During this time I have had several gut-level conversations with youth leaders and have noticed a pattern in the majority of youth ministries that are headed for trouble. There are at least 4 clear warning signs.
If I could get in a time machine and go back to teenaged Greg I'd tell him one thing...learn how to pray.
Think about it this way: There are 12,000(ish) Starbucks and well over 300,000 churches! So Starbucks can saturate the United States with caffeinated drinks, but almost 30 times more churches can't saturate the United States with the Living Water. Seriously?
What it is about is how such a lightning rod subject Donald Trump is and how easy it is to use him as a Gospel conversation starter. Because EVERYONE seems to have an opinion about him and many are just itching to express it.
After having co-planted and co-pastored a church for ten years in the Denver area and having preached in churches across the nation, quietly evaluating what makes them work (or not), here is my list of non-scientific reasons why some churches don't grow.
So how can Starbucks saturate the physical cravings of decaffeinated Americans and the church cannot satisfy the spiritual thirst of Americans with the living water? After all, there are only 12,000 Starbucks coffee shops in the United States and there are over 300,000 Protestant churches! That's right! We outnumber Starbucks by 25 to 1!
1. Make it about you, not Jesus.
1. "Just what exactly is a youth ministry budget again?"
You don't know, I mean really know, many non-Christians. Possible Solutions: Get to know your neighbors. Or you couldn't explain the Gospel clearly if you tried.
Tis the season for, well, resolutions. And when it comes to resolutions we tend to think of a limited amount of categories. These categories can range from exercising off our newly acquired egg-nog induced fat layers to doing a complete financial makeover. While Tony Horton and Dave Ramsey may be able help you in these two areas, I cannot. But what I can do is challenge youth leaders
We know that you are in the movie/money making business. So, in light of some of the box office stumbles you've made recently (Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings) I thought I'd pass on a little advice from a Christian who appreciates good film making and who is excited about the prospect of epic Biblical stories being turned into epic blockbuster movies.
It depicted God as an angry 5th grade-ish looking boy who kept appearing throughout the movie to awkwardly confront Moses. The previews made the movie look like it aligned with the Biblical account. It wasn't even close.
Think "outreach" in youth ministry and we automatically think "event." The words go together like "dodge" and "ball". The challenge is that our teenagers themselves are our biggest outreach "event". Because the average teenager has around 400 online and face-to-face friends they must be inspired, equipped and unleashed to engage them in Gospel conversations.
As a "traveling evangelist" I've had the privilege of preaching in churches from coast to coast. And, until I have the microphone on over my ear, most people have no clue that I'll be the preacher that day, so most treat me like a first time visitor. Over the course of many years of visiting churches I have had great experiences as a guest along with some not-so-great ones.
I believe youth ministry is facing mission-drift when it comes to missions work. Far too many of our younger youth leaders view the "missionary" as an ancient relic of a bygone era whose place is as a dimly lit picture in the foyer of a steepled church on a "Go ye into all the world" wall. Missionaries are either ignored, marginalized or viewed as a necessity to pacify older tithers in the church and keep them happy.
I remembered the strange spelling of my biological father's name from the birth certificate. You see I had never met Toney. He and my mom had a very short term relationship. As a result she got pregnant. When he found out, he got transferred (he was in the Army.)
When I talk to many youth leaders about their outreach efforts they immediately start sharing with me about their latest monthly or quarterly outreach meeting. And therein lies the problem. Our outreach efforts should not just center around meetings where unreached teenagers are invited to attend.
It's the secret youth leader battle that's not so secret. All of us know down deep inside that the pot of hormones simmering underneath can turn into a boil in a micro-second. Given the right conditions any of us could fall, not just into lust, but into moral sin with someone we are ministering with or to in our youth groups.
After I prepare a sermon there are 5 pre-sermon rituals I go through before it's "go time." Here are the five rituals I do before I preach:
The youth leaders with longevity and impact are not always the flashiest but most have at least 3 common disciplines they consistently exemplify:
Paul's bold claim gives us three challenges as youth leaders to take both in our lives and ministries. Let's take a look at each and how they apply to us.
If you're dead set on shrinking your group then refuse to intercede for the teenagers in your youth group and community. After all it's God who produces the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6.) Stop talking to him and it will shrink for sure (in all the wrong ways.)
This breed of church flies into town and announces their arrival with a flashy marketing campaign and an entrancing stare (Lights! Camera! Action!) Then they steadily, and probably unintentionally, sink their fangs into the necks of the smaller churches in that community and drain them dry. The results are church members, offerings and involvement sucked away from these smaller churches and the vampire churches increasing their own size, budget and strength.
But, when it comes to evangelism, a mission statement can turn from big black letters on a church marquee to a little, white lie that the church is telling the community. Strike that … it's a big lie. If a church claims to be making evangelism a central priority and the people in that church are not actively sharing their faith then the mission statement of that church is not just a joke, it's a lie.
Right now there are over 300,000 Protestant churches in America. Think about it this way: there are just over 10,000 Starbucks and well over 300,000 churches! So Starbucks can saturate the United States with caffeinated drinks but almost 30x's more churches can't saturate the United States with the Living Water. Seriously?