I recently took part in a discussion about the decline in full-time youth ministry positions. The question before us was: Why are there so few qualified applicants to so many vacant youth ministry positions? Much of the conversation was measured and insightful, if not a tad predictable. Low pay, poor management, unrealistic expectations, and a general lack of understanding of what youth ministry is all featured highly in our chat. All of these I think are true reasons why people don’t want to be youth pastors.
There is, however, another side to this coin.
Some important history, and some unfulfilled hopes
Youth ministry has never been a multi-million-dollar exercise. However, it did enjoy a strong resurgence at two points in our recent history:
In the late 1940s parachurch organizations like Young Life and Youth for Christ began pooling resources to develop missionary work among teenagers not being met by the post-war church. This was a valiant effort with many positive outcomes, however the negative side-effect was a centralization of youth ministry away from the local church.
In the ’80s and ’90s, the techniques of these organizations were emulated in some wealthy churches, which then trickled down to the rest of us, creating the modern church-based ‘youth pastor.’ These youth pastors developed much of the standard project templates that we use today.
Without making light of the genuine passion these groups and people had for young lives and Jesus, both of these movements were an attempt to ‘fix’ issues in the church. With the decline of Christendom, there was a wide-reaching fall in attendance across denominations. With that came diluted maturity, lower commitment, creeping secularization, and a huge drop-off rate between the ages of 11-14. The hope was that modern youth ministry was going to save the church from these realities.
Youth ministry has not fixed any of these issues. If anything, certain popular youth ministry models have made them worse by driving deeper a wedge between young people and the rest of the church.
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Source: Church Leaders