Are youth pastors uncommitted to long-term service in youth ministry? Barna’s recent study, The State of Youth Ministry, discovered that the bulk of youth pastors (39%) currently serving the American church are in their first three years of ministry. And the retention numbers get worse as the years of service progress, with only 12 percent of youth pastors serving in their church for over a