k per year or more in a missionary in Columbia and after 10 years they only had about 30 people involved in their ministry… I’d say that the missionary had failed to adapt his ministry to the culture.

        Yet we do this in America year after year. We have a lot to learn from our friends in the international missions world. 

        • Luke Trouten January 5, 2012 at 11:28 pm #

          My main reaction was to David’s comment “What if we made sure students have time, space and freedom to be in the school play (or other activity) instead of coming to youth group?”

          Perhaps it’s just that it evokes thoughts of the whole, “let us not neglect meeting together, as some people do…” It just seems that a desire to encourage students toward depth and growth would necessitate time spent together. 

          • David Grant January 6, 2012 at 7:35 am #

            Hey Luke.  It feels we may be in violent agreement. 

            Gathering together and experiencing community is essential to the spiritual formation of students, well for any person. 

            I might even take it a step further.  It’s crucial that students “gather together” in the context of the local church body.  The local church is where there is established leadership who is ordained and also lead in sharing of sacraments (or ordinances depending on your church flavor).  It scares me a little to see comments like “the church is everywhere” and “it doesn’t really matter where we gather as long as…” 

            Experiencing worship, equipping and community within the context of the local body is priority.

            Here’s the reality.  Students only have so much focus and time to offer.  If our goal is to urge students to spend all their focus and time coming to our program then perhaps we’ve missed the point.  When most youth workers are judged by how many students show up at the lock in on Friday night it’s easy to urge students to give youth group all their focus and time.

            This year we had a sharp sophomore girl quit an extra curricular activity because she wanted to spend more time at the church and youth group.  At first I was very excited but now I’m wondering if she might have much greater impact living out the life of Christ on her dance team.

            Instead of asking the question, “how do we get them here”?  What if we asked “how do we equip them to love Jesus and their friends where they live, work and play?”

            If they’re loving their friends well then eventually their friends will connect in church community.

            When the goal is to get as many students in one place at one time so we can look and feel successful I’m not sure we’re being true to the gospel and great commission.  Listen, I always feel better when there are tons of kids at my program, but I must be careful that I keep my eye on the target.

            So, what if students had the time, space and encouragement to be Christ where they live, their campus? 

  2. Anonymous January 2, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    Adam, thanks for this. I’m looking forward to your thoughts throughout the year.

    I find myself looking for a balance between students engaging Jesus in their extra-curricular activities and engaging Jesus as part of the youth group (I hate saying “at church”).

    On one hand, I think we want to acknowledge that students ARE the church, God is at work in the world, and students need to be finding where God is at work in the world and engage God there. On the other hand, I also believe the church needs to live to a different rhythm of life than the world, ON BEHALD OF THE WORLD, showing the world a better way to live. Regular gatherings, fellowship, and breaking bread together is part of that rhythm.

    So I’m looking for a balance between seeking God in the world where God is working as students are involved in sports, music, drama etc. and seeking God as a community of believers, inviting others along the way to this new way of life. Make sense?

    • Adam McLane January 2, 2012 at 10:17 am #

      As I wrote in the Immerse Journal article… I’ll never leave the church. As Augustine said, “She’s my mother.” But at the same time we know that the strategy we use just plain doesn’t work. And I’m willing to go down swinging to find strategies that do. 

      • Sahb January 2, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

        I see value in helping students recognize the holiness of every space (school, home, youth group) they are apart of everyday. Church happens where your feet are planted. Which is everywhere you go. No need to compete with the social functions for their time. There is need to compete for perspective

  3. Jeffrey Dick January 2, 2012 at 9:21 am #

    I hear what you are saying and don’t disagree – will look forward to your ideas this year.

    Yet, in reading your post, two thoughts jumped up.  In my own denomination (the UCC) and in many of the churches in our community, there are no paid youth workers (one church has a full time youth minister and they have a strong program – but even he wonders how effective they are being).    Budgets and staffing are issues and how we as churches live that out is a significant issue.

    The second thought was about youth involvement.  Not only are many of our youth involved in after school activities, but other non school activities as well.  My youth leaders are in community musical groups, bands, community theater groups, traveling sport teams, jobs, college classes, etc…While the numbers involved might not be higher, I think the amount of involvement has increased.   I see it in my own children my 30and 24 year old were actively involved in school activities, my 18 and 11 year old are more involved – and some of their friends significantly more involved.

    Just to add that to the mix.

    thanks and Happy New Year.

    • Jody January 4, 2012 at 7:01 am #

      I’ve been finding this is especially true in the rural area I work in. It’s as if kids fear having nothing to do that they sign up for everything, and when we demand that they have time for one more social engagement every week (and many youth groups either are just social or families see it that way) we are not serving them. It seems we are just placing another burden on them.

