Reaching Our Young People

Regis Nicoll
Regis Nicoll

A “50-year failed experiment.” That’s how Scott T. Brown, a once-prominent figure in the youth ministry movement,describes youth ministry.

Is Brown being too negative? Possibly -- if our purpose is to corral young people and entertain them in “safe,” Christian environments until they leave home. But if the goal is to grow the next generation of disciples and church leaders, then youth ministry is an experiment that has not only failed, but failed miserably.

Not only are young people de-churching in droves (anywhere between 60 and 85 percent after they turn 18), they are not re-churching after getting married and having children as in previous generations. What’s more, those who remain churched tend to develop less orthodox views about the faith and moral behaviors.

For example, one study found that 70 percent of churched youth have serious doubts about “what the Bible says about Jesus.” Another found that 80 percent of evangelical Christians, aged 18 to 29, have had premarital sex. Many of these are young adults who were nurtured in age-appropriate ministries from the time they were in Huggies.

Today, Sunday School classes are equipped with state-of the-art multimedia that would have had little more than hand puppets and a felt board a generation ago. At a megachurch I visited a few years back, entering a children’s classroom was like stepping into a Disney World attraction. Classes were decorated around themes like “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and the Starship Enterprise, with no expense spared.

Churches have built youth centers, hired youth ministers, developed youth programs, provided youth activities, sponsored youth camps, and offered worship services for youth by youth, all the while youth stream out of their doors in record numbers, leaving parents and church leaders to scratch their heads wondering why and what’s to be done. Continue reading here.

Originally published February 10, 2013.

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