Youth Ministry, like other “ministries” (Children’s Ministry, Youth Minister, Older Adult Ministry, Educational Ministry, Social Justice Ministry), is a defined area within the ministry of Jesus Christ through the church to the world. Ministries such as these are not all-inclusive and self-supporting, but rather are defined by a scope or area of focus. In the case of Youth Ministry, this has become defined as opportunities and programs designed for adolescents and their families. (Key point here that I won’t develop now is the critical nature of understanding a student in relationship to their family). Youth Ministry is by it’s very nature a transitional and future-oriented ministry. My students in Youth Ministry are constantly changing and evolving as each fall I get a new set of 6th graders who have officially entered our Jr. High program. While the starting point for when students enter the “Youth Ministry” realm is clear, the end point isn’t nearly as well delineated. While officially once a student graduates from high school they are no longer part of the Youth Ministry, the connections and relationships do not just disappear once a student graduates. They do, however, evolve in time. (I’ll have more to say about this later). They key aspect of Youth Ministry though is it’s future-oriented nature. Youth Ministry should prepare students to be life-long disciples of Christ who participate in the ministry of God to the world.Everything we do needs to be directed toward that goal. We are trying to prepare students for a lifetime commitment to Jesus Christ. While many (perhaps most) people would nod their head in agreement with a that relatively innocuous statement, it’s implications for what we do and don’t know and beyond that, why we do what we do, are significant.
Practically speaking, it means that we need to think more about the impact something while have on a students ten years from now instead of the impact it will have on them now. It’s easy to say, “Oh the kids will love that!”, but it’s harder to say “Wow, ten years down the road the kids will be really glad we did this”. But, the latter is the most important. It’s great if we do things that kids enjoy now, but if the experiences we’re facilitating in our ministries aren’t transformative in nature ten years (or more) down the line, then what good are they?