Youth Ministry Changes… It’s not just us.

At Paradox Parent Student Ministries we have seen a lot of changes over the last few years. In fact I would say that by and large the only thing that has been consistent since I have been at Desert Springs Church, in relation to Youth Ministry, is the common flux in leadership. I have been at Desert Springs for about 14 years and the majority of that time has been spent as either a student or volunteer in the youth department. We have seen many youth pastors and ministers come and go, all of whom I look up to and firmly believe taught sound doctrine in a relative manner. So, I don’t say this to belittle their ministries, but I say this to affirm the shift of heart and philosophy to a more holistic-family approach. We have been doing a lot of studying on the effects and overarching results of mainstream postmodern youth ministry and have drawn a few conclusions that I think are noteworthy:

1. Over 85 percent of youth attend normal “youth group” as a means of primary spiritual discipline fall away and renounce the faith upon entering college.

2. Students who don’t have parents that are the primary pastoral contacts are more likely to be drawn in by the lusts and secular enticements of modern culture.

3. Students are wanting something more than “crazy youth group guy” they desire to go deep.

4. Students, whether you see it or not, do look up to their parents for guidance when it comes to common decisions as well as life choices.

5. Children who have spiritual leadership from the household are more likely to pass on spiritual discernment to their children.

The list could go on and on, but I will stop there. We do understand that there will be families that might not model the “ideal” but this is where the church is to step up. It is the job of the church to model holistic family worship and for dads to be dads to the unfathered in the church. We also understand that there needs to be a time for kids to be kids so there has to be a healthy balance to contextualization as well as extreme parent involvement and leadership. So, the approach we have taken at Paradox is a both/and philosophy, meaning we don’t add or take from one to diminish the other. We desire for students to understand and live out the implications of the gospel in a fashion that suites their needs, desires, and situations; but we desire for parents to play the primary role in delegating that call. We desire for families to worship together and for ALL of us to lock arms in this journey called the Christian life. I could go on about this for hours, but chances are most of you have heard this speech before. The purpose of this post is to recommend a book I got last week that talks on some systematic changes taking place in youth ministry, and to show you that this is not just something Greg and I made up…. Thanks to Tony for writing the review on this book. I have yet to finish it but so far it does seem promising.

Wright states the essence of his book on page 194, “To see parents in charge of the spiritual formation of their children and the lives of young people transformed.” Again on page 201 he writes, “This book is about change – changing the current model of student ministry to a biblical framework.”

rethink.jpgThe subtitle of the book issues a challenge: Decide for yourself, is student ministry working? The first chapter convincingly answers that question in the negative by appealing to research and leaders in the field of Student Ministry. The teenagers produced by the American church do not demonstrate discipleship in any relevant measure. A wide majority of these students “graduate from God” and never return to Christianity. But Wright goes beyond mere pragmatics, in the next two chapters he demonstrates the unbiblical values and methods that dominate contemporary student ministry.

This book forced me to taken notes. There was so much helpful research that I’ll return to it often as a reference. I also marked his collection of bible verses dealing with parental responsibility in family discipleship. Even though I read the book in two days, this book is in no lightweight when it comes to content.

The remaining five chapters are a guide for churches ready for change. This part of the book was very helpful. Our church is working through these issues and moving toward a family discipleship approach. Reading about Wright’s experience was encouraging. I appreciated his emphasis on prayer and patience when leading change.

The book did leave room for criticism. This may be unavoidable when treating broad issues in a small volume. I didn’t find a clear definition of the Student Pastor. It would have helped me to see how Steve differentiates the biblical function and qualifications of the Senior pastor from that of the Youth Pastor. Also, at points I felt the book was assuming structures present only in larger churches. A few more paragraphs aimed toward the church with only fifteen students would have been helpful. My concerns here are minor and don’t diminish my excellent opinion of Steve’s book.

Without reservation, I recommend this book to any church that wants to be more faithful in family ministry. Wright’s treatment is well researched, balanced and accessible. He writes with a pastor’s heart, concerned for the souls of his flock and ultimately the glory of Christ. Don’t let the catchy design fool you, this book is solid.

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2 responses to “Youth Ministry Changes… It’s not just us.

  1. Thanks B-lo. And thanks to both you and Greg for your hard, reforming work. I’m stoked to see the parent/student ministry develop to meet the desires for “something more than ‘crazy youth group guy’… desires to go deep.”

    I totally agree and I know that spreading a passion for God, not just more “pizza/pony rides,” will pay off in true fruitfulness in those future generations.

    Thanks for the book rec. too.

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