Changing the Standard of Youth Ministry

One of the things that drives the site managers and contributors at YouthMin.Org is the idea that the standard of ministry that many youth workers hold to needs to change.  And we know we are not alone: There are countless articles out there talking about nixing youth ministry as a whole; their arguments include but are not limited to: youth ministry isn’t fitting the needs of our culture anymore, it isn’t growing students up but extending adolescence, and it’s just plain lame.

We are just as tired of the current status quo of youth ministry:

  • Youth workers who wait until the day before to start preparing a lesson.
  • Youth workers who use curriculum without reworking it to fit the needs of their students.
  • Youth workers who plan events just to have them, without having any real impact on the spiritual lives of their students.
  • Youth workers who don’t take the time to understand the culture in which their students live in.
  • Youth workers who don’t proofread what they send out to parents and students.
  • Youth workers who still use clip art.
  • Youth workers who complain all the time about how dumb parents are.
  • Youth workers who complain about how useless their volunteers are.
  • Youth workers who don’t take the time to invest into their students outside of meeting times.
  • Youth workers who don’t keep Jesus the center, and instead focus their times on jokes/silly stories/needless games.
  • Youth workers who are teaching about sexuality in a way that shames their students and drives them away.
  • Youth workers who dress like fools and aren’t taken seriously.
  • Youth workers who talk bad about their senior pastor and other staff members (even Children’s workers!).
  • Youth workers who fit a “mold” that is so 90s and (can I keep it real for a minute?) exclusive to gender.

But, how do we change this standard?

Sometimes us contributors feel like jerks when we challenge others to up the ante; but let’s face it: Unless we say something, nothing is going to change. One of my personal mottos is “Don’t complain about something unless you are actively working to change it.”

Well, readers: This is me complaining and demanding a change.

Start with yourself–how can you start making some changes? Here is an example that will be close to your heart: We all complain that we aren’t taken seriously. Now, here comes the challenge: Look at the way you dress. Look at your youth meetings. Look at the type of activities and events your youth group does. Look at the way you lead and your relationships with other staff.  Now, do you still not understand why you’re not taken seriously? Begin this change in yourself.

Once you have gotten your plank out, help other youth workers with their specks. Challenge your youth worker friends to quit complaining about their staff and start exhorting them. Stand up for the Gospel and demand that we keep it the center. Let someone know that no one wants to come to their event because they are still using Comic Sans on their flyer… in love, of course.

Talk to us in the comments…
What annoys you about the current “standard” for youth ministry?
What are you doing to change said standard?


  1. Heather: Can you elaborate on, "Youth Workers who have events just to have them, without having any real impact on the spiritual lives of their students." What "events" are you referring too? I really enjoyed your post. I can't agree with the post out there that view youth ministry as a program that needs to be killed off. We really strive to do everything that we can do to reach, grow, and train our students. We are constantly looking for new ways to be more effective. In our context however, youth ministry is reaching students that might not be reached otherwise. Keep up the great post; keep fighting for more effective youth ministries.
    • Context is for sure key. There is definitely a place for seeker-sensitive events to draw kids in who wouldn't come to church otherwise. I think I meant like "events just to fill up the calendar."
  2. Are you sure you are talking about "standard" or are you "stereotyping" youth leaders? I actually think you are stereotyping because this "standard" that you talk about is not "standard" in the youth ministry circles I run in. But it could be just me...I'm not sure. Maybe a little grace is warranted and not a rant/complaining session. Unfortunately, there are a lot of youth workers out there that are part-time and volunteer. Although that isn't an excuse but "standard" may be all they can do. Maybe you can offer them a "coaching" session and help train them up right...for free...they probably don't have a real budget to work with (or limited at best). Just a thought. Good rant though.
    • Fair. After hearing some of the same critique from a few close friends, I have to say a few things: (1) I didn't mean for this to be a rant. I truly was passionate about what I wrote and I stand by it. (2) When I meant the "standard of youth ministry" I probably really meant "the standards that youth workers hold themselves to and are willingly stereotyped by." (3) I was a part-time and volunteer worker only until a few months ago (and I actually wrote this during that time, it was only just published), so I wrote from a place of passion and first-person experience. I didn't write it from a "I know it all because I've been doing this forever."

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