  4. KJ January 2, 2012 at 10:21 am #

    Adam, a couple questions to help me process:

    – what is your definition of “a theologically appropriate number of students”?

    – would “a theologically appropriate number of students” differ from person to person/church to church due to differences in theology?

    I look forward to reading about some of the models of youth ministry you are going to discuss this year!

    • Adam McLane January 2, 2012 at 10:38 am #

      Great qualifying Q. (Took out that explanation to try to stay under 500 words!) 

      “a theologically appropriate number of students” would mean 2 different things depending on your background. (Limited vs. Unlimited Atonement… he haw for TULIPS!) All I mean is that my premise is that Jesus would like His people to reach more people. Is that 20% of the population? 60% of the population? 100%? I don’t really know what that number is. But I think it should be more that the sub-10% we currently see engaged in most communities. 

      Let’s say it’s 60% of the communities students that the church should be actively engaging with. If we are aiming at 60% of the population of students we know that the way we engage with them would have to change dramatically. (Probably not derailing the current strategy BTW)

      What about theological differences? Yeah, I dunno. I’m only thinking students who give their lives to Jesus in a broad way. 

      Hope that helps unpack what I meant a bit better.

      Yes, I’m looking forward to this journey as well. 

  5. Jeff January 2, 2012 at 11:06 am #

    I’m speaking as a guy who just left student ministry after 9 years and two churches: I left youth ministry because I came to the realization over my final years working in it, years that most of you reading this would have side were wildly successful, that it’s not the people or the programs that are flatlining or failing, it’s the very concept of what we think of when we think of youth ministry. Every time you saw the despair in a parent’s eyes when they felt slighted or dishonored by the fact that their kids loved running to you to talk about life and their struggles failures and joys and you thought to yourself (or even verbalized, just like I did) that someday you too would have kids who’d run to somebody else and you’d resent them too, you failed.  Every time a kid vented to you and you came into agreement with them that their parents were pushing them too hard or being overbearing, you failed.  Every time you were flirtatious, huggy/touchy/feely (in what most would consider an appropriate way)…every time you lowered your standards in an effort to do what you called “being all things to all people”, canceling out an opportunity to set a good boundary and have a teaching moment for the sake of what you called “community building”, you failed.  Thankfully God makes all things new and there is grace to start over and get it right.   

    Point is this: we don’t need a cool “specialist” to raise our kids.  We need youth ministries who will stop recruiting college students as their leaders and start creating an environment where if there is a personality heading up the ministry, he or she functions as a prophet first, preaching truth of the Word and then secondly an empowerer of parents to lead, shepherd and actively steward the responsibility and privilege of raising their kids.  Youth ministry is failing because the present and prevalent model in the church is to remove kids, create a subgroup or subculture and never really challenge that subculture to be better than those around them.  The message sent to kids has been weak; we’ve made the Gospel too easy and furthermore we’ve replaced the Gospel with a social gospel that has allowed our kids to be more passionate than ever…about a cause, and more indifferent than ever to living the way of Jesus.  You can’t accuse the present generation of being apathetic to the cause.  Problem is, they’ve arrived at the conclusion that the most filling thing they can do is help others in need to the EXCLUSION of the Gospel.  In other words, they aren’t motivated by obedience to Christ.  They’re motivated by feel good community service.  

    These are some of the reasons youth ministry isn’t just flatlining, it’s flat out failing.  Look around at the culture!  Look at how kids act these days; the language they use; the lack of follow through on discipline within the home and society.  Finally, and I say this carefully because I don’t like to be one who constantly attacks media but the reality is this: we’ve made drugs illegal, why?  Because they destroy lives.  They kill.  Well what about killing our marriages?  Most of the kids youth ministries contain these days, even in the most evangelical of churches, come from broken homes.  Many of them are, in all likelihood, destined for lives of cohabitation or multiple marriages.  Our boys will have pornography addictions and our girls won’t know how to be moms.  Gone are shows like Family Matters where a complete family unit, imperfect as they may be, remains in tact.  Here to stay is the new family: two moms, two dads, one mom and a deadbeat dad, one mom who doesn’t even know who the dad is, one dad with a rotation of girlfriends and the list goes on.  We know this stuff kills us but in the name of warring against censorship (and believe me, on most issues related to government and regulation I side with the libertarians, just not this one) we “protect” the right for our 1027 channels of television and 60-80% of web content that is pornographic in nature to continue to exist!  We’re destroying lives and that is a factor also in play in why youth ministry is failing.  We’ve failed to even acknowledge these very things as an enemy!  

