Why Serve the Youth?
When it comes to Youth Ministry, most people believe that you either have to be really “called” to serve in it, or that you just have to be young. Youth Ministry is often seen as a ministry for young people, and when you grow up, you move on to bigger and better things. Though I’ve never personally felt “called” to Youth Ministry, I’ve come to love serving our Youth, and not just seeing it as a stepping stone on to “real” ministry. Here are three things God has grown in me as one working with Youth, and will hopefully encourage you to consider serving our youth.
1) Youth Ministry trains us in theology.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned in youth ministry is that I need to know what I’m preaching. For those of us plowing the soil in Youth Ministry, we may fantasize about being in ministries where we can teach without having to “dumb down” our theology, or “move on” from the basics.
But I’ve come to learn that if I can’t explain a doctrine in simple language, then I probably don’t actually understand it myself. Christian jargon and cliché phrases are not satisfactory. Knowing a theological term does not equate to knowledge of theology, and nothing challenges me in my understanding of doctrine more than having to explain it to someone hearing it for the first time.
Being in Youth Ministry has forced me to really study and know the doctrines – not just the terms – of God’s Sovereignty, the Incarnation, Sin, Election, Propitiation, Substitution, and so on. Were it not for my time in Youth Ministry, I might not have as clear an understanding of theology as I thought I did.
2) Youth Ministry trains us in discipleship.
Before stepping into Youth Ministry, I was a leader in my college campus ministry. I saw discipleship with those in my ministry as hanging out and reading the Bible with them. College was a time when many of my peers were hungry for the Word, so discipleship seemed easy. Give them a Bible, give them a book, and give them a space to study it.
Now, being in Youth Ministry, I’ve found that discipleship isn’t quite that simple. It is certainly no less than spending time together and reading the Bible; but the challenges we face with our youth are not solved through simple fixes. We often face difficult situations as we disciple students through crises, broken families, depression, suicidal thoughts, unrepentant sin, hidden idols, and gender and sexuality issues. Though these are certainly issues we may face in any age ministry, students are “worse” at hiding it or simply “figuring it out” on their own.
Helping students through these issues has caused me to grow in my understanding of how Jesus breaks the slavery of sin, how we move into real change, and how the Gospel speaks into every circumstance. But it’s also caused me to grow in my own discipleship as I seek to fight sin, cherish Christ, and live a gospel-transformed life.
3) Youth Ministry trains us in evangelism.
One of the most difficult, yet most beautiful things of Youth Ministry, is leading students to a saving knowledge and belief of the Gospel. There are the pains of dealing with apathy and hard hearts; but there are also the joys of seeing students give their life to Christ for the first time. This work requires communicating the Gospel in a way that even an eleven-year-old can understand it.
Serving with Youth is as good an opportunity for mission and evangelism as any: We have to learn the culture and slang of those we’re seeking to reach. We have to know the issues and questions they’re facing. And we have to preach the Gospel in a way that is understandable, but also challenges the idols of our hearers. Nothing brings me joy like getting to baptize new believers in our Youth Ministry, and getting to that point requires “doing the work of an evangelist” (2Tim. 4:5) amongst our youth.
Though I may not feel called to serve Youth the rest of my life, I’ve come to love Youth Ministry. I love it because I love these students who are in need of a deep foundation of Christ and Scripture. But I also love it because of the way God has sanctified and matured me as a disciple of Christ. Despite the pains and struggles of Youth Ministry, my understanding of theology, discipleship, and evangelism would not be the same without it. Whether I stay in Youth Ministry much longer, or move on to something different (not better), I know the growth I’ve experienced in the Gospel will prove valuable wherever I go.