The State of Youth Ministry: Why we are failing as Youth Pastors

August 29, 2012     Andy Gil    

The statistics are staggering. 88% of children raised in Christian families leave church at the age of 18, never to return. Only 4% of the “bridger” generation, or Gen Y, will be Bible-believing Christians when they reach adulthood, all while, the 20 something male is almost completely absent in the American church…

The question immediately comes to, then what do we do?

Have we watered the gospel down, changed the face of Jesus, re-created what Christianity actually is so much so that nobody wants to be a part of it, that a majority of our teenagers, and young adults have completely walked away from the church?

It seems as if the problem is not necessarily youth ministry (that being our current programmatic model of youth ministry or the segregation of ages) but the problem at hand is our own faith and the lives we’ve modeled as “followers of Jesus”.

I’m just gonna go ahead and say it. When I look at the state of youth ministry it seems shallow.

  • When the deepest books we read as youth pastors are “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan or “Sex God” by Rob Bell (which are written at 4th grade reading levels)
  • When the top blog hits are “5 Epic Youth Group Games”
  • When we purchase our sermons off line instead of digging into the word ourselves and soaking in scripture and allowing God to speak through that.
  • When 50% of youth group consists of “chubby bunny” and youtube videos

Its no wonder that youth are fleeing from churches and young adults want nothing to do with Jesus. Because what we model is not Jesus. Its barely even biblical. From the stage and off the stage.

“If you only preach the gospel on stage but don’t live it off the stage, you’re not a pastor, you’re an actor…” –Jon Acuff 

I’m just calling it as it is:

Either we’re lazy, cowardly, uneducated pastors, teetering along the lines of stupidity.

or

We just don’t give a crap.

I think we can dance around these two issues at hand. But I’ve always learned that we can’t fix a problem without acknowledging it.

The state of youth ministry is not good. We’ve danced around the issue saying it lightly and gently. Or either being in complete denial of it. Its time to man up and step up. Take on courage live out our faith and preach the word of God…

Then maybe, just maybe students, parents, young adults and our Elder board will begin to take us seriously.

“Lackadaisical faith is not getting peoples issue, but ours… So we must assume that the solution lies not in beefing up congregational youth programs or making worship more “cool” and attractive, but in modeling the kind of mature, passionate faith we say we want young people to have…” – Kenda Creasy Dean 

But, the question remains… if this is true, if these statistics are reflective of the state of youth ministry, then what do we do?


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Comments

88 thoughts on “The State of Youth Ministry: Why we are failing as Youth Pastors”

  1. Ben Read

    My first thought when I read your article while editing was about the Culture of Youth Ministry. For too long we’ve celebrated the wrong things, and we can blame it on the culture around us, that oh, theres too much Sex on Tv, or music is so bad, or christians are so outnumbered and looked down upon now. But the Culture us Youth Pastors have created within our Youth Ministry circles is what the bigger problem is in my mind.

  2. Ben Read

    My first thought when I read your article while editing was about the Culture of Youth Ministry. For too long we’ve celebrated the wrong things, and we can blame it on the culture around us, that oh, theres too much Sex on Tv, or music is so bad, or christians are so outnumbered and looked down upon now. But the Culture us Youth Pastors have created within our Youth Ministry circles is what the bigger problem is in my mind.

  3. Tom

    I’m sorry, but Crazy Love isn’t an indicator of Broken Youth Ministry. If anything, we’d all be more successful if we took some notes out of Crazy Love and taught the Gospel more than moralism. It’s moralism and the legalism that follows that drives people from the church. It’s empty religion.

    The Gospel has less to do with what we do and more to do with what Jesus did. When we stop revolving our ministries around virtues (us) and start really focusing our ministries around Jesus, then we’ll start doing youth ministry right.

    I almost feel like church politics, senior pastors, personal insecurities, unhealthy influences, etc. cause us to assume the role of the Holy Spirit in our students’ lives. Obviously, that isn’t our jobs, but the pressure of ‘performing’ sometimes drives us to. Out of that insecurity, we push morals more than Jesus. It’s a tempting shortcut to get students to do right things, grow the youth ministry, invite friends, etc.

    Nobody wants to be told what to do, especially teenagers. But tell them about Jesus and the Holy Spirit will work in their hearts. It’s all about Jesus and until we get that across, we will continue to lose students to a Christ-less Christianity. This is what we should do about the current state of youth ministry.

    1. Ben Read

      I don’t think he was saying Crazy love in itself is a sign of broken youth ministry, but if thats the deepest book a Youth Pastor is reading, thats not good.

