Nolan Harkness: Overcoming Roadblocks to Effective Youth Ministry

(Photo: Unsplash/Ben White)

A former Christian psychologist after over forty years of counseling experience and two earned doctorates in the field was once confronted by one of his teenage patients. The young man looked at him from across the room and said, “Sir, you are diagnosing my problem expertly, but you can’t fix me.” A few days later, recognizing that in spite of all of his learning and experience, this teenager was right, the Christian psychologist fell to his face in prayer. He got up realizing Jesus was the answer!

Recently I shared my heart for reaching America’s youth with a young professional woman at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota. In turn, she told me something that caught my attention. “My boyfriend is a mortician and he was telling me the other night that their business is alarmed by the number of teen suicides that their local funeral home is seeing. I quickly interjected “It’s true! Younger teens than ever are committing suicide. Junior High age children are taking their own lives at alarming numbers!” Her response was to me “Yes that is what my boyfriend said!”

As a veteran youth worker, I would like to list five attitudes that are detrimental to reaching youth. I believe every one of these longstanding attitudes is still in place today. If we can identify them and acknowledge them, perhaps we can pull them out with the roots and provide a pathway that will really make a difference. Not another “sit down and discuss” where we all pow-wow again like my psychologist friend about what the problems are to no avail, arm chair quarterbacking the mistakes of others.  Instead we must really go to work to identify the “bad seeds” of thought that have grown up and choked out the good things which produced strong character in teens of other generations. We need to be much in prayer, asking God for inspiration from Him, in order to be able to help un-teach, reteach, and springboard forward breaking through the roadblocks before it is too late.

The biggest hindering roadblock is, not coincidentally, the most negative one. Over the years, it popped up over and over. It is the “I made it, they can too” attitude. I have said for years “If you can judge someone, you can justify not helping them.” Unfortunately judging young people as adults is something that every generation of adults seems to do. We seem to think that because we made it as teens, that today’s teens can too. I am speculating, but ask any youth Pastor/Youth Leader. I strongly suspect that they will concur that probably millions of American church dollars never make it to the youth groups because of the people in decision-making positions who have this mindset.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Nolan Harkness