The Missing Piece

    I have been in the field of youth ministry for 10 years now and throughout these years I have noticed that something is missing.  I don’t believe I am going to share anything life shattering with you as many others have noticed the same thing.  When it comes to youth ministry we are encouraged to talk to teens about issues they face like peer pressure, drinking, sex, media, and many other things.  We are also asked to provide opportunities for teens to bring friends to youth group, fun events like bowling and paintballing, as well as local service events and mission trips.  Please understand I think those are fine things and are a part of youth ministry.  Teens do need to learn how to apply the Bible to their lives in their every day situations.  When you offer fun events it may attract a teen who otherwise might never have even thought about coming to a youth ministry event.  Offering local, national, and international missions events is a wonderful way to have teens experience things that are outside of their normal every day lives, it helps take the focus off themselves for a little while as they reach out to somebody in need, as well as spread the name of Jesus Christ.  However, in many situations we are missing something….They need to know the story of God.

As Chris Folmsbee author of Story, Signs, and Sacred Rhythms points out teens need to understand who God is, what God is like, our relationship to God, and what God is doing in our world around us.  This has to be the starting point of what we do in youth ministry it can’t be a side note.  Our youth ministries can’t be fun, games, some service, with a little bit of Jesus thrown in.  We have to start with the gospel that Jesus Christ is Lord.  There is no other God except our God, He is the holy, almighty, all-powerful, all-present, all-knowing God of the universe.  We have to help teens understand the whole word of God both Old Testament and New Testament.  When we just give them the New Testament we are cheating them on only giving them part of the story of God.  There are those people out there that would be perfectly content if students graduate from our youth ministries being “sober virgins” where they don’t go to parties and get drunk and they don’t have sex before they get married and they would consider that a success.  In my opinion if this is all that happens we have failed our teens.  Our desire for the teens in our church should be so much more than just trying to graduate nice, moral teens because that will never bring radical life change to our world.

Know that I am not telling you to go to your youth ministry calendar and cancel your youth game night this Sunday or to postpone your summer mission trip but what I am asking you to do is keep the story of God at the center of everything you do.  If we miss this crucial piece then nothing else will matter.  If we leave out the revelation of God then we will be nothing more than a social club or a community service team.  So as you look to the weeks ahead in your ministries remember to the story of God at the center of all you do.

How are you helping teens understand the story of God?

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Missing Piece

  1. This is a good post. I’d recommended 2 books to you which you may have already read. “Life Together” – Bonhoeffer and “Peculiar Speech, Preaching to the Baptized” – Willimon.

    The question I have when approaching youth ministry is whether or not we approach the youth group as part of the baptized (or seeking to be baptized) community, ie the church.

    When any youth leader looks across their group they must ask the question, “Am I looking at the church, or am I looking at the world?” If I am looking at the church my job is to tell these youth who they are in Christ, what has been done for them. I do not need to create community, community has already been created, I need to get them to see the reality of the community which Christ has already established. However if I am looking out at the youth, and I see not the church but the world, then my job is to preach the hard law and offer nothing of comfort, that is unless they see the need of comfort at which point I give the gospel.

    Of course in each setting there are ‘wheat and tares’, but I don’t think that is near the problem people make it into.

    I will say this, when I looked at our youth group in Maumee, I looked at them and preached and taught them, as the church. I think most youth min approaches youth as the ‘unchurched’, or world, and I think that is a huge mistake.

    Anyway, great post.

  2. Great thoughts Jay! I am with you I approach my group mostly as the church. Obviously there are those times that people come that may not know Christ but for the most part most are Christians. I love your comment on the law and the gospel because it shines light on the reality that none of us even come close to living up to the law. We are fallen and no where near the holiness and righteousness of our God. It is through that acknowledgement that Christ is Lord and only through him can we have comfort.

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