      Completely agree about the gospel. When the Jesus is the center of a Youth Ministry, that ministry will flourish. We need less sermons about why teens should do this or shouldnt do that, and more on why Jesus is worth it, why Jesus is better, why Jesus…

    2. Andy Gill

      AMEN. Tom, I want you to know I agree with you whole heartedly. And that I was NOT saying (as Ben clarified) that Crazy Love is a sign in and of itself of a broken youth ministry…

      ITS ALL ABOUT JESUS. Going to the upper room praying for the power of the Holy Spirit. NOT teaching this MORALISTIC THERAPEUTIC DEISM, but rather DROWNING our students in the gospel, and NOT just simply ASSUMING they know the gospel.

      And thats the problem, students aren’t misunderstanding us, their completely understanding what we’re preaching, and it’s as you say just religion. and completely void of the gospel. Which is why I say in the post:

      Its time to man up and step up. Take on courage live out our faith and preach the word of God…

      And maybe this will stir the pot even more, but knowing these stats, conversing with youth pastors across the nation, I’m hesitant to believing that the average youth pastor in america EVEN UNDERSTANDS THE GOSPEL THEMSELVES, but have come to know Moralistic Deism as the gospel (which is heresy)

  4. Tom

    I’m sorry, but Crazy Love isn’t an indicator of Broken Youth Ministry. If anything, we’d all be more successful if we took some notes out of Crazy Love and taught the Gospel more than moralism. It’s moralism and the legalism that follows that drives people from the church. It’s empty religion.

    The Gospel has less to do with what we do and more to do with what Jesus did. When we stop revolving our ministries around virtues (us) and start really focusing our ministries around Jesus, then we’ll start doing youth ministry right.

    I almost feel like church politics, senior pastors, personal insecurities, unhealthy influences, etc. cause us to assume the role of the Holy Spirit in our students’ lives. Obviously, that isn’t our jobs, but the pressure of ‘performing’ sometimes drives us to. Out of that insecurity, we push morals more than Jesus. It’s a tempting shortcut to get students to do right things, grow the youth ministry, invite friends, etc.

    Nobody wants to be told what to do, especially teenagers. But tell them about Jesus and the Holy Spirit will work in their hearts. It’s all about Jesus and until we get that across, we will continue to lose students to a Christ-less Christianity. This is what we should do about the current state of youth ministry.

    1. Ben Read

      I don’t think he was saying Crazy love in itself is a sign of broken youth ministry, but if thats the deepest book a Youth Pastor is reading, thats not good.

      Completely agree about the gospel. When the Jesus is the center of a Youth Ministry, that ministry will flourish. We need less sermons about why teens should do this or shouldnt do that, and more on why Jesus is worth it, why Jesus is better, why Jesus…

    2. Andy Gill

      AMEN. Tom, I want you to know I agree with you whole heartedly. And that I was NOT saying (as Ben clarified) that Crazy Love is a sign in and of itself of a broken youth ministry…

      ITS ALL ABOUT JESUS. Going to the upper room praying for the power of the Holy Spirit. NOT teaching this MORALISTIC THERAPEUTIC DEISM, but rather DROWNING our students in the gospel, and NOT just simply ASSUMING they know the gospel.

      And thats the problem, students aren’t misunderstanding us, their completely understanding what we’re preaching, and it’s as you say just religion. and completely void of the gospel. Which is why I say in the post:

      Its time to man up and step up. Take on courage live out our faith and preach the word of God…

      And maybe this will stir the pot even more, but knowing these stats, conversing with youth pastors across the nation, I’m hesitant to believing that the average youth pastor in america EVEN UNDERSTANDS THE GOSPEL THEMSELVES, but have come to know Moralistic Deism as the gospel (which is heresy)

  5. Dj Butcher

    Those are some pretty staggering statistics, but I’m not convinced they’re true. Where did you get those stats?

  6. Dj Butcher

    Those are some pretty staggering statistics, but I’m not convinced they’re true. Where did you get those stats?

  7. Brendan Wilkes

    Luckily I’ve read the forgotten God, which we all know is far deeper than Love Wins.

    Honestly, I feel the conviction. Your telling me the way Im doing Ministry isnt working and I have to agree. The culture Ive created in our Youth Ministry puts all the pressure on me, and try and try and try as I might, my volunteers still look to me as the go to guy. Who’s idea was it to get us to do everything in the Ministry and still try and preach. My lessons dont do much, my investment in students has brought about fruit, but I still look at the students we arent reaching and know we could do more.

