Youth Ministry is Not Ideal, but Necessary

Youth Ministry is Not Ideal, but Necessary

This is the fourth article in our series, “Justifying the Need for Youth Ministry.” There is a small but vocal camp in the church that does not think youth ministry should exist. They believe that age-specific ministry has damaged the church and usurped the role of the parents. In this series, we will talk about biblical, theological, and practical justifications for why we need youth ministry. The third piece from this series can be found here. 

I believe there is a need for Youth Ministry in our culture. I also believe that Youth Ministry is imperfect for the church and its health. I believe both of these things and yet have been in Youth Ministry for over a decade, and I plan to continue until I am called on or the need dissipates. My greatest hope is that Youth Ministers, including myself, will work themselves out of a job.

No doubt I have your attention.  Some of you are nodding your heads in agreement, and others are ready to punch a hole in your screen.  Either way, please bear with me.

Paul wrote these words to Titus: 

“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.  Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.  Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.  Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.  Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” (Titus 2:1-8 ESV)

Allow me, from this passage, to share what a healthy reality would be within the church.

The pastors are to teach.

Titus was a Gentile Christian who seems to be serving as a pastor/church administrator. Within that role, Paul instructs him to teach sound doctrine, or truth of law and grace. A healthy church needs a pastor that is gifted in teaching.

The older men and women are “to be.”

The passing down of the faith occurs as the men and women in the church live out their Christian lives, according to the sound teaching of the pastor, amidst the younger generations. This happens in the church itself, the institution, as well as through the community of the body of believers. Paul here indicates that there needs to be intergenerational relationships and interactions within the church so that the faith is passed down naturally through life and conversation.

The younger men and women are to be trained and urged by the older men and women.

Training young men and women to live godly lives does not happen at youth group. We teach them with doctrine what that may look like; but the training, the living out of the faith, happens in real life. What Paul spells out to Titus is not how to set up a separate teacher for a subset of people in the church, but how the older men and women are to train, urge, and model what has been taught by the pastor (the pastor of the whole church) to the younger generations.

The model Paul describes is one whole body, under one shepherd, living in a community that passes the faith from generation to generation. This would be the ideal situation that would render Youth Ministry, which fragments the church body and isolates a generation, unnecessary.  But this is not the situation we find ourselves in.

Let’s return to my original statement about wanting to work myself out of a job. My hope is that the leadership of our church can equip and inspire all of the adults, parents, and our congregation as a whole to invest in the lives of our young people. I want the culture of our church to become such that it is in our DNA to naturally disciple the youth as a community of believers. However, that is not where we are right now. I hope that we are moving in that direction, to see the vision that Paul casts to Titus become a reality. But as we move closer to that expected day, my job is to work with all of the adults and with the kids to see them mature in Christ.   

Join us for Rooted 2015, an intimate youth ministry conference, where we will explore how the good news of God coming to mankind in the person of Jesus Christ offers student ministers and teenagers, hope, healing and connectedness.  

Also to learn more about gospel centered youth ministry, check more articles from Rooted’s youth ministry blog. 

Shaun McDonald has been serving as youth pastor at Open Arms Church in upstate New York since 2008, and has been involved in youth ministry since 2004.  He has a passion to see Christ take root in the hearts and lives of youth and their families.  Coming from a tumultuous and rebellious background, Shaun can think of no greater privilege than sharing the greatest hope of Jesus Christ.  Shaun received an Associates Degree in Pastoral Ministry from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, Bachelor degree in Religion from Liberty University, and is working on his Master of Divinity in Discipleship and Family Ministry through The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Shaun, his wife and their three children live in Rotterdam, N.Y. You can read his devotional blog at

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