Bottom Line: If our approach doesn’t change, they will never be interested in Jesus.
It’s been said that Youth Ministry isn’t for the faint of heart and that couldn’t be more relevant to the times we are in now. Youth are so disengaged from the paradigm of church that many of us grew up in or came to know Jesus in. Despite them being the most connected generation, they are disconnected from the truth that is only found in Christ. The Higher Education Research Institute stated that in 2015 29.6% of incoming college students didn’t identify with their religion. This is captivating because in 1966 only 6.6% of incoming college students didn’t identify with their beliefs. I wonder if we are trying to bring about more interest in our belief system rather than a relationship with Christ.
Interest is defined as the state of wanting to know or wanting to learn. It’s evident that students are no longer interested in the hype of Youth. They are no longer captivated by the bright lights, giveaways, and free pizza. They are interested in being recognized and being used for a greater purpose. Students today are hungry to connect to something real. They long to connect to something that will make God real to them. Each week we have the opportunity to create a space for students from all types of backgrounds to engage not just with Jesus but also with the talent that God has placed within them.
The problem lying within the four walls of our churches is the scarcity of interest from young people. They have arrived at a place in which they feel their needs can be met elsewhere. I believe that as saddening as this may be, it creates an amazing opportunity for us to shift the ministerial rudder of our respective ministry into one that requires a shift in our approach. We don’t change our message, because its unchangeable. However, we have the ability to use creative and unique ways to captivate students with the message that they so desperately need. Time Magazine reported that this past year 3 million adolescents between the ages of 12-17 had a major depressive episode. It’s evident that our youth are in need of something real and tangible. Nevertheless, the ball is in our court to finally breakaway from ineffective ministerial practices and adopt new ways to effectively gain access into the lives of the unchurched youth student.
1) Don’t Settle for Normality
We have been so used to having church a certain way that it’s become predictable. Maybe it’s our predictability that has kept students uninterested in Jesus. They know all the things that we may not stand for, but do they know about the things that God is for. Such as God being for them and loving them unconditionally despite their constant fears and worries. Effective ministry is the outcome of not conforming to the status quo of our pending traditions, but rather it’s our ability to break away from
“normal” ways of doing ministry. If we settle for the norm then we will miss out on opportunities to effectively reach this generation with the message that can transform their lives. Remaining normal is a cop-out that prohibits us from extensively reaching young people for Jesus. If our approach doesn’t change young people will never be interested in Jesus.
2) Draw Them Closer to Jesus, Not Away!
Our goal as leaders is to draw students closer to Jesus. At the very core of our hearts we know this to be true. This, as a matter of fact, is our greatest desire. We want to see young people set on fire for Jesus and His mission, but I’m afraid that sometimes we stand in the way of making that happen. I say this because we have spent more time in creating entertainment hubs as opposed to distribution centers. If our focus is to just engage students to what is happening within the confine of the four walls of the church, then we are more about withholding tradition than innovating new ways to interest youth for Jesus. Our goal should never be to grow our “church” but to grow the Kingdom. Young people nowadays want to be part of the process and not bystanders. Having students involved in the process gets them involved and engaged with the greatest movement known to man. We are able to draw students closer to Christ when we create a space that provides a pathway to Jesus through servanthood. As students are continuing to be pulled in all sorts of directions, make it a point to draw them closer to God.
3) Invest in the Now and Future Generation
Our young people aren’t just the church of tomorrow, they are also the church of now. Choosing to intentionally invest in young people sets up the future Church. We are in need of young minds to offer new solutions to some of the roadblocks in our ministries. You may feel you don’t have the creativity to keep up with the ever changing culture and trends in our society, but when you take time to steward those that God has given you to shepherd and lead, it prepares them for the present and future. Investing in your students today creates interest and interest will lead to future buy in. Today we serve a generation that is hungry for something real. The harvest is ripe. The question is what are we doing to pick it? Will you make every effort within your power to invest relationally and spiritually in the lives of the young people you serve? Imagine what your youth group will look like when young people are interested in the things you’ve been preaching for years. They may have listened to you, but they didn’t hear you. When you invest in your students, you’re saying I believe in you, not just because it sounds good in my sermon, but because you truly believe that what God has deposited in them is for you to nurture and draw out.
A shift is inevitable within our ministry and organizations. If we don’t make adjustments, we will become more irrelevant and less effective. As followers of Christ we are no longer the majority in our country. Many of us have been praying for the workers for the harvest and the truth is the workers are out there we just need to raise and build them up. I pray that as you make steps towards reaching young people at their level, they would become interested in Jesus through your efforts. We all know that our current position in life is due to the fact that someone made Jesus interesting for us. We must now pay it forward and make Jesus interesting to young people who so desperately need Him.
Praying for you and your ministry,