    Good words Andy. Dont let anyone tell you otherwise, i needed to hear this.

  8. Brendan Wilkes

    Luckily I’ve read the forgotten God, which we all know is far deeper than Love Wins.

    Honestly, I feel the conviction. Your telling me the way Im doing Ministry isnt working and I have to agree. The culture Ive created in our Youth Ministry puts all the pressure on me, and try and try and try as I might, my volunteers still look to me as the go to guy. Who’s idea was it to get us to do everything in the Ministry and still try and preach. My lessons dont do much, my investment in students has brought about fruit, but I still look at the students we arent reaching and know we could do more.

    Good words Andy. Dont let anyone tell you otherwise, i needed to hear this.

  9. Samantha

    Why does it have to be that Youth Ministry is broken? This is a huge sweeping generalization. What is broken about Youth Ministry? I see in this post that your saying a few Youth Pastors dont know how to go deep, so we must all be bad. There are broken Youth Ministries, but I also dont see a solution in here?

    1. Chase M.

      Agreed, I dont think every Youth Ministry is broken. Of course, Mine isnt broken, Im too good of a leader for that ;). I think the problem he points out is the Youth Pastors Spiritual life, my spiritual life, your spiritual life. I can agree with that. Its just the basic premise that the Youth Pastor cant lead the Youth Group any further than he has gone. Solution: Youth Pastors spend more time in the word.

    2. Andy Gill

      Samantha, I definitely agree with you in the sense that it’s not ALL youth pastors. But just looking at the stats, walking into the average church and seeing the lack of 20-30 males in the pews (90% by the time their 30 will leave) There’s a HUGE problem at hand. If one can look at that and not see a problem then the conversation really ends there…

      So the question still remains,

      “if these statistics are reflective of the state of youth ministry, then what do we do?”

  10. Samantha

    Why does it have to be that Youth Ministry is broken? This is a huge sweeping generalization. What is broken about Youth Ministry? I see in this post that your saying a few Youth Pastors dont know how to go deep, so we must all be bad. There are broken Youth Ministries, but I also dont see a solution in here?

    1. Chase M.

      Agreed, I dont think every Youth Ministry is broken. Of course, Mine isnt broken, Im too good of a leader for that ;). I think the problem he points out is the Youth Pastors Spiritual life, my spiritual life, your spiritual life. I can agree with that. Its just the basic premise that the Youth Pastor cant lead the Youth Group any further than he has gone. Solution: Youth Pastors spend more time in the word.

    2. Andy Gill

      Samantha, I definitely agree with you in the sense that it’s not ALL youth pastors. But just looking at the stats, walking into the average church and seeing the lack of 20-30 males in the pews (90% by the time their 30 will leave) There’s a HUGE problem at hand. If one can look at that and not see a problem then the conversation really ends there…

      So the question still remains,

      “if these statistics are reflective of the state of youth ministry, then what do we do?”

    1. Ben Read

      Responded on your website. Once again, hes not saying dont read that book. Hes saying dont let that be the deepest book you read. I think even Francis Chan would agree with that.

      1. Chase M.

        #hashtags in comments work still right? I had to go check out his site because it made me laugh. He also had that followed by Bonhoeffer, which im not sure I know any other youth pastors who have read that.

      2. jamesblewett

        Here is my reply from my website, in case you don’t get it.

        Thanks for the comment.

        This answered a question I had as to whether or not the blog posts got approved before they were published.

        To start, calling him Old School was misinformed. I don’t know the man. Oh, and I should have the left the Crazy Love comment as part of my inner-dialogue, but I was shocked that it was at the top of his must-read list.

        But Ben, hear my heart… you have the opportunity to uplift and help youth pastors and you are publishing this post, that basically calls us all failures. “Why we are failing as youth pastors” is not a good name for a blog post, because he doesn’t know all youth pastors and while the ones he knows may be failing, the ones I know are not.

        How about a blog post entitled, “How to ensure we are not failing as youth pastors.” How about instead of pointing out his perceived “problems” with youth pastors, he writes about the solutions.

        1. Leadership development
        2. Being a part of something bigger than yourself
        3. Transparent Leadership
        4. Deep Biblical lessons
        5. A successful college ministry

        These are the ways that we have “kept” the 80%.

        I am sure you know as well as I do that it is so hard to be a youth pastor, and when a fellow youth pastor calls me and all my friends failures… well, I have to say something because some people might actually believe him.

