5 Dying Trends in Youth Ministry

Dan McPherson
July 9th, 2019

We live in a fad filled, trend heavy culture. From fashion to sports, news to influencers, we are always looking for what is #trending. While youth ministry may not have such fleeting trends as Instagram or Twitter, there are still trends that surface and disappear slowly over time. Below, I have compiled a short list of 5 dying trends in youth ministry. I’ve pulled these trends from my reading of youth ministry books and articles, conversations with other youth pastors, and my own observations in youth ministry. They may not be groundbreaking or surprising (again, they are slow trends), but it’s important to point them out and call them what they are, dying trends, for better or for worse! 

Youth ministry Is A Stepping Stone

In the short 6-7 years I’ve been serving youth, I have been approached by many people asking, in one form or another, when I will leave youth ministry. I’ve heard as innocent a comment as, “So when are you moving on” all the way to the brazen, “When will you become a real pastor?” Even as I came out of seminary two years ago the predominant line of thinking was youth ministry was the minor leagues, just an opportunity to get some experience before moving up the ranks. 

There seems to be a growing understanding that youth ministry is something that takes time and intentionality to develop. A solid youth ministry struggles to survive or maintain health when it experiences high turnover and constant questions over leadership. In my personal experience, the students who were in high school both under me and my predecessor’s leadership had a hard time trusting and jumping all in. Students crave consistency and for that reason the up-and-coming trend will be longer stints in youth ministry with less turnover, which in my humble opinion is a very good thing!

The 20-Year-Old Youth Worker

In a similar vein, the average age of a youth pastor will trend upward. As people stay in youth ministry longer, seeing youth as an end rather than a means to an end, I believe we will see more youth ministry “veterans,” with 10, 15, even 20 years of experience becoming the norm. Some of my youth ministry “heroes,” people I look up to and read their books and articles, have been serving students for decades. They have seen the good, bad, and the ugly and use that to better lead students to Jesus. I believe that will provide an example not only for myself but many others after me.

Even in my own ministry I see a consistent trend of the volunteers I lead serving youth longer and the result becomes having more 30 and 40-year olds than college students leading students. Again, this will not always be the case as there will always be a fresh crop of youth pastors and volunteers but I believe it will not be the norm in the near future.

Siloed Ministry

Separate ministries, with the “adults” meeting in one area and the “kids” meeting in another with little overlap will continue to dwindle as churches realize the value of intergenerational ministry and interaction. Churches will provide more opportunities for different generations to meet and speak into each other’s lives. The church I serve just revamped our church’s mission and vision statements. The vision statement includes the piece that we will “raise up the next generation.” This means adults reach out to college students who reach out to high school students who reach out to middle school students who reach out to elementary students and so on. The days of separate entities is coming to an end and the church will be better off for it.

Consumer Mentality

As youth ministries continue to develop well-rounded disciples of Christ, churches will encourage their students to move from simply coming to youth group to consume and leave. There will be a more concerted effort to encourage students to serve and reach out to their non-Christian friends. Following Jesus is more than singing along with a worship band, listening to a message, playing games, and hanging out with friends. In short, following Jesus is not about me! Following Jesus is about making disciples and churches will continue to push students out of their comfort zone and passionately pursue Christ for more than just themselves.

Full-time Youth Workers

In my reading and observation I’ve seen a growing popular opinion that full-time youth workers will soon become a thing of the past. As mega-churches become fewer and churches’ budgets dwindle, youth workers will either be part-time or lay volunteers. As a full-time youth worker who wants to serve in youth ministry for a long time, this is a little disconcerting to me, but I do tend to agree with the majority however and see this as a dying trend. I don’t know what the exact implications are for this fact, but it will be interesting to watch God continue to work in students’ lives through his people, in whatever capacity or form that takes.

These are just one man’s opinions on some dying trends in youth ministry. As with anything I share, I would love to get your feedback! Do you agree or disagree with the five above? Are there trends you feel I’ve missed? I’d enjoy hearing from you! 

Dan McPherson

Dan McPherson is the high school pastor at First Alliance Church in Lexington, KY. He and his wife Hope have twin boys, Ezra and Emmett. He loves Jesus, students, and the Kansas Jayhawks. He’d love to connect with you!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.