Smaller-Church Youth Ministry: A Welcome Death?
group magazine: September-October, 2011
by Stephanie Caro
Recently, I've spent time with a smaller church in rural America, discussing all things youth ministry. During our last phone call, I became frustrated that our conversations were going nowhere. We were slugging around the same mountain of futility, discussing the church's apathy toward youth ministry. Then a light went on. "Have your church leaders ever asked themselves if they want to do youth ministry?" I asked. After some silence, I got this reply: "You know, that's a great question. I just assumed we should. Shouldn't we?"
Every leadership board must consider the questions I've listed above...
If you answered no to one or more of these questions, it may be time to reconsider moving forward. Hear me out. God asks every church, regardless of size, to minister to its people, no matter their age. What God doesn't ask is that churches be all things to all people.
From serving in smaller churches, I know that the healthier ones focus on doing fewer things really well. When a church continues offering a lower-quality youth ministry, it negatively affects kids, leaving them with a bad taste for the church as a whole. It also leaves the church skittish about trying anything new—possibly preventing it from launching something else that might be successful.
Not all churches are cut out for a men's ministry or a recovery outreach, right? Using that same logic, your church should take a hard look at itself, using the questions above. Maybe it's time to end your dead or dying youth program and explore what might happen if your church turned its energy toward what it's really meant to do. Look at what God is already blessing and dive into that.
Put down your pen; there's no need to write to the editor. A church that prayerfully determines that its call isn't a youth program still has a responsibility to its young people. Those churches can make sure every program has a youth-friendly factor. When smaller churches emphasize intergenerational ministry, that goes a long way toward productively sharing Jesus' love.
Stephanie is a 30-year ministry vet. She authored the new book 99 Thoughts for Smaller-Church Youth Ministries and blogs for us at SmallChurchYouthMinistry.com.
Book: The Indispensable Youth Pastor, MarkDeVries and Jeff Dunn-Rankin
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