        1. Ben Read

          James, I can totally appreciate that. Where do you serve that all the Youth Pastors are killing it?

          We published this article because of the problem he is saying, which Chase is dead on with above: Youth Ministries are only as healthy as their Youth Pastor. And the fact of the matter, we’ve done a lot of polls and surveys on here, that you can find, that lead us to have these conversations, that lead us to know there are Youth Pastors who still struggle with Porn on a daily basis, that read their bible once a month, that haven’t sat down and prayed for more than a meal in a while. We arent just blindly calling out every Youth Pastor, but we are saying Youth Pastors, we all need to do better.

          I totally get your heart, and appreciate the comments, man.

          1. jamesblewett

            I seemed to have struck a nerve with your audience today. Here is what I was trying to say… exactly what Samantha said 2 hours ago.

            Why does it have to be that Youth Ministry is broken? This is a huge sweeping generalization. What is broken about Youth Ministry? I see in this post that your saying a few Youth Pastors dont know how to go deep, so we must all be bad. There are broken Youth Ministries, but I also dont see a solution in here?

            She should write my blog apparently 🙂

            Look Ben, I don’t want to argue, because I think that has more to do with what is wrong with youth ministry than chubby bunny ever will.

            I think Augustine put it best (take that Bonhoeffer) when stating, “The church is a whore, but she is also my mother.”

            I wouldn’t be who I am today if weren’t for the local church and for my youth group specifically. I know we have problems, but I am an optimist, those are struggles, not “failings.” When we refer to youth groups and to church and make these sweeping generalizations about their failures, just mix in some successes too Ben. You are talking about the bride of Christ. And if you ever called my bride a failure, it would be on like Donkey Kong.

          2. Ben Read

            Love it. I wouldnt say were arguing, either. This is the kind of conversations were trying to get going.

            We love the bride of Christ, and if you stick around and read our other stuff, you will see that. I know Andy personally, and I know his heart, and I know this whole post comes out of love for the bride of Christ. Most of us who write on this site have been hurt by those claiming to be the church, in ways that have made us want to leave, but what else would we do? We are convinced that the Church is not something to bash, but that doesnt mean we should never try to scold it. From what we see, the data we have collected, the conversations we have had, there is brokenness in Youth MInistry (lets remember, Youth MInistry is being done by broken people), but that doesnt mean we write it off.

            Lets keep this conversation and advance Youth Ministry together.

    1. Ben Read

      Responded on your website. Once again, hes not saying dont read that book. Hes saying dont let that be the deepest book you read. I think even Francis Chan would agree with that.

      1. Chase M.

        #hashtags in comments work still right? I had to go check out his site because it made me laugh. He also had that followed by Bonhoeffer, which im not sure I know any other youth pastors who have read that.

      2. jamesblewett

        Here is my reply from my website, in case you don’t get it.

        Thanks for the comment.

        This answered a question I had as to whether or not the blog posts got approved before they were published.

        To start, calling him Old School was misinformed. I don’t know the man. Oh, and I should have the left the Crazy Love comment as part of my inner-dialogue, but I was shocked that it was at the top of his must-read list.

        But Ben, hear my heart… you have the opportunity to uplift and help youth pastors and you are publishing this post, that basically calls us all failures. “Why we are failing as youth pastors” is not a good name for a blog post, because he doesn’t know all youth pastors and while the ones he knows may be failing, the ones I know are not.

        How about a blog post entitled, “How to ensure we are not failing as youth pastors.” How about instead of pointing out his perceived “problems” with youth pastors, he writes about the solutions.

        1. Leadership development
        2. Being a part of something bigger than yourself
        3. Transparent Leadership
        4. Deep Biblical lessons
        5. A successful college ministry

        These are the ways that we have “kept” the 80%.

        I am sure you know as well as I do that it is so hard to be a youth pastor, and when a fellow youth pastor calls me and all my friends failures… well, I have to say something because some people might actually believe him.

        1. Ben Read

          James, I can totally appreciate that. Where do you serve that all the Youth Pastors are killing it?

          We published this article because of the problem he is saying, which Chase is dead on with above: Youth Ministries are only as healthy as their Youth Pastor. And the fact of the matter, we’ve done a lot of polls and surveys on here, that you can find, that lead us to have these conversations, that lead us to know there are Youth Pastors who still struggle with Porn on a daily basis, that read their bible once a month, that haven’t sat down and prayed for more than a meal in a while. We arent just blindly calling out every Youth Pastor, but we are saying Youth Pastors, we all need to do better.

