I am often asked about materials and programs that youth ministries can use or adopt for their churches.
My response is often a hesitant one, as I do not know their context. I do not know the vision of the church, the history of the ministry, the interests of the teenagers in the area, the size of the budget, or the dynamics of the leadership team. All of these things inform our decision making when comes to deciding the appropriateness of resources and events.
For me, the heart of questions about materials and programs is directly related to a youth ministry’s purpose. What are we trying to do here? What has God called us to? No matter the exact wording you choose to use, it surely has something to do with teens finding faith in Jesus and living for Him. (If not, we have a major problem.)
I was recently with a young man who heads up the youth ministry in one of our Baptist churches and I was reminded of both the importance of leadership and the power of the Gospel to transform lives. We were having dinner before a combined youth night and I simply asked him about the ministry and how he has seen God at work recently. He shared about changes that they had made to the Friday night program over the last year to ensure that the Bible had a greater prominence in their gathering. I asked him about background to the changes and he reflected on nights being overly weighted towards games and ‘simply having fun’. He shared how the ‘talk’ was squeezed in at the very end as parents arrived to collect their children. The changes they had made, albeit relatively small ones, meant that the talk was now at the beginning of the night, took up a greater amount of time, and encouraged teenagers to be discussing the message with peers and leaders.
I asked him about the impact that they had seen, to which he quickly declared that one girl has already come to faith and one was ‘on the way’. He went on to explain that some teenagers had stopped coming along, but they had seen a greater consistency in overall attendance.
The joy on his face was undeniable. He had seen the power of the Gospel first-hand. He had seen the impact of ensuring the prominence of the Bible in their youth ministry.
What events should he run? What programs should the youth ministry develop? Ones that see teenagers engage with the Gospel, not as secondary, but primary. What this looks like is up to him and the faithful leadership team that God has gathered together in that place.
No matter the size of the youth ministry in your church. No matter the budget. No matter the history. No matter the interests of the teenagers in your area. No matter the leadership team. I trust that the Gospel, God’s power to change lives, is firmly on display both in the activities you run and the words that are spoken.