Many of us, including me, can trace much of our spiritual heritage to a youth group that pointed our hearts toward Jesus. I am so deeply grateful for the youth leaders who poured into me throughout my middle school and high school years.
I’ve also, as a former youth leader, seen the workings of youth ministry from the sidelines of dodgeball games. Some of my fondest memories as a youth leader were the life-changing camps, powerful retreats, and fun-filled Wednesday night youth meetings I had the privilege of leading.
Watching teenagers come to Christ, grow in Christ, and share the hope of Christ has been the ministry fuel that has kept me going for three-and-a-half decades in the youth ministry space.
I’m also fully aware that many minds much brighter than my own are working tirelessly to develop paradigms, programs, and curriculums that will capture the hearts, minds, and souls of this era of today’s young people—Gen Z.
Here’s a shout-out and thank-you to all the thought leaders, theologians, parachurch leaders, and practitioners who are passionately working to solve the youth ministry challenge before us. These heroic leaders have much to contribute to this important conversation. I have much to learn from them.
But, despite all the hard efforts and brilliant minds working in and on youth ministry, the current form being executed in the typical youth group is not working.
Down deep inside, we all know it.
We read it in the statistics.
My new ebook, The Failure of Youth Ministry, highlights many stats and facts that point to the inarguable conclusion that youth ministry has utterly failed to capture the current generation of teenagers. It grieves me to say this. It hurts my heart. But facts are facts.
We see it in our churches.
In the typical church, the number of teenagers attending youth group has steadily shrunk over the past few decades. The recent pandemic has accelerated this trend even more. Even youth groups with decent attendance often fail to experience enough new disciples to make a significant statistical dent in the number of unreached teenagers in their communities.
We feel it in our bones.
As “the Dare 2 Share guy,” I’ve talked to countless youth leaders, from almost every demographic you can imagine, about this very subject. Over the years, so many have admitted to me that they sense something broken or missing in the core of youth ministry. They long to figure it out and take steps to fix it.
If you’re one of the youth leaders, pastors, or parents who shares this same sense of holy discontent, who longs for something deeper for your teenagers—something more magnificent and transformative—then please download The Failure of Youth Ministry (for free!), and read it with an open mind and heart.
My prayer is for this conversation to lead to a total transformation of youth ministry. Why? So that every teen everywhere has every last chance to be reached, discipled, and mobilized for the cause of Christ.
So many times, we, like the prophet Elijah, long to experience revival in the form of a whirlwind of activity, a firestorm of events, or an earthquake of worship. But true revival comes through God’s whisper of change. This whisper isn’t found in some big event, magic-bullet curriculum, or downloadable app that will make everything better. It’s found in the gentle whisper of God’s Word and the quiet, yet relentless application of His truths to our youth ministry contexts.
2 Peter 1:3 reminds us: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” I can’t help but think that He has given us everything we need to lead truly effective youth ministries as well.
Yes, youth ministry is broken and needs fixed. But by God’s grace, we can fix it. And through His “divine power,” we will.
Now is the time