          I totally get your heart, and appreciate the comments, man.

          1. jamesblewett

            I seemed to have struck a nerve with your audience today. Here is what I was trying to say… exactly what Samantha said 2 hours ago.

            Why does it have to be that Youth Ministry is broken? This is a huge sweeping generalization. What is broken about Youth Ministry? I see in this post that your saying a few Youth Pastors dont know how to go deep, so we must all be bad. There are broken Youth Ministries, but I also dont see a solution in here?

            She should write my blog apparently 🙂

            Look Ben, I don’t want to argue, because I think that has more to do with what is wrong with youth ministry than chubby bunny ever will.

            I think Augustine put it best (take that Bonhoeffer) when stating, “The church is a whore, but she is also my mother.”

            I wouldn’t be who I am today if weren’t for the local church and for my youth group specifically. I know we have problems, but I am an optimist, those are struggles, not “failings.” When we refer to youth groups and to church and make these sweeping generalizations about their failures, just mix in some successes too Ben. You are talking about the bride of Christ. And if you ever called my bride a failure, it would be on like Donkey Kong.

          2. Ben Read

            Love it. I wouldnt say were arguing, either. This is the kind of conversations were trying to get going.

            We love the bride of Christ, and if you stick around and read our other stuff, you will see that. I know Andy personally, and I know his heart, and I know this whole post comes out of love for the bride of Christ. Most of us who write on this site have been hurt by those claiming to be the church, in ways that have made us want to leave, but what else would we do? We are convinced that the Church is not something to bash, but that doesnt mean we should never try to scold it. From what we see, the data we have collected, the conversations we have had, there is brokenness in Youth MInistry (lets remember, Youth MInistry is being done by broken people), but that doesnt mean we write it off.

            Lets keep this conversation and advance Youth Ministry together.

    1. Chase M.

      Read your rebuttal. Straight up laughable that you call him Old School. Your definition of old school being pessimistic and new school optimistic is mistaken, and highly jaded. If anything, its inverse. Old School is optimistic that Pizza Parties will bring in a crowd so they can yell John 3:16 at them.

    1. Chase M.

      Read your rebuttal. Straight up laughable that you call him Old School. Your definition of old school being pessimistic and new school optimistic is mistaken, and highly jaded. If anything, its inverse. Old School is optimistic that Pizza Parties will bring in a crowd so they can yell John 3:16 at them.

  11. Chase M.

    Dude, I friggin loved this post. I think some of the readers below are missing the point. Boil it all down, what I see you saying is that Youth Ministry is only as healthy as the Youth Pastor. I could not agree more. Too many Youth Pastors get so easily sidetracked with other things, we need more of Jesus in our lives, we need more of the Gospel in our lives. We need to read more than Crazy Love, its like the primer to better stuff. Its like a pot-head thinking he has a drug problem, its good stuff, but its nothing compared to crack.

    1. Andy Gill

      lol, best. comment. ever. favorite part was:

      “We need to read more than Crazy Love, its like the primer to better stuff. Its like a pot-head thinking he has a drug problem, its good stuff, but its nothing compared to crack.”

      but seriously thanks for you words and encouragement chase!

  12. Chase M.

    Dude, I friggin loved this post. I think some of the readers below are missing the point. Boil it all down, what I see you saying is that Youth Ministry is only as healthy as the Youth Pastor. I could not agree more. Too many Youth Pastors get so easily sidetracked with other things, we need more of Jesus in our lives, we need more of the Gospel in our lives. We need to read more than Crazy Love, its like the primer to better stuff. Its like a pot-head thinking he has a drug problem, its good stuff, but its nothing compared to crack.

    1. Andy Gill

      lol, best. comment. ever. favorite part was:

      “We need to read more than Crazy Love, its like the primer to better stuff. Its like a pot-head thinking he has a drug problem, its good stuff, but its nothing compared to crack.”

      but seriously thanks for you words and encouragement chase!

  13. Joshua Fuentes

    Usually I don’t see articles about “what’s the problem with Student Ministry” until the spring time, but there’s nothing wrong with getting an early start on it. I agree its important for the student minister to be growing in their faith, but to say that’s why so many kids are leaving the church is a little absurd. I believe most ministers are trying to do the best they can when it comes to their walk with Christ. And even if you’re growing in your faith, and being a Christ-like example, it doesn’t mean your students will stick with it. In the end, I believe there are multiple facets working together when it comes to an issue like this. However, I do appreciate the enthusiasm!

