Each month we compile a Top Ten list for youth workers. This list represents ten articles from various sources that we believe will encourage you in your ministry to students and their families. Some give explicit instruction on gospel-centered ministry, while others are included because there is a message of common grace that is helpful to youth workers. (The opinions presented in these articles do not necessarily reflect the position of Rooted.) If you find an article that could speak to the Rooted community, please share it in the comment section below.
by Gene Veith (Patheos)
He describes how churches adopted a strategy for youth ministry based on trying to make church fun. Youth groups featured pizza parties, games, and fun trips. The assumption was that if we entertain them enough, this will keep them coming to church, and, eventually, they will grow into a mature faith. “This entirely man-centered approach to evangelism drove churches to become less about worship, faith, and repentance, and more about Christian-themed activities and programs.”
by Russell Moore (Christianity Today)
But today, impressionable young children are forming their identity through social media outlets, which encompass a much wider audience. Studies show that apps like Instagram are a risk to the psychological health of adolescents, and not simply because kids can be bullied online (although that does happen). Even when young people receive affirmation from this online collection of strangers, they will almost always seek to maintain that attention going forward.
by Coye Still (TGC)
In the Battle of Britain during World War II, the Royal Air Force Fighter Command had such a severe shortage of pilots that it relied on young and inexperienced men. In some cases, these fighter pilots were thrust into combat with only a few hours of training. Some youth-ministry volunteers may feel like they can relate. While they won’t enter aerial combat, they have little to no training and are ministering to teenagers who ask big questions about Christianity and are natives of rapidly changing youth culture.
Partnering with Parents
by Clarissa Moll (TGC)
As you seek to welcome hurting children to your ministries, get to know their families. Ask questions of the adults who come to drop them off and pick them up. When you understand the environment and relationships in which a child circulates most of the week, you can use language that doesn’t inadvertently hurt.
by Walt Meuller (CPYU)
As we get to know our kids and their pain. . . along with the fall-out that oftentimes follows that pain. . . we can’t forget that God is a God of healing and redemption. We often use the term “resiliency” to describe kids who are able to weather these storms of life. If we hope to stand in the gap for our kids and lead them to healing and wholeness, we need to be aware of the factors that foster childhood resiliency.
by Lyman Stone (Christianity Today)
Increasingly, religious young adults are “practicing what they preach,” adopting a distinctive set of sexual behaviors. As a result, the growing diversity and polarization that typifies so much of American life is reaching even further—even into bedrooms.
by Alex Tufano (Youth Pastor Theologian)
There may be no other cultural artifact as formative in the lives of our students as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The MCU has become so foundational that students who have never picked up a comic book are hooked on these movies. I even heard a student recently deride another for thinking Deadpool was a Marvel movie (as I thought to myself, “isn’t it?”) – the MCU totally defines what’s culturally “in” for many. With the newest release, Eternals, we’re presented with an opportunity to engage students in conversation about deeper themes.
by Dane C. Ortlund (Core Christianity)
To be sure, the Bible also has plenty of instruction. But the exhortations and commands of Scripture flow out of the Bible’s central message, like ribs flowing out of a spine or sparks from a fire or rules of the house for the kids. Paul said that the Old Testament was written so that “through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). He said, “The sacred writings . . . are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15). The Bible is help, not oppression. It is given to buoy us along in life, not drag us down. Our own dark thoughts of God are what cause us to shrink back from opening and yielding to it.
by Brad Griffin (Fuller Youth Institute)
The holidays can be the best time of year in youth ministry. And also the worst…If you’re finding yourself heading into Advent with less energy and creativity than you’d hoped, you are not alone. Here are five ideas to make the season meaningful with your students.
by Kate Shellnutt (Christianity Today)
“Prior to COVID-19, burnout was a silent epidemic in ministry leaders. The stats testify to this, but now I might say burnout is endemic,” said Dan White, who launched the Kineo Center in 2020. The center hosts retreats for ministry leaders in Puerto Rico and is a starting weekly coaching program in 2021. In his work with pastors, White has seen the crisis intensify. More leaders are experiencing burnout, even people with regular Sabbath rhythms and vacation times. Their burnout has gotten more severe, with discouragement and exhaustion running “bone deep.”
Rooted’s Two Most-Read of November
by Steve Eatmon
At the Rooted 2021 Youth Ministry Conference speaker Tish Harrison Warren stated that the biggest struggle that Generation Z has with the Christian faith is their inability to properly wrestle with theodicy, defined as the problem of suffering in the life of the Christian. These teens and young adults want to know: if God is so loving, why does he allow his people, whom he saved through faith in Jesus Christ, to suffer? Those words really stuck out to me as a youth pastor. A big part Gen Z’s struggle is the “life improvement myth” that many youth pastors sell to young unbelievers in order to gain converts.
by Greg Meyer
“I want to grow and know Jesus more intimately, but I don’t know where to start.”
“The Bible is confusing and doesn’t seem to have anything to do with my life.”
“I don’t know how to pray.”
“When I pray, I feel awkward. God never says anything back.”
“I feel stuck spiritually.”
On the one hand, these are great, conversation-starting comments. On the other hand, it is a little distressing to hear our churched kids say this! But, are these comments really that surprising? We live in a season of Western church life where biblical (and general) literacy is in decline; meanwhile the parents of teenagers are less likely to have been discipled themselves. We can’t offer what we don’t have.
In Case You Missed It (Rooted’s November Honorable Mention)
by Kevin Yi
As parents and youth workers, let us always remind our children and students that we shouldn’t take beauty for granted. Truly beautiful moments through art, film, and music can bring our hearts to the doorstep of God without even realizing it. Wenwu and Jiang Li’s love story, as briefly as it is depicted on screen, thrills us because our Creator gave to us the ability to recognize the beauty of sacrifice and love. As Wenwu gave up the Ten Rings in order to marry and start a family with Jiang Li, Christ himself sets aside heaven to come down and live a mortal life on our behalf.