7 Reasons I Love Youth Ministry
Editor's Note: Austin Duncan is the high school pastor of Grace Church in Sun Valley, California. Shepherd's Fellowship, a ministry of Grace Church, publishes the online resource Pulpit Magazine. Find this article by Austin and other great stuff at www.shepherdsfellowship.org/pulpit.
I love student ministry because:
1. I love evangelism (Matt 28:19). The wise youth minister is an evangelist at heart and desires to see young men and women give their lives to Christ. The students in our churches pose a tremendous opportunity as a mission, an unreached people group of sorts, in our own church. There are teenagers who attend from the neighborhood who have not been raised in a Christian home and who do not know Christ. There are also those raised in the church, who are unsaved and living on a faith that is not their own. These realities motivate me to fulfill the great commission specifically at a youth level. If we neglect to minister to students we lose an opportunity to preach the gospel.
2. Leadership is influence. It is a matter of fact that young people are easy to influence. Marketers use this for profit, schools further their agendas, and too often their influence over teenagers leads them away from the things of God and into worldliness. It gives me joy to take part in the same ministry of Paul as I seek to influence teenagers to follow Jesus Christ. Paul urged to the Corinthians to “be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). The joy is found in the fruit of watching students begin to imitate Christ. Not only do they become good followers of their leaders, but they themselves become influencers of students around them. What a ministry to be a part of! Leadership is influence, and youth leaders must remember that their lives and words are being watched and followed, this is a significant responsibility before God.
3. I love the church. As pastors we are called “to shepherd the flock of God among us” (1 Peter 5:2). There are none excluded from the flock of God because of age or level of spiritual maturity. This means that we have a responsibility to shepherd each person the Lord has entrusted to our churches, from the youngest to the oldest. I love shepherding God’s flock. Youth Ministers are often understood to be on the sidelines of real ministry. Their role is sadly seen as keeping the teenagers busy and distracted. Yet, because ‘Student Ministry’ is ‘Ministry,’ we know that it is useless apart from following God’s guidelines to ministry. This includes preaching the Word (2 Tim 4:2), confronting students’ hearts with the Truth, pleading with them to be saved, and discipling those God has regenerated. This type of ministry is vital for our youth. Teenagers are not the church of tomorrow (though they will be that as well) they are part of our church now. If they are saved, they are to be using their gifts for the benefit of the body and the glory of God.
4. Youthfulness is an asset. It provides an opportunity to teach biblical singleness (1 Corinthians 7). Teenagers are single for the immediate future. The biblical implications of this are important. Singleness is a gift from the Lord and is to be used for service to the body. If teenagers can own this truth now, they are a tremendous asset to kingdom work. Since they are unfettered by married responsibilities they are able to use their time, talents, and resources for the good of God’s people in a way that expresses single minded devotion to God.
5. I love the family. The family is an institution created and blessed by God. Wise ministry to teenagers never excludes the role of parents. Youth ministry that isolates itself from the family cuts itself off from God’s appointed primary means of discipleship. I am called to shepherd teenagers and their families. This means that that my first application point in discipling teenagers and talking about their obedience to Christ is asking them about their obedience to their parents (Eph 6:1). Youth ministers should strive to be partners with Christian parents, complementing their years of parenting and reinforcing biblical wisdom.
6. I love the hope of their maturity. Colossians 1:28-29 encourages me to minister to students in such a way that spiritual progress will take place in their lives. I love seeing Christ’s maturing, sanctifying work in teenagers whose lives are devoted to Christ. Our goal is the same for every person in church regardless of their age. There is great joy in seeing God’s people grow in their likeness to our Lord.
7. I love the thought of their potential. It gladdens my heart to minister to those who are the future members, ministers, deacons and elders of our church. I look out at the young faces in our high school service on Sundays and see that ahead of them are life’s greatest blessings and challenges. Trials, temptations, battles, and joys await them. This is the outset of their walks with Christ. It is in these initial years they have the opportunity to learn spiritual disciplines they will benefit from for the rest of their lives.
Reflecting on this list, I love student ministry because I love ministry. Student ministry fails if it is not purposed on a biblical philosophy of ministry, rooted in the local church, and riveted on God’s purpose of reaching the lost and building His church. That is an unshakable purpose. And that is why I love student ministry.