Group Magazine is a well-done, bi-monthly magazine aimed at individuals who work with teenagers in a youth ministry context. Group is well-known for their various curriculums, books, and tools that cover not only youth ministry but also children, group, and adult ministry. Their magazine is filled with practical tips, hints, and articles that assist a youth leader in staying current and keeping the idea bin fresh.
That said, I really wanted to take just a moment to reply to the editorial in the latest edition (Sep./Oct. 2010) by Rick Lawrence entitled “the two prodigals.” In this article Lawrence tackles the question of whether youth ministry focused on those reaching the unchurched or the churched is more demanding and worthwhile – his end conclusion is that they are both valid and challenging fields.
I’d agree with Lawrence’s evaluation of the situation but would also share my philosophy of youth ministry. I’m not suggesting it as the only way, just as a way.
In my mind the church is primarily about educating and edifying believers for the purpose of outreach. That is, the church is not primarily someplace you bring individuals who don’t agree with you or believe in Christ, but rather a place where you go to learn about Christ, to be encouraged, challenged, and strengthened and then go back into your daily life where you reach out to those you interact with every day. This seems like something that could carry over to a youth group as well – at least its regular meetings.
In my mind, then, the idea is to equip teenagers to share their faith and remain consistent to their faith in their daily lives – rather to bring individuals who don’t agree into the group and change their beliefs. Why? The simplest reason is that those who claim to be “Christians” are at least marginally (supposed to be) interested in maturing in Christ and you can take them through a path of teaching/education, whereas when you attempt to bring in a group of people who do not believe – it is likely each one will be on a separate page that could perhaps be better addressed on an individual level.
So, my suggestion is – use the regular youth meetings to train up the teenagers, use special events to bring your teens together and as outreach opportunities, and be continuously encouraging your teens to be involved in evangelism in their context – e.g. school, work, home, sports.