PIZZAS + MOVIES = YOUTH MINISTRY?
Itís both a challenge and a privilege to minister to young people. The challenge is to get their attention, and the privilege is to see them bearing fruit a decade or so later. Let us face the fact Ė youth ministry is not for all of us. God has gifted some with the aptitude to serve the youngsters, but often we see the least likely candidates being the most effective mentors. I guess thatís the way God works.
Youth ministry is not pizzas, movies and rock music. It is not fun, fun and more fun. That is a misconception some have nurtured in the past decade or so. Young people (aged 15 to 20), are not looking at church as a place to have mere fun and no stuff. They are looking for something to believe in, something to hold on to, something meaningful. Let me highlight seven crucial factors every youth pastor needs to bear in mind.
1. Youíre never too old to be a youth pastor (3Jn.4). One of the most effective youth ministers Iíve ever seen is Josh McDowell. When I met him in 2000, he was 60 and as effective as he ever was. Youngsters are not looking for a buddy. They need mentors and fathers. Donít try to be Ďcoolí like them. Itís not needed. Just be what you are and let them be your children. God will give you favour. Tricks donít work with the youths.
2. Donít try to compete with the world (1Jn.2:17). Iím not saying we should make our meetings boring. Yes, there has to be fun, but we cannot and need not compete with the kind of fun theyíre already having in their campuses. They can have pizzas and movies anywhere, but what you have from the word and in the Spirit, they do not get elsewhere.
3. Teach them (Tit.2:1). Itís a sad fact that many youth ministers are afraid to teach the Bible. They think it would turn the kids off. On the contrary, solid teaching would give good returns in the long run. You might lose a few initially, but as months go by, youíll see Godís truth working wonders.
4. Love them (Php.1:8). Donít try to fake love. Theyíll figure it out sooner than you think. If youth ministry is your calling, God will enable you to love them like your own children Ė or at least almost like your own!
5. Be trustworthy (1Cor.4:2). There will be times when they come close to you and share their innermost issues. Learn to keep secrets. If they come to know that you have betrayed their trust, youíll be out of their hearts.
6. Deal with real spiritual issues (Lk.10:19). Ouija boards and other satanic stuff are freely available in college campuses, not to mention drugs, pornography, etc. To be an effective youth minister, one has to have personal spiritual discipline and a very strong prayer life. There will always be kids who need deliverance. As their pastor, you cannot run away from the responsibility of dealing with their spiritual issues.
7. Know why you believe what you believe (1Pet.3:15). Youngsters are dealing with atheists and agnostics on a daily basis. Some of them might not have a single believer in their class. Show me a youth pastor who is anti-intellectual, and I will show you one that is lazy and ineffective. Our kids need answers Ė if you donít give them, they would get it from the wrong places.
Finally, remember, the ministry is the Lordís. Do not expect quick results. 10 years later you might get a call from the worst kid in the group, saying how the Lord has transformed him and what prominent role you had played in his life. Then, it will all make sense. Until then, persevere.