    Finally, the subject of rest.  Never before has there been a generation so connected.  Recently I was at a Best Buy and saw four kids about 6-9 years old in age, hovered around the 4 iPads on display. After all, it was the most requested toy of kids this Christmas season.  $500 minimum price and all.  The next time you see that 8 year old girl wearing an Angry Birds shirt, commemorating her most favorite game, just remember that this is a game made for Smartphones and iPod touches.  If you’re 30 like me or somewhere close to me in age, you can remember a time (for me it was high school) where there were no cell phones, or if there were, they were hard wired into a car and cost a fortune to use.  The average iPhone bill is about $75 a month and the average 6th grade kid has one.  Beyond the overwhelming money spent by and on kids these days and the entitlement that runs the risk of creating, just consider the factor of rest.  When does it all shut off?  When is there silence?  I’m not a huge Rob Bell fan by any means, but the Nooma “Noise” video is incredible.  It’s one of the very best things I’ve ever seen.  Can any of you name for yourself a place you can go where you can just listen to God?  I’m talking a place where cars aren’t driving by with stereos blasting, a place where the garage band drummer isn’t waking the dead, where the sound of electronics, motors and “progress” haven’t polluted.  If you’re having a hard time thinking of that place, ask your students the same question: where is their “sacred space”?  Where does it all turn off.  Where is Facebook not only logged out, but deactivated.  Where is the sabbath from texting, iPods, iTunes, TV, iPad, video games, phone calls, e-mail, Twitter…where is the time in their day and week where they simply withdraw?  There is a reason that anxiety disorders and depression are at an all time high.  We are so out of balance as a society and as the human race and our “programs” in youth ministry are failing to address this.  Where is Sabbath?  

    You want to “fix” your youth ministry?  Demand that your parents are involved.  Make them teach.  Make them host kids in their homes.  Make them share their stories.  Make them students of the Word before the send their kids to you with the expectation that you’ll make the kids students.  Make both parents and students take Sabbath time and withdraw.  Teach on obedience and repentance.  Bring back the message that says “God hates sin” which we now call offensive.  Teach on holiness.  Teach on purity.  Don’t tell kids what to do.  Tell them who God says they’re to be and paint a picture of what that looks like…then hang it on the wall.  

    And the best piece of advice that somebody ever gave me is how I’ll close my rant: don’t quit.  I know it’s an uphill battle.  I know it seems like a losing cause but if you want fight for these kids, who will?  Don’t quit!

    I’ll sign it and own it… my name is Jeff and I work now as a young adults pastor.  Facebook.com/jeffamclaughlin

    • Jacob January 2, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

      you’ve got a lot to say…even encouraging us not to quit…hmmm…but, it seems as though you quit.

      • Jeff January 2, 2012 at 5:10 pm #

        I spent 7 years at my last church and saw a generation of kids from 6th grade through high school graduation.  God then clearly opened up a door to a new platform where my wife and I are now pouring into the marriages of young couples and families.  God has also opened up the doors for us to pour into young youth workers in ways we never had before.  Quit?  I’ll quit when I’m dead.  

    • Adam McLane January 2, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

      Thanks for this comment Jeff. There’s a lot to think about. It looks like you’re new to my blog, welcome. It seems we have a lot of thinking in common.

      • Jeff January 2, 2012 at 6:21 pm #

        Your blog popped up today in my Google News feed.  I haven’t had a chance to explore the blog but loving what I’ve seen already.  Keep it up! 

  6. Joe Watkins January 2, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

    Do you have similar models for how much of the population the church as a whole is reaching? I have serious questions about the appropriateness of training up teen evangels for the sake of numeric growth (not to be confused with training teen disciples how to be witnesses to the gospel) rather than training a church of adults to impact the community. It seems that if the church is reaching the adults in the community they will reach the teens and kids as well, but the reverse isn’t true.

    • Adam McLane January 2, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

      I would assume in most communities we have a similar number of people actually involved. This video gets into a bit more:
      http://adammclane.com/2010/11/09/inverse-relationship-between-church-attendance-and-business-models/ 

      I’d encourage you to do a simple, semi-scientific poll, in your zip code. Call every church in the zip code you live in and ask them for their actual attendance LAST SUNDAY. (Might want to wait until mid-January)

      Then divide that number by the number of people the census dept says live in that zip code. 

      In zip codes I’ve lived in, assuming that the secretaries gave me their pastors count and not the actual number of butts in the building, that typically comes in at about 5%-7%. The first time I did it the actual number was 2% but I rounded it up to 4% for the sermon so I didn’t depress people too much.

