The current state of youth ministry in the U.K. is falling far short of the mark, fears one veteran youth minister.
Addressing this year’s Keswick Convention, Dave Fenton outlined just some of the challenges facing youth ministry and highlighted where he thinks the church – and parents – are getting it wrong.
Fenton runs the Root 66 Youth ministry courses and has recently written a book on the issue of youth ministry, entitled Growing Up.
He said that youth ministry in Britain could be described as “patchy” and questioned why it was that churches so often decide youth ministers according to age rather than gifting.
“Why do we graduate people out of youth ministry so young? Why do we say youth leaders have to be cool, to dress in a certain way? And why are we so reluctant to teach them the Bible?” he posed.
Fenton said it was wonderful to have the enthusiasm and energy of young youth leaders but encouraged churches to take on more mature youth leaders.
He argued that including older youth leaders in the mix would encourage better discipleship.
“Young youth leaders are cheap but we need people who can model true discipleship at every age – to help young people grow up in the faith," he said. "You don’t have to be a certain type of person – you just need to love kids, and to be willing to spend time with them, to listen to them and to engage with their questions.
“So often in churches we are looking for quick fixes but we have to be prepared to put the time in, to build those good relationships.”
Parents also need to rethink their attitude to the church and what they want their children to get out of their time there, he contended.
Fenton said that parents seemed to care more about their kids just going to church than they did about them growing in discipleship.
There was “pressure” on the church, he continued, to “entertain” children and just give them a fun time.
“But what about content? Are we teaching them the Bible?" he asked. "That is the great weakness of youth ministry in the U.K. I don’t think the Bible is generally taught well.
“We need to prepare young people for discipleship.”