Series Editor, Tim Schmoyer This is the fourteenth installment in my ongoing series of interviews with youth ministers. I've been asking youth workers around the world about the current status of youth ministry. Bill Scott is the founder of Zjam Youth Ministries and Teenhopeline.com, a place where hurting teenagers can go to talk with live volunteers about whatever issues they’re going through in life.
What do you see as some of the main issues youth ministry is struggling with today? I think the biggest challenge for youth ministry today is a church that just doesn’t get it. I am not saying the youth leaders do not get it but the leadership of the church has missed where this generation is at or if they get it they are afraid they’ll rock the boat.
A while back I sat down with the main youth leaders of a Northern city. About twenty some youth pastors and I had the chance to really talk over lunch. I gave them my insight as to where this generation was at and the issue’s they were struggling with. I was surprised that a few didn’t know what teens where struggling with, but I was even more surprised when I heard this statement over and over again, “I know what kids are facing, but my leadership has said I cannot talk about self-injury, suicide, sex, eating disorders, porn, etc., because I’ll hurt the good kids that are not into this type of thing. If I talk about what is really going on they will fire me.” The leadership believes that there are only a couple of kids caught up in major issues and the rest of the kids are great, god fearing and perfect. As most of you know, most of the kids have major issues in their lives. That doesn’t mean they are not good kids, it means that some how, through the home, school or just the world in general they have been hurt. Until the leaders give our youth workers the tools they need, youth ministry will always be a step behind. If we are a step behind, the church is not relevant and if the church isn’t relevant why would a student continue with church after high school?
In what ways does youth ministry need to change?
I think in the area of discipleship and walking with kids more then once a week. I am finding more and more church kids and college students from Christian Universities that have no clue as to who they are in Christ. They are allowing their sin to dictate who they are and that simply is not correct. When I am able to sit down with them and show them their identity in Christ they are blown away. They are not sure what to say when I show them that they are a saint. I told one kid that they were not a porn addict but a saint who struggled with porn. Once you can remove the sin from their identity they are able to use God’s power to be set free. This takes a lot of time. How does a youth pastor do this? It could even become overwhelming if they had ten kids [in their youth group] wanting this kind of an impact on their life much less [groups that] have 40, 50, 100 or more students. Again, it comes down to the leadership at the top wanting to provide the recourses. In most churches the money can be raised and adults could volunteer to help the youth pastor reach students on a much deeper basis. My prayer is for the leaders of our churches to understand what youth pastors are facing and standing with them in a major way. The only way we can meet the intense needs our kids are facing is for the whole church to war for them. Yes, there needs to be changes in youth ministry but even more so the church has to be willing to fight for their kids, not just the youth department.