The Failure of Youth Ministry part two

alas, all is not lost. As much as people want to talk about the failure of youth ministry as a prolonged experiemnt – there are ample success stories. There are many students who can attribute their current spiritual condition to a quality youth ministry – or even a crappy one.

Marko has put up a top ten list about youth ministries and consumerism that I am going to interact with here – as a means of considering the DrIVEN group only. In no way would I say DrIVEN has been anywhere near a failure; we have had failings…but who wants to be perfect anyways? Here’s his stuff with my responses in italics…

Top 10 signs your youth ministry might be built on consumeristic assumptions:

(Warning: some of these are intentionally overstated, and reveal why a friend in Northern Ireland called me “a sarky git”.)

10. You talk about “my group” (that’s ownership language – the language of consumers). Unfortunately I catch myself doing this more than I’d like and every time it makes me correct myself. I don’t own the youth ministry – I want God to own it. And that’s nto a cop-out either. I sincerely hope that any success that we have is simply seen as God working. I just happen to be blessed enough to serve amazing students who are straight nuts for the gospel. I wonder how I can teach students not to call it ‘their’ youth group either…

9. Your mission statement: More teenagers, more often.
This is simply not true for us. We totally believe that God increases our numbers as a sign of health of the group – but this is not the only sign. Love, prayer, caring, openness are also used as measuring sticks of growth in DrIVEN. At the same time, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the devil constantly (CONSTANTLY) tempts me in this area…I have to consciously not compare us to others – it just makes no sense.

8. You constantly pressure your teenagers to bring friends. Those teenagers whose natural outgoing personality makes this easy are considered the most spiritual. I actually think the opposite has been true in our group. The kids who bring the most friends have been the kids that aren’t “good church kids” – this has been really interesting to observe. But in reality – I don’t care if they don’t bring friends – I hope we are teaching them to GO to their friends – then when their friends see there is a difference – unbelivers will want the peace that our students seem to have. I have posted about a great testimony by a teacher concerning this in the past – you can google my site.

7. Guilt and manipulation are seen as necessary evils, and reframed as “speaking the truth” or as “the gospel”. Sometimes I get cranked up and speak frankly of heaven and hell and speak in absolutes for things that I become passionate about (cranked is DrIVEN for passionate). We don’t guilt though – and it’s funny because some of the kids actually expect it. I find myself telling them they don’t have to apologize for not being at an event – when I contact them it’s because I genuinely missed having them around for them – not for the stupid statistical report. (So, if you are a Driven-er, plese feel loved no matter what your attendance looks like – this isn’t school).

6. The biggest buzz you ever had in ministry was the time you were able to report ten “decisions for Christ” – whether those teenagers were ever seen again or not. I hate this. I really do. Conversion is so easy compared to holy living – and sometimes we leave them hanging out there – I am guilty of this for sure…but I believe much improvement has been made.

5. You’ve pondered how to make Christianity as simple as possible for teenagers. I find this really interesting… because we make Christianity harder by making it simpler. This means we tell them that a Christian simply loves everyone that God does. That’s easy to learn – and soooo hard to practice. So we reduce Christianity (the life) down to being driven by love and by Christ – thereby making everything harder…

4. The result of your youth work is nice teenagers who are willing to attend church. The vast, vast majority of DrIVEN teens do not attend church. Some have never, ever attended the sunday morning worship gathering. I think this means something, but thta’s a big, big topic. So, DrIVEN teens are not nice teenagers who are willing to attend church.

3. The ministry “tools” you’re sure will really get things moving: a great sound system, a hip youth room, and truly awe-inspiring PowerPoint slides. We do have a hip-youth room – but if you compared it to yours, you may laugh at it and call it a cave. And we have powerpoint on TV’s and a powerful sound system. Dang. Thisi s one area where we may have a problem. It’s good to not be perfect. but what are we to do – the reason that we have and do what we do is that we have students who love to do it and are glorifying God through all that….so does that make it ok?

2. You daydream about the things you’ll never have: laser lights and a fog machine. We actually have laser lights – we inherited them all from a DJ in our church. Unfortunately we keep forgetting to put the dang things on during the worship – they end up just sitting there – it’s kinda funny I guess. And we can’t get a fog machine – we wouldn’t be able to breath – any one remember the burning incense incident where no one could breathe in the youth room? lol…

And the #1 sign your youth ministry might be built on consumeristic assumptions…

1. When you talk about “growth”, you’re only referring to numbers. One of the hardest insults I ever got was that all I cared about was the numbers. It sucked. Especially because it wasn’t true. May God grow us – however the heck He wants!

your thoughts?


4 thoughts on “The Failure of Youth Ministry part two

  1. This makes my head hurt. Why do things have to be analyzed in such detail? I like “my” as ownership, not as a consumer, but as a member. Some of the other things make sense, but doesn’t all ministry come down to a right relationship between me and God first, then me and others. Is that too simplistic?


  2. I think I like it too when kids call it “my” youth group – i want it to belong to them.

    as far as loving God, loving others – that is all it is about – but when we love others, they slowly turn into us…so I think we need to be very aware of who ‘we’ are…


  3. hey i think that this is really cool, and detailed how do you have time to do this but whatever. but on the topic your talkin about it was just like this for the invert guys i called them my guys cause they were/are my guys. ill never forget them.

    but i really like where the youth is and where its going at sacc. its a good one for sure, at least it was for me


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