    1. Ben Read

      Heresy. Its one thing or nothing. I wish there was some magic recipe for growing fully committed disciples, a dash of Spiritual Maturity, bit of fun, splash of theology, etc. etc. But I think the context can play a lot more into it then we remember. In some areas of the country, im sure pizza parties are still the best, but thats part of my problem with curriclum all over again, is outsourcing the discipleship. (And Josh, I know youll say “discipleship and evangelism arent separate haha)

  14. Joshua Fuentes

    Usually I don’t see articles about “what’s the problem with Student Ministry” until the spring time, but there’s nothing wrong with getting an early start on it. I agree its important for the student minister to be growing in their faith, but to say that’s why so many kids are leaving the church is a little absurd. I believe most ministers are trying to do the best they can when it comes to their walk with Christ. And even if you’re growing in your faith, and being a Christ-like example, it doesn’t mean your students will stick with it. In the end, I believe there are multiple facets working together when it comes to an issue like this. However, I do appreciate the enthusiasm!

    1. Ben Read

      Heresy. Its one thing or nothing. I wish there was some magic recipe for growing fully committed disciples, a dash of Spiritual Maturity, bit of fun, splash of theology, etc. etc. But I think the context can play a lot more into it then we remember. In some areas of the country, im sure pizza parties are still the best, but thats part of my problem with curriclum all over again, is outsourcing the discipleship. (And Josh, I know youll say “discipleship and evangelism arent separate haha)

  15. Jeff Selph

    Great post! At times, I’m exactly as you described.

    I don’t agree that it’s the youth ministry’s failure, though. I tell the parents at our church that I can’t raise their kids to love Jesus. I can only inspire them and reinforce what they’re seeing at home. It breaks my heart when a kid falls out of church, but in my experience – which I’m not saying is definitive of everyone’s – it is it is the same kids who show a lackluster faith and attendance to youth group that fall away. The faithful stay faithful, and that is something that is generally instilled at home.

    But getting mad over this post and yelling, “not me!,” doesn’t make sense. If it doesn’t apply to you, cool. I’m glad. I see no reason to be agitated or in denial of what’s going on elsewhere. When the Holy Spirit speaks, you can choose to be convicted or offended by the person He spoke through. If He’s not speaking to you, be grateful and wait for your turn.

  16. Jeff Selph

    Great post! At times, I’m exactly as you described.

    I don’t agree that it’s the youth ministry’s failure, though. I tell the parents at our church that I can’t raise their kids to love Jesus. I can only inspire them and reinforce what they’re seeing at home. It breaks my heart when a kid falls out of church, but in my experience – which I’m not saying is definitive of everyone’s – it is it is the same kids who show a lackluster faith and attendance to youth group that fall away. The faithful stay faithful, and that is something that is generally instilled at home.

    But getting mad over this post and yelling, “not me!,” doesn’t make sense. If it doesn’t apply to you, cool. I’m glad. I see no reason to be agitated or in denial of what’s going on elsewhere. When the Holy Spirit speaks, you can choose to be convicted or offended by the person He spoke through. If He’s not speaking to you, be grateful and wait for your turn.

  17. Timothy J. Betar

    Good word. Once again, I wouldn’t say that it is “Youth Ministry” as a whole, but dependent on the vision/health of the Youth Pastor. That being said, I think that Youth Pastors can get so wrapped up in their ministry, they actually forget that they are trying to do ministry. It’s jumping from a track meet, to a bible study, to a church meeting, back to home.. I would encourage Youth Pastors today to find that space to be alone with God- remember why you are doing what you are doing! That’s something I have been wrestling with myself lately!

    1. Andy Gill

      Timothy, I can totally relate with ya on this, It’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness of your day you lose site of not only the fact that we’re doing ministry but lose site of God… reminds of one of my favorite quotes on prayer:

      “If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day. I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.” – Martin Luther

  18. Timothy J. Betar

    Good word. Once again, I wouldn’t say that it is “Youth Ministry” as a whole, but dependent on the vision/health of the Youth Pastor. That being said, I think that Youth Pastors can get so wrapped up in their ministry, they actually forget that they are trying to do ministry. It’s jumping from a track meet, to a bible study, to a church meeting, back to home.. I would encourage Youth Pastors today to find that space to be alone with God- remember why you are doing what you are doing! That’s something I have been wrestling with myself lately!