  7. Brad Haggard January 2, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    Is it ok to broaden the scope of youth ministry beyond evangelism?  I think spiritual formation is at least as important, and if you catch me on any given day, I’ll tell you that an over-emphasis on evangelism is what has caused the decline in youth ministry (coming from an Arminian, BTW).

    But, I don’t think those two ends are mutually exclusive, either, and that makes me excited for a journey like this, too.

    • Adam McLane January 2, 2012 at 5:31 pm #

      Totally agree. My only point about family ministry is that it’s automatically inclusive of people with nuclear families and not how the typical millennial defines their family. 

      I think as we get into this we’ll see that holistic models are impacting the kingdom in ways you never even knew existed. 

  8. Carlos M. January 3, 2012 at 3:02 am #

    Oh Jeff, you are at it again! And I love that about you! But you know me… I’m always skeptical about what the “latest” and “greatest” advice from whoever it is has to tell the world about any a sundry of spiritual growth and reaching our kids for Jesus. So Adam, all I’m saying is this… Jeff boy and I will be checking out what you have to say, but if I know Jeff and if he knows me, it had better be real solid and life altering. We’ve both been there and done that with just about everything, every paradigm, every next great and full proof plan brought and introduced from every possible guru that you can imagine. Ball’s in your court, man. Love to see what you’ve got.

  9. MyersBaker January 3, 2012 at 6:41 am #

    Love the post and and the diverse involvement of students you pointed out. I would love to hear some of the new things you are doing in youth ministry that are working or not working.

    • Adam McLane January 3, 2012 at 7:38 am #

      As I mentioned in the post… I don’t think any of the “models” out there are any different. Nor have they ever been different, just rewrites from one to the next. Sonlife begot Willow begot Saddleback begot NorthPoint… it’s all the same strategy. 

      I’m not going to tell you what we are doing in our ministry because our ministry is the same old model as everyone else. This quest is a series of discoveries, highlighting those who have gone a different direction altogether. This isn’t putting on new clothes of the same old pig.. I’m looking for paradigms that aren’t even models, per se. 

      The last thing I want to see is 15,000 churches “stumble upon the next big thing.” 

      What needs to change first is our hearts. We need to acknowledge that the way we’ve always done things isn’t going to reach a significantly new group of people. And, the thing that’s scary, is that most of this isn’t even going to be a staff-led dealio. 

  10. MyersBaker January 3, 2012 at 8:08 am #

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound as though I was asking for a model. I just though you might be experimenting in some areas that you would be willing to share. This is a good discussion starter, though.

    What are some of the popular family ministry models to which you are referring? I am also not sure what you mean by “circle the wagons”?

    • Adam McLane January 3, 2012 at 8:28 am #

      Most of the family ministry models seem to be about circling the wagons. In other words… there’s no built in ability to reach out. Most often they are about getting the families of the church to help minister to their own children at the church. That’s absent of the shema and it’s absent of what Jesus tells us to do in the greatest commandment. 

      The shema is a “while going” thing. Not a “come to the church/synagogue” and do thing. And Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We’re so busy redefining “neighbor” to people who aren’t our neighbors that we forget the simple reality that maybe Jesus wanted us to… love our neighbors! Like, the people who live next door or across the street. 

      • Brandon Baker January 3, 2012 at 8:46 am #

        Yeah, that’s not a good way to go about family ministry. I am familiar with family focused models that are intent on making disciples of children and students as a natural next step of reaching out. I am aware of discipleship strategies that involve helping parents disciple their children, talk with them as they go through life, and teaching them about following Christ. But was not aware that there were popular models that neglect loving your neighbor as an essential part of discipleship. Hopefully they won’t be popular for long.  

      • Brenda Seefeldt January 4, 2012 at 8:03 am #

        I humbly and strongly disagree with this statement.  While I’m guessing some churches are circling the wagons with this approach (there always will be some), this is not what family ministry models is about.

        I’ve been practicing a form of this I call Church-Family Based Youth Ministry and am finding that friends are coming and they are coming with the family that brought them and are thus included into that family group.  There is an immediate connection to the ministry because these friends have already shared a meal together with the family, rode in cars together, etc.,.  This is certainly more so than peer situations.  Teens already know how two-faced teens are. 

        Besides, isn’t the “biggest crisis” in youth ministry the number of teens whom are leaving church?  This is a practice, from what I’m seeing, that is keeping the teens in the church.  This is hardly “circling the wagons.” 

        • Adam McLane January 4, 2012 at 8:26 am #

          The central theme of this post is that all youth ministry models, including the family-based ones, have failed to significantly impact culture. 

