Drew Dyck has written an insightful article, The Red Bull Gospel, on the failure of contemporary youth ministry to produce lasting disciples. Virtually every pastor will admit that a large portion of the youth group will leave the faith, or at least be absent for the next two decades after going off to college. Dyck argues that we have moved away from the historic understanding of youth ministry, that is to confirm young people in their faith, into an entertainment-based ministry that aims to draw larger numbers. He notes the failure of this when he writes,
If our strategy is to win young people’s allegiance to church by offering better entertainment than the world, then we’ve picked a losing battle. Entertainment might get kids to church in their teens, but it certainly won’t keep them there through their twenties.
He also cites Lifeway strategist, Ed Stetzer, who has referred to youth groups as ‘holding tanks with pizza.”
From a pastor’s perspective I am more interested in providing an alternative solution than railing at the failures of most youth ministry. In my experience, we are selling our young people short. The young men and women of high school age at our church have responded incredibly well to being challenged with deep scriptural truths. In fact, I think that most of them recognize the shallowness of activity based ministry and long to be confronted with living for something larger than themselves. The key is to provide real answers to the questions theyask and to present them with an authentic version of Christianity.
One friend of mine who is a youth minister lamented, ” I can probably count on one hand how many times someone has asked me what I am teaching (aside from my pastor). On the reverse side, I get asked all the time what type of fun activities I have planned.” I think it is time we re-think how we disciple our youth.
Read Dyck’s article here and let me know what you think!