Ministries See Explosion in Youth Missions

Chelsi Owens, a 16-year-old junior at Victory Temple in Fairborn, Ohio, said she believes that her generation will be the one to spread the gospel to the entire world.

She found a quote on the Internet one day, which she said she really agrees with.

"’The generation that will change the world will be the generation that the world can't change,’” she said, citing the quote, “and I believe with my whole heart that this generation is going to be the one!"

"That really touched me because I realized that this generation could be the generation that can get everybody to know the Lord," she added. "We need to be getting ready to change the world because we never know when He's coming back."

Though statistics show that only a small percentage of the nation's youth hold to a biblical worldview, many are interested in spirituality, and those who are Christian are passionate about changing the world through mission.

Chelsi directly led nearly 20 people into her youth group, who all changed and accepted Christ.

She attributed her passion for evangelism to Dare 2 Share, one of the nation's premier ministries teaching kids how to share their faith with others.

She described how she viewed the drama that was a part of a Dare 2 Share conference, with tears rolling down her face.

"I couldn't believe I was letting my friends go to hell," she said. "I looked at people as if they were burning in hell, and I couldn't stand it! I opened up a conversation about Jesus Christ every chance I could get."

Since 1991, Dare 2 Share's popular conferences have been training hundreds of thousands of youths with a 20 to 30 percent growth in attendance each year. This year, there are 60,000 kids registered.

The youth ministry broadened its mission statement in 2004 to include equipping kids with an understanding of their faith so that secular worldviews won't sway them, rather than just focus on teaching how to evangelize.

Only four percent of the youngest generation holds to a biblical worldview, according to Thom Rainer's Bridgers, as compared to fifteen percent of Generation X.

Lane Palmer agrees with that, but says it's not irreconcilable with the boom in youth missions.

"Maybe I agree that youth ministry is lacking in deeper theological training, but as far as wanting to do something it's way above four percent," he said.

Daryl Nuss is in charge of youth missions at the National Network of Youth Ministries. He said youth mission might just fill the gap where churches have failed.

Youths might not respond to flashy entertainment, but will roll up their sleeves and travel to another country to share their faith, he said.

"Those days of having just fun and games – those days are quickly passing by because young people look at it and feel like it's irrelevant," said Nuss. "But in terms of who Christ was, reaching out to serve, to share the gospel, reaching out to touch the lives of individuals – that's very relevant."

Palmer hopes youth ministries will revamp themselves to help kids understand their faith to the point of owning it.

"Youth ministry is focused too much on entertainment and not enough on mission," he said.

Youth ministers aren't called to entertain kids, but to equip them to advance the Kingdom of God, he said.

A study done by Exemplary YM found that the most successful youth ministries are connected to the larger church.

"For these congregations, youth ministry is not just what they do, it is who they are."

Members of the congregation model a relationship with God every day and act as mentors to the youths.

"When youths experience firsthand what God’s active presence in a life means, the youth are drawn to find their own relationship to God, and they can’t stay away," said Roland Martison, who directed the four-year study of 131 congregations.