          We are called to penetrate culture… but all of the strategies we utilize barely scratch the edge of culture. 

  11. brianseidel January 3, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    Adam,
    I think we have some very similar thinking.  I am actively working on a new model, actually living out what God put on my heart to write in my book.  I am encouraged to see articles like this, to know that what God has shown me he has also shown others…

    I look forward to reading more of your thoughts.

  12. Travis Deans January 3, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

    Hey Adam, this article by Mark Moder is one of the best I’ve ever read on the subject of reaching students more effectively. His school-based-paradigm vs. church-based-paradigm is brilliant. Problem is, I think these ideas are largely untried and untested. Finding models could be difficult because churches don’t encourage youth pastors to get outside the four walls very much. 
    http://www.youthworkers.net/index.cfm/fuseaction/blog.view/BlogID/215. Over 90% of American teenagers pass through public schools – we need to go where they are to reach them!

    • David Grant January 3, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

      Hey Travis,

      Last I saw youth workers are number 18 on the list of top influences of students, friends were 3rd.  Sure, it’s good for youth workers to be highly relational with students, but doesn’t it make more sense to equip and help are students live out the life of Christ where they live?

    • Adam McLane January 3, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

      As I explore this I expect schools to be central to paradigms that aren’t built around wedging a program into students lives. But not limited to this!

      • Brenda Seefeldt January 4, 2012 at 8:05 am #

        Mark Senter told us many years ago in “The Coming Revolution in Youth Ministry” that when public school undergoes changes, so does youth ministry.  And the public school is undergoing major changes now.

  13. Marianne Wilson January 4, 2012 at 6:48 am #

    Someone has figured it out.  Check out what Lyle Griner is doing with Peer Ministry.  
    http://www.everyday-everywhere.org/

  14. Brenda Seefeldt January 4, 2012 at 8:11 am #

    This quote from Mark DeVries has shaped me for a long time now:   “I’m not saying student leadership is wrong.  I’m saying student leadership is the wrong place to start building a thriving ministry.  The answer is not to remove adults from the equation, as if we were the problem in the first place.  When a youth ministry is in trouble, the solution will never come from adults abdicating responsibility and yielding it to those least qualified, least experienced, and least likely to be around long enough to live with the disasters their decisions create.  The so-called youth-driven approach, in many cases, amounts to nothing more than a spiritualized way of reinforcing the culture’s dominant message to kids: ‘You’re on your own.’”  (Mark DeVries, Group, March/April 2004)

  15. Brenda Seefeldt January 4, 2012 at 8:12 am #

    This quote from Mark DeVries has stuck with me for a long time:   “I’m not saying student leadership is wrong.  I’m saying student leadership is the wrong place to start building a thriving ministry.  The answer is not to remove adults from the equation, as if we were the problem in the first place.  When a youth ministry is in trouble, the solution will never come from adults abdicating responsibility and yielding it to those least qualified, least experienced, and least likely to be around long enough to live with the disasters their decisions create.  The so-called youth-driven approach, in many cases, amounts to nothing more than a spiritualized way of reinforcing the culture’s dominant message to kids: ‘You’re on your own.’”  (Mark DeVries, Group, March/April 2004)

  16. genehubbard2 January 15, 2012 at 7:35 am #

    youth today face tough daily questions  our free SPREAD THE WORD TALK WITH THE LORD program inspires daily talks  catch they need your help with first question our blog helps  g hubbard  po box 2232  ponte vedra fl 32004  http://talkwiththelord.blogspot.com/

  17. Chris Tide Jones March 28, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

    Unfortunately this truth keeps me busier with consulting youth ministries than I can handle. Pouring new wine into very old wineskins combined with a numbers mentality is doing great damage to youth ministries across the nation. Good article. 

  18. brent July 14, 2012 at 10:45 am #

    In my 20+ years as a Youth Minister, I see that it isnt the model of programming but rather an attitude and mindset change in not only teens but parents. We can develop all kinds of “programming, ” so-called cutting edge, but it will always come down to relationships and life investments. Parents opt out of church and place sports etc as the number one priority in their students life so they may collect the dividends for college tuitions etc. Even church leadership has claimed this mindset. College is expensive, therefore, even at the expense of their students spiritual lives, church no longer has the impact nor is it a neccesity in thier minds. As long as they are “trying” to live “good” lives all is well with thier souls. Such a misleading and distorted theology. My philosophy, support students, encourage them as I can and love them unconditionally. BUT, never accept the fact that God is second fiddle and that His desire is for them to love Him first and to live a life according to Romans 12:1-2!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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