Paul Martin ran a great series on his blog called What’s the single objective of Youth Ministry. It took me a while to read it, as he posted it right before my Christmas Break when I was busy with other things, but I wanted to respond anyway because I loved the question.
It’s one of those cases where the question itself matters maybe more than the right answer. This question makes you think about why you’re doing what you’re doing in youth ministry, what you’re trying to accomplish. It’s about finding your mission and putting it into words. And I’m a big fan of mission statements because they will help you focus and thus achieve results.
Paul asked several youth workers to define what they think is the single objective of youth ministry, so let’s look at some answers (and I encourage you to read all the posts!). It’s important to distinguish between an key objective of youth ministry and the approach to realize that objective, so I’ve tried to deduce both from the answers.
Key objective: make disciples
Key approach: having relationships with students that last far beyond a program, discipleship as a journey.
Key objective: making church a viable option, relevant to them
Key approach: integrate and advocate (involving the students in the whole church)
Key objective: to see Christianity as a viable option for them in adulthood and for the church to be viable community for them as adults
Key approach: a genuine and real, experiential encounter with the creator of the world and the one in whom it is redeemed. This can only happen in a community that has at is foundation grace and love for the students in their unique developmental season of life.
Key objective: getting students to be healthy adults who are life long followers of Jesus. They know who God is and who they are and how to serve others to move the Kingdom of God forward.
Key approach: community in the church and an intergenerational approach where adults serve the next generation
Key objective: to be disciples of Christ which I’ll describe as a citizen of the kingdom of God
Key approach: community and responsibility
Key objective: Christlikeness, the single objective of youth ministry is to walk with teenagers on their journey toward christlikeness.
Key approach: ‘transformation hosting’ by being a steward, curator, and evangelist.
What struck me when I read these answers is how difficult it is to answer this question: what is the single objective of youth ministry? The key approach wasn’t something Paul asked about, but most answers stated more about the approach than they did about the goal.
It’s not easy, putting into words why you do what you do. There’s a risk of clichés and platitudes, of making discipleship a goal for instance simply because it’s the right thing to say, because everyone’s doing it. It’s often so much easier to talk about how you want to do it, what approach you will use to get there…but where exactly?
You have to spend time thinking about the where and the why before you dive into the ‘how’. You have to dig deep to find the answers, the words, the definitions. What does being a disciple mean to you? What does a disciple look like? Why do you think that should be your goal?
Dream a little, grow a vision for what your youth ministry should be about. Don’t stop until you can answer that question in one single sentence and at the same time, spend paragraphs on why that’s the single right answer for your youth ministry:
What is your single objective in youth ministry?