The 5 Purposes of Youth Ministry
The heart of youth ministry is to help students grow in their relationship with Christ. We do activities and events to help students grow closer to Christ. It can be easy to lose sight of our goal by focusing on entertaining and getting students to come to youth group. We must walk a fine line between what we do to attract students and what is our ultimate goal of having them in youth group. The best way I have found to walk this fine line is to have purpose for all the elements of youth ministry. To be intentional with every relationship and event. To make intentionality happen, I have broken youth ministry down into five purposes.
Purpose # 1 – Build Meaningful Relationships
Youth groups exist to establish meaningful relationships between mature adult believers and students for the purpose of helping the student grow in their relationship with the Lord. Students want to learn from people who care about them; they want to be discovered and known. When youth ministries create opportunities for students to step into meaningful relationships with adult believers, they lay a foundation for both evangelism and discipleship.
In a healthy youth ministry, students are known beyond face and facts AND adult volunteers strive to know students’ feelings, fears, and faith.
Purpose #2 – Programming
Youth ministry programs should focus on the three things that youth ministry does: REACHES lost students, helps students GROW closer to Jesus, and sends students to GO and use their gifts. I call this Reach, Grow, and Go intentional programming. Every event and experience in a youth ministry should have one of these focuses. By keeping events focused on these elements, the youth ministry will be doing a good job of walking the fine line between attracting students and discipling students.
Purpose #3 – Discipleship
Most youth workers would agree that youth ministries exist for the purpose of discipleship. At LeaderTreks, we define discipleship as multiplication through relationships. Through relationships we make disciples who, in turn, build relationships and make more disciples. Youth ministries that focus on and prioritize discipleship help students walk
in obedience to the commands of Christ through a Christ-centered relationship with a mature believer. Rather than settling for shallow faith, they prepare students to make a commitment to faith in Christ, feed themselves spiritually, and consistently live out their faith at church and in the world. In a healthy youth ministry, transformation is valued over attendance numbers. And there are always more adult volunteers who are focused on building Christ-centered relationships with students for the purpose of discipleship than adult volunteers who are helping with logistics.
Purpose #4 – Partnering with Parents
While much of your time as a youth pastor will be spent with students, you are probably aware that they only make up one-third of your ministry. You also have to focus your attention on adult volunteers and parents. Without the involvement of these key adults, the odds of you having a lasting impact on your students go way down. Partnering with parents is one of the most successful routes you can take in your goal to make disciples. By design, parents are meant to be the chief disciple-maker of their kids (Deut. 6:4–7, Prov. 22:6). Even if you have a student attend everything your youth ministry offers, what does that time add up to? Four, maybe five hours a week? That is a fraction of the time they spend with their parents every week. Most parents want to disciple their kids but struggle to know how or where to begin. They need a partner. They need you.
Purpose #5 – Student Leadership
Youth Ministries can’t just have programs for students. They need programs that allow students to have a ministry to their world. When students see themselves as participants, they will pick and choose what they like at church. But when students see themselves as leaders, they will invest in the ministry of the church and become lifelong owners of the church. As Christians, we have a responsibility to God to develop ourselves as leaders in order to be of the most use in the Kingdom. We also have a responsibility to hand off the reigns of leadership to those on the path behind us. In light of this, student leadership development is not only a good idea, it is essential for building God’s Kingdom.
In a healthy youth ministry, every aspect of the ministry serves as a leadership laboratory for developing student leaders. 40% of students are serving in the church and 20% of students are in a leadership role.
While each of our contexts are different and our churches have different missions and goals, we do share many aspects of our ministry that are the same. It’s important that we examine what healthy youth ministries do so that we have a measuring stick against where we currently are at in each of our ministries.
Curious how healthy youth ministry is? Take the Intentional Youth Ministry Assessment.
About the Author
Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners who never leave their side. Doug grew up in… Read More