Is youth ministry that important? Do we even need it? I wanted to give a few points on why I think youth ministry is in fact important and needed:
There are some who feel that the biblical mandate for discipling children is a relegated only to the parents. Now, you certainly won’t find me downplaying that importance, the centrality even, of the family. Paul tells parents to bring their children up in the “training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Parents are held responsible to God to do this. Parents are the first and foremost disciplers of their children. No denying. However, what I want to argue is that the responsibility of the family doesn’t leave out the importance, the need even, of the church community. Ideally, the two should go hand in hand.
Just to give an example, why do churches have men’s and women’s ministries? There isn’t a biblical command to have them. In fact, Paul commands husbands and wives to grow together in the Lord in their respective roles (Eph 5). So what rationale do churches have for women’s Bible studies, men’s breakfasts, retreats, etc? The logic is simple: men’s ministries are there to help men in their respective roles: husband, father, son, worker, etc. Same with the women’s ministry. The point of those ministries is to serve men and women in their roles, not to detract from them.
What I want to argue here is that the same goes with youth ministry. The point of youth ministry is to strengthen teenagers in their respective roles, not to detract from the responsibility of parents or families etc. Teenagers are commanded to be godly students, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, friends, disciples, leaders etc. The end goal is that they would be better in all those areas by being involved in a youth ministry.
In addition to this, I also want to say that there are some biblical commands which are darn near impossible without the presence of some sort of youth ministry. Here are a few examples:
- John 13:34-35 — Love one another
- James 5:16 — Confess your sins to one another
- Ephesians 4:32 — Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another…
- Romans 12:10 — Be devoted to one another
- Galatians 6:2 — Bear one another’s burdens
Now, no one is going to deny that these verses apply to teenagers as much as adults. These are communal commands and disciplines that all Christians, not just adults, should grow in. That’s not up for debate. What is up for debate is this: how can students grow in their love for one another? Where can students confess their sins to one another? In what context can teenagers bear one another’s burdens? Hopefully you see what I’m getting at. There must be a communal context for teenagers to apply these commands. My vote is for a youth group.
I want to consider one last thing. The Bible assumes that older Christians should disciple and counsel younger Christians. This assumption is all over the scriptures. Just to give you an example from Titus 2:
But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled,pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. 6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled
Now, I realize that the passage commands older women to train younger women to love their husbands and children. That makes these “young women” a bit older than teenagers! But the overall point here is that within the church there is a context of older women, who are not biological parents, discipling and teaching younger women. We can assume that Paul would urge the same of older men and younger men. Now where does this teaching and discipling take place? Well, it could take place really anywhere and in any context. But youth ministry sure is a good context for it!
There is much more that could be said on this topic, but I hope you can see the rationale behind why we do youth ministry.