The Desperate Need for Life-Changing Youth Ministries by Ron Powell
Whether you work in a church, on campus, a drop in center or a camp ministry to teens, you are needed like never before!
You may think that I am being over dramatic but when you consider these three pressings needs of youth, you will be convinced that the work you do is vital and that you need more help to do it well.
1. Disintegration of Focused Intentional Parenting
TV jokes about the fact that more and more families are dysfunctional. There has to be something going wrong. Teens are much less able to deal with stress. Teens are less able to deal with the demands of adult hood and in many studies they indicate that although they would like help from parents only 2% would turn to their dads for help.
Their primary source for help or advice is their friends. What an exciting place for a Youth for Christ, Young Life, or church youth worker to enter their life as a friend.
Jesus had many glorious titles but in youth work, the title I love most is, “Friend of Sinners.” It was meant as a insult but if we are going to bring about life change with teens it will not be because of our great authority but our ability to enter the lives of teens and through friendship coach them through the most challenging years of their lives.
2. The Overwhelming Onslaught of Digital Media
If you forced teens at gunpoint to be constantly glued to a device that would subtly brainwash them to believe lies about God, creation, sin, the nature of truth, and the meaning of human relationships, they would revolt. But, because media has been there since they were toddlers as the trusted baby sitter, entertainer and consoler, teens continue to consume dozens of hours a week.
If you believe that this amount of images, video, movies, and music are making them happier, healthier and more certain of an eternity in heaven, then you have been brainwashed also.
The truth is, in pure volume of hours, neither school nor sports have the access to their minds that media does. Where does that leave parents and youth workers trying to bring about sustainable life change in their lives. For most it seems an uphill battle. For most teens, the influence of media and peers far outweighs the impact of the youth ministry.
The only hope is that we step through the media noise and touch them. I am convinced that the love of Christ is much more powerful but students must experience it first hand from parents and committed believers.
Youth groups, young life or yfc clubs can serve as a powerful force toreinforce the teaching of the bible and a commitment to a life of discipleship. The support, affirmation, understanding, and acceptance they can offer can outdo Netflix and YouTube but getting students to attend and commit is a colossal effort!
Please don’t give up in defeat. In fact please use this kind of information to get as many people as possible involved in this. As Jesus commanded, “Pray that the Lord will send workers!” –youth workers!
3. The Almost Complete Dominance of the Secular Society
Did you see the very popular video of the student who was completely rejected at an interview because of her Christian beliefs? I have friends who work in large educational facilities who are very careful concerning their Christian beliefs. The consequences of being found out could mean being passed over for a promotion or being let go in the next round of budget cuts.
High school students fear the growing suspicion that they are a backward, bigoted believers stuck somewhere deep in the dark ages. Science classes challenge the existence of a Creator. History points out all the atrocities carried out in the name of Christianity.
So, while it is still okay for students to practice some kind of spirituality, to believe that the Bible is God breathed truth, is really uncool for students. Christian students are afraid to share their views for fear of being written off as hill billies, homophobes and haters.
Where can they find a place where they will not be ostracized for their devotion to Jesus? I would hope it is a loving group that demonstrates kindness, acceptance, and support. But, once again, creating this kind of a counter-culture atmosphere is going to take a lot of work outside of the group. The work that youth workers, paid and volunteer, do during the week will ensure that the group shows warmth and compassion to newcomers. Where are we supposed to get this kind of time each week? How many of us will it take?
So Much Work to be Done
Honestly, I understand if at times you feel overwhelmed. When I see the incredible power of peer pressure, digital media, the school system, and secular society and consider how we are outnumbered, I can get discouraged too. Thankfully I have also seen so many times, how the God of the universe works through willing youth workers and youth groups to turn students around. Volunteers and youth pastors, parents, and youth workers are needed now more than ever!