How Youth Ministry is Changing Towards realities

I kicked Brad out of youth group, with no intent of of ever letting him return. He wasn’t dealing drugs, hitting on the girls, or playing overly aggressive with the JH boys. Nope, I was new at the church, and I kicked him out based on the fact he was 18 years old, and already a high school graduate. He cried.
Without anywhere else to go on a Wednesday night, Brad had learned that I had trained up a couple of other young adult friends his age to start volunteering with the Junior High. So he showed up, and jumped into a game of ultimate frisbee without being invited. In his defense, he had no clue that he wasn’t mature enough to lead yet. He simply wanted to be around other young adults even if that meant also hanging out with Junior High kids. He was lonely. If I could go back and handle that situation differently, I truly would. It was my first night as the new youth pastor at my first official church, and I wasn’t really thinking about Brad’s feelings or perspective.
Defining what is “normal” from one youth ministry to the next is about as difficult as taking an iPad from the hands of a technologically ravenous teenager. Variables from size of the ministry, amount of adult leaders, budget, and overall vision (stated or actual) make it too difficult to determine exact changes that are affecting everyone.
However, there does seem to be a sense of general change among the youth ministries that are thinking holistically and long-term about the spiritual development of teens. From Kara Powell’s recent book “Sticky Faith,” to a sense of renewed focus on college aged ministries in some churches, many are realizing that true ministry to teens doesn’t necessarily stop the day students graduate from high school.
Despite living in Arkansas, we have our own fair share of “mega-churches.” I’m particularly involved with one that has not staffed for and ran an official college aged ministry in it’s 25 years of existence. Until just recently, they have had singles ministry for younger adults and older adults, but never a formal hybrid specifically targeting the 18-22 year old segment of the population.
But times are a changing…


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