    1. Andy Gill

      Timothy, I can totally relate with ya on this, It’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness of your day you lose site of not only the fact that we’re doing ministry but lose site of God… reminds of one of my favorite quotes on prayer:

      “If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day. I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.” – Martin Luther

  19. Phil Steiner

    I agree with the statment that a youth ministry is only as healthy as the youth pastor and our growth in our relationship with Jesus is of up most importance. I would also add, that the youth culture has changed so much that I know for me my programing, structure and how I share the Gospel needs to change. I think if anything, we are still trying to do 2000 youth ministry in the new decade and the student’s aren’t there. I would say that “how” we are doing ministry needs to change, but I don’t have a good solution as to what that looks like.

    1. Andy Gill

      Phil, I think thats the million dollar question “What does this look like?” How do we adapt our ministries within our own context to reach the unreached, and reconnect with the “dechurched”…? I’m not sure what the answer is to that, though I do believe that meeting with other local youth pastors, praying constantly, life on life discipleship, and staying committed to the word are at the foundation of whatever the answer might be… as opposed to just ignoring the issue. love your thoughts…

      1. Stephen Sparks

        As I read through your original post I kept thinking of one thing, which some people have pointed out in their responses: Where are the parents in all of this? Isn’t it their charge to raise and teach their children how to walk in the ways of the Lord? (Eph. 6:4 and Prov. 22:6 to name two scriptures). I don’t have any tried and true solutions for the issue you’ve pointed out. But I do believe that you’re only responsibility as a Youth Pastor is what you teach. Ultimately you will only be judged by that. You didn’t raise that child nor should you take on that responsibility from the standpoint of a Youth Pastor. And God does not hold you to that responsibility. It’s not wrong to care and to act when it is within your bounds to do so, but I believe that if you reach the parents then you reach the children. I’m not against having Youth Pastors or a Youth Group, but I believe we as the Church have put too much responsibility on our Youth Pastors to “train up our children in the ways they should go.” My suggestions and direction would be to focus on how you can involve the parents in everything that you do. Make it your mission to partner with God as he turns the hearts of the fathers back to the children and the hearts of the children back to their fathers. I believe this was and still is God’s ultimate design for building his Bride. The best thing right now, as you said yourself, is to dig into the Word for ourselves and teach what God has already taught or is teaching us. And always ask God, “What do I do?” That may be something that could drastically change where youth ministry goes.

  20. Phil Steiner

    I agree with the statment that a youth ministry is only as healthy as the youth pastor and our growth in our relationship with Jesus is of up most importance. I would also add, that the youth culture has changed so much that I know for me my programing, structure and how I share the Gospel needs to change. I think if anything, we are still trying to do 2000 youth ministry in the new decade and the student’s aren’t there. I would say that “how” we are doing ministry needs to change, but I don’t have a good solution as to what that looks like.

    1. Andy Gill

      Phil, I think thats the million dollar question “What does this look like?” How do we adapt our ministries within our own context to reach the unreached, and reconnect with the “dechurched”…? I’m not sure what the answer is to that, though I do believe that meeting with other local youth pastors, praying constantly, life on life discipleship, and staying committed to the word are at the foundation of whatever the answer might be… as opposed to just ignoring the issue. love your thoughts…

      1. Stephen Sparks

        As I read through your original post I kept thinking of one thing, which some people have pointed out in their responses: Where are the parents in all of this? Isn’t it their charge to raise and teach their children how to walk in the ways of the Lord? (Eph. 6:4 and Prov. 22:6 to name two scriptures). I don’t have any tried and true solutions for the issue you’ve pointed out. But I do believe that you’re only responsibility as a Youth Pastor is what you teach. Ultimately you will only be judged by that. You didn’t raise that child nor should you take on that responsibility from the standpoint of a Youth Pastor. And God does not hold you to that responsibility. It’s not wrong to care and to act when it is within your bounds to do so, but I believe that if you reach the parents then you reach the children. I’m not against having Youth Pastors or a Youth Group, but I believe we as the Church have put too much responsibility on our Youth Pastors to “train up our children in the ways they should go.” My suggestions and direction would be to focus on how you can involve the parents in everything that you do. Make it your mission to partner with God as he turns the hearts of the fathers back to the children and the hearts of the children back to their fathers. I believe this was and still is God’s ultimate design for building his Bride. The best thing right now, as you said yourself, is to dig into the Word for ourselves and teach what God has already taught or is teaching us. And always ask God, “What do I do?” That may be something that could drastically change where youth ministry goes.

  21. Dan Navarra

    this is bull crap. the state of youth ministry is not nearly as pathetic as you make it out to be Andy. There’s 500 reasons why youth ministries struggle, and I’m sure that the top of the list doesn’t usually include the youth pastor not living it out. I can live the gospel out in my life and preach it from the stage all i want and can. What I’ve realized, after actually leading a ministry for a few years, is that the amount of broken families is crippling ministry. The best youth pastor a kid should ever have is their own parent. My heart for parents has grown tremendously in the last year as I’ve seen parents coming to me asking ME, with ZERO children of my own, how to parent theirs. I’ve seen churches hire a youth pastor and tell them their budget is their tithe. I’ve seen churches hire a youth pastor as a last ditch effort to save their dying church. I’ve seen churches fire a youth pastor on two days notice because of a leadership change above him on the food chain. I’ve seen a lot of student ministries that have a lot of problems, but what I know to be true is that the men who lead these ministries are fully-devoted followers of Christ. If they weren’t they would have given up the battle already. We, the Church, are not perfect, but we are what the Lord has chosen to use to reach a lost generation. Blogging about how lost the generation is, and how we are doing nothing to reach them because of the lack of christ-likeness in our own lives is a ridiculous notion. Pick a different battle.

    1. Andy Gill

      Love ya Danny.

      ps. I’m coming out to SF soon and speaking at a church in the city. I have a free day. I say you meet me in the city and we hit up Delaney’s and a giants game. Text me.

  22. Dan Navarra

    this is bull crap. the state of youth ministry is not nearly as pathetic as you make it out to be Andy. There’s 500 reasons why youth ministries struggle, and I’m sure that the top of the list doesn’t usually include the youth pastor not living it out. I can live the gospel out in my life and preach it from the stage all i want and can. What I’ve realized, after actually leading a ministry for a few years, is that the amount of broken families is crippling ministry. The best youth pastor a kid should ever have is their own parent. My heart for parents has grown tremendously in the last year as I’ve seen parents coming to me asking ME, with ZERO children of my own, how to parent theirs. I’ve seen churches hire a youth pastor and tell them their budget is their tithe. I’ve seen churches hire a youth pastor as a last ditch effort to save their dying church. I’ve seen churches fire a youth pastor on two days notice because of a leadership change above him on the food chain. I’ve seen a lot of student ministries that have a lot of problems, but what I know to be true is that the men who lead these ministries are fully-devoted followers of Christ. If they weren’t they would have given up the battle already. We, the Church, are not perfect, but we are what the Lord has chosen to use to reach a lost generation. Blogging about how lost the generation is, and how we are doing nothing to reach them because of the lack of christ-likeness in our own lives is a ridiculous notion. Pick a different battle.

    1. Andy Gill

      Love ya Danny.

      ps. I’m coming out to SF soon and speaking at a church in the city. I have a free day. I say you meet me in the city and we hit up Delaney’s and a giants game. Text me.

  23. Chase M.

    Can I just say I fell in love more with this site after yesterday. Loved reading through the conversation below. Keep this conversation going!

  24. Chase M.

    Can I just say I fell in love more with this site after yesterday. Loved reading through the conversation below. Keep this conversation going!

  25. Jana @ 333 Days of.....

    My 19 year old son agrees. And he would go even further to say that the church drops the ball when it comes to college students.
    I personally don’t blame it on the church but he has a hard time finding anyone committed enough to even meet on a regular basis

  26. David

    We are ministering to a generation that is bombarded by various forms of advertising every day. This has produced the most cynical generation yet. They are capable of spotting phony salesmanship from a mile out. We can only reach this generation by modeling authentic faith. They are capable of grasping much more than simple applicational sermons. I believe we must teach our youth to understand what they believe and to be able to intellectually defend their faith. In order to develop deep relationships between our youth and God we as leaders need to demonstrate that kind of relationship.

  27. Tom Fryer

    I have to disagree with the comment, “your Youth Ministry is only as healthy as the Youth Pastor.” We had the “healthiest” Youth Minister with all the gifts and dedication necessary to grow the youth ministry program. He devoted himself to the program and covered all the bases…. a firm background in biblical doctrine and principles to our youth and balanced it with fellowship events, while incorporating the talents of other members in the congregation. (not to mention an engaging personality, and great children’s sermons.) However, he was operating under few handicaps that were not of his personal volition. The program did not grow because the majority of the parents don’t take seriously the spiritual needs of their children. They are drawn away from our Sunday worship services, and our youth ministry programs to attend the many other options available to them: sports, entertainment options, vacations, etc. They are often gone on the weekends or during the summer. It becomes difficult to plan around their schedules to run the youth ministry program.

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