Youth Ministry is Just a Fad

I’ve been a youth pastor for a little over ten years now. I believe deeply in what I do and in the kind of ministry I lead. Not only do I lead a ministry to high school students, but I also seek to equip youth leaders in their ministry by maintaining this blog and writing youth ministry curriculum. I believe that God has used youth ministry to help teenagers come to know his Son Jesus and grow in a relationship with him. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be doing what I do.

So why do I think that youth ministry is just a fad?

When I search the whole of church history, I see a host of things that were “big” (and even effective) at one point in history, but after a period of time, they became less central to the Church and its mission: Cathedrals in Europe, Christian monasticism, traveling revival preachers, and the song “Pharaoh Pharaoh” all come to mind. While we still see vestiges of those things today, one can’t deny that they are more a part of our history than they are our present. I don’t think youth ministry is immune to that fate.

So yes; I do think youth ministry is a fad. It’s a great tool, and I’ve seen it used by God to—by his grace—change many teenagers’ and families’ lives over the years. I also pray that God would keep using youth ministry, because the truth is, I love it. But at the end of the day, it’s just a tool, much like those cathedrals. We shouldn’t forget that youth ministry (as we would recognize it) is less than one hundred years old. I wouldn’t be surprised if I lived to see the day when youth ministry as we know it played a much, much smaller role in the Church than it does today. A lot can change in fifty years, and in our changing culture, the church may discover a more effective way for reaching teenagers—who, by the way, will likely “look” much different in fifty years than they do today.

Here’s my point: I love youth ministry, and I know most of the people who will read this post do, too. But it’s my hope that youth pastors would be committed to something much bigger than youth ministry; and that something is Jesus and his mission.

You shouldn’t be a youth pastor just because you love youth ministry.

You should be a youth pastor because you love Jesus and because you believe that Jesus can change lives–especially teenagers’ lives. The difference between those two things is subtle, but important. Remember, youth ministry is just a tool that God uses, and when ministry leaders start loving the tool more than the God who gave them that tool, things get out of order very quickly. We start wanting to maintain the ministry tools and models that we love more than we passionately pursue Jesus and the mission he gave us.

Remember all those cathedrals in Europe? For the most part, they are simply tourist attractions now. They are beautiful, but at the end of the day, they are a fad, reminders of a different kind of ministry in a different time. History tells us that unless Jesus comes back soon, “Youth Ministry” will also become a relic of the past. By all means, if God has called you to youth ministry, serve and lead to the best of your abilities. But keep in mind that youth ministry is just a tool. So, choose to be more committed to Jesus and his mission than the tool he gave you to use. If you are, God will have no shortage of work for you to do.

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