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I agree completely with your thoughts and I have been saying the same things and struggling with this for years now. I have more recently (in the past year or so) tried to change the focus of our youth ministries-outward instead of inward. Our society in general promotes the "its all about me!" attitude and many of our churches and youth groups have followed suit. It has grieved me to see the children chase the best food, freebies and fun instead of Gods spirit, favor and power. We have begun to incorporate community outreach and witnessing programs into our class schedule as well as other changes. We still include some "fun" events, but do not want that to be the focus. I believe God is pleased with these changes.

china christmas tree

I couldnt think you are more right..

Jeff Booher

I fully agree completely...


It is true that many times youth do look for what they can get out of it - but that certainly isn't just in the youth room. Adults sitting in the pew are asking the same question. Is this entertaining me? Am I happy? Is this intriguing? Rather than, How can worship God today? How can I serve others? I do many of things. The good and bad in my area is that there are many small churches and it is a poor area. It makes some things difficult because I can't afford to do them, but the good side is that it forces me to think about what I really want to do. We can only do so much, so what do I want to focus on - the concert or camp? a retreat or a movie? It's not that other things are bad, but what is the purpose of the church and the leader - Eph 4:11-13 states it well "...to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ might be built up...attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." Enjoy serving - and let God do the Heart-Surgery.


@Ali. Thanks for your thoughts. Modelling spiritual disciplines and being a living example of what we teach is perhaps one of the biggest challenges for every youth worker. Demonstrating love, service, sacrifice and transparency in our actions often speaks louder than our words.

Ali Campbell

A lot of our resources are aimed at us as leaders - to equip us (whether running a program every week, a retreat or whatever) there isn't much that is aimed at equipping our youth for when they are not with the youth group. Does our investment in them extend to modelling spiritual disciplines in our lives, showing the young people just what it means to LOVE Jesus? Serving Him and serving others is mentioned in these posts . . . well, we serve those we love, do our young people love Jesus? Do I?


@Brian. Thanks for your comment. It’s ironic that often secular youth work is becoming more service-orientated than church youth ministry.

I wonder how we can lead our young people to find joy and fulfilment in serving others? If they enjoy the icebreakers, games and pizza parties along the way that’s great and OK with me. But the focus is not SELF it’s about others – saved to serve!

'For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.' (Ephesians 2:10)


@Luke. Thanks for your comments. I appreciate you taking the time to contribute. Another ‘What if?’ article. Well-yes! But I was just getting started :-) I hope there’s more to come in future posts.

Thanks for the insight into your youth ministry. I’m glad it’s going well. I agree with your point that the quality of our youth ministry programmes is vitally important. I’m not sure I made my point particularly well in the article, but I don’t have a problem with the kind of events, programme, retreats etc. we do (I’ve been doing it for 27 years) but unless we have clear biblical goals it's too easy for youth ministry to become reduced to entertainment. Of course, you’re also right that we need to teach, feed and nurture the young people in our care BUT with the clear aim and expectation they will give and serve from their richness in Christ.


@Paul. Good to hear from you again. Thanks for dropping by and for your comments. You’re right of course that youth ministry tends to follow the philosophy of the church. If church is where people only attend for what they can receive, and not for how they can serve out of gratitude for God’s grace in their lives, then why should the youth ministry be any different. The subsequent consumer and often short-term mentality puts the youth worker under considerable pressure and can contribute to discipling and nurturing taking a back-seat to more ‘high profile’ activities.

I suggested in a previous article ‘What is Christian Youth Ministry?' that our goal should be to play our full part in bringing 'each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ.' (Colossians 1: 28-29). It’s not about chasing numbers but depth, however, I suspect encouraging depth may have a positive impact on numbers :-)

I think the challenge for youth workers is how to break the cycle of raising another consuming generation. I’ve commented, probably not very well, that if youth ministry has a clear focus on serving and mission, it helps ground biblical knowledge, builds faith, and promotes a genuine Christian lifestyle.

Brian Kirk

Thanks for adding to this conversation, Grahame. I think you are right on that one of our challenges is the influence of a consumerist culture. How often my youth meetings begin with a student asking me "What are we doing tonight?" It the same tone of voice they use when they say "What's on TV" or "What candy bar should I buy."


Another "what if" article. The new trend seems to be, at least where I am in the States, to ask bold and daring questions about how things could be, without lingering on them long enough to actually arrive at any conclusions. So thank you for actually inviting a conversation about it.
The youth ministry I work with is getting the reputation for being the "different" youth group. Word on the street is we're "not like the church you think of when I say church." Which is sweet. But you know what we're doing? Pretty much the same as most youth groups have been doing for years. Events, programs, retreats, etc.
But we're doing it well.
I think if you take the same people who are doing poorly in the current youth ministry model and suggest a new model to them, you'll just end up with a poorly carried out new kind of ministry.
It's hard to feed others when you're going hungry. Students need us to feed them, they need to be able to come to youth group and consume, otherwise what do they have to give during the rest of the week? The trick is to help them turn around and give from their surplus.


Great article Grahame! You raise some extremely pertinent questions. Speaking from my context in the north of Ireland, it would certainly appear that youth ministry has never been more popular with more and more churches wanting youth staff. I can't help but think that many such endeavours have their origins in a consumeristic mindset - 'if we have a cool youth worker and a cool youth programme, then we'll attract lots of youth', youth workers are under pressure to deliver the right product and I sometimes wonder if its really entertainment directors that some churches are after.

I think the major element within this problem is that the church itself is highly consumeristic. It's bought a lie.

I've often struggled with the problem of what happens young people when they graduate from youth ministry. We can have a great commission & great commandment focused youth ministry but are we setting students up for a fall if those priorities are not reflected and lived out in the 'adult' church? This is perhaps my major frustration with youth work and ministry.

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