Tim Schmoyer, Series Editor I'm on a quest to discover issues and potential solutions to common problems facing youth ministry today. Series Headquarters Over the past several months I've asked youth workers from around the world for their input and opinions. Jason Curlee is a youth pastor in Corpus Christi, Texas. Learn more about Jason and his ministry at Making Difference Makers.
What do you see as some of the main issues youth ministry is struggling with today? In my opinion so often I see that youth ministry is struggling with being relevant. For the past few weeks I have been talking with some of our top leaders about how we can draw in a high school crowd. In time past it was often said that winning teens to Christ by the time they were 18 was the goal cause after that the chances of them coming to God drops dramatically. From my perspective now back in ministry after a 5 year hiatus, it is as if you better win them before 8th grade. But I see so many youth ministries that aren’t relevant to today’s unsaved teens. So many are spending so much time trying to keep the ones they have that they are not reaching the lost. There are 32,000 teens from 6th grade to 12th grade within 30 miles of our church. So for us, even though our [volunteer] team has doubled our youth [group] attendance since April, we are not satisfied cause there are so many teens out there that have not heard the gospel.
What do you see as some of the main issues youth ministry is responding to effectively?
I really have to think about this one [because, since] coming back [to youth ministry], I have such a focus on the unsaved teenager. Sometimes I wonder if youth ministry is responding effectively. Are we making a true difference? If the statistics are true, and some people don’t want to believe them, then we are failing. And one thing I am not ever going to do is say “that as long as I am there for the few that come I feel I am doing my part.” If the statistics say the only 4% of this generation is saved, then we are not responding effectively. And I am not even going to say that our ministry is being effective as well. Until the status quo changes we won’t know. Every week what drives me is whether we have created an environment that teens can bring their unsaved friends to.
Here is the thing: God has charged us with equipping our teens to reach their generation. So often we are equipping them with who “we” are as Christians and not equipping them to truly be effective. Then we send them out to do goofy Christian things and when there is no response or our teens are ridiculed we say things like, “Sometimes we are going to be persecuted for our faith.” Come on, man. God has called us to be more creative and relevant than that. Jesus changed water into “wine” (now I’m all about not drinking) and I believe it totally baffles the church but to the unbelievers of His time it was so on point. Jesus spent so much time being relevant to a lost generation that He wasn’t relevant to the church (Pharisees & Sadducees).
In what ways does youth ministry need to change?
It goes back to the whole relevant thing. If a group of unsaved teens walked in to our youth ministry, would we be speaking their language? Too often we are speaking so much “Christianese” and our “services” are designed for Christians. We are striving hard to change that in our meetings. Even changing the terms that we call everything. Sermons are messages, services are meetings, etc.