Youth Group vs. Youth Ministry

Last night I sat around a table with some people to talk about youth ministry in our church. As I’ve mentioned a number of  times, our church is in a working class neighborhood of San Diego. We are a community of people with tangible needs. There is real poverty. Real educational problems. Real family trouble. Real gangs. Real violence. Not that life in the suburbs is all perfect, but the needs of students in City Heights are different from their peers just 6 miles to the East in La Mesa. It’s outside of my evangelical, middle class, white culture. And that’s what I like about it.

Thankfully, there was a ton of agreement around the table. We all can see that we need a ministry and not just another program. And we know that our little ministry has no hope if it isn’t holistic. This is an opportunity to live out more of the Gospel practically than we’ll teach formally.

I came home last night with one phrase: We want to create a youth ministry, not a youth group.” As we defined that, we implied that youth group points inwardly and creates a cluster of kids around a common purpose. Not intrinsically bad, just not our target. Instead, we are trying to form a ministry that looks at the whole person and pushes those students out into the world, transformed to transform their world. While I have no doubt that we’ll do youth group-type things… retreats, events, Bible studies, and stuff like that. That won’t be our focus.

As I shared last week. I’m not in this to waste my time or keep busy. Not being on the church’s staff changes my perspective completely. Oddly enough, not being on paid staff emboldens me even more!

I’m interested in developing leaders for influence in their culture, I’m interested in upsetting Satan’s plans, I’m interested going where the kids are, and I’m interested in sharing leadership. I’m not interested in a group, to babysit and entertain the apathetic. It seems like those parameters are common with the others in the group of people trying to figure it out.

Shared values are a good place to start. Going to the next step, I feel pretty good about beginning something that is focused first on ministering to students.

Photo credit: Camaradas by Julián D Gaitán via Flickr (Creative Commons)





3 responses to “Youth Group vs. Youth Ministry”

  1. E. Dee Avatar
    E. Dee

    Now I get it…

  2. Marty Estes Avatar

    Man, I’m so on board with you on this! About 3 years ago, I got so tired of feeling like a babysitter/event planner/entertainer, and so I just quit it. We moved our focus to missions instead of “fun events” and watched student leaders blossom. Of course, it made a bunch of kids and parents made, but that’s just because they were in it for the wrong reasons.

  3. Todd Avatar

    bro…I LOVE it!!!

    I miss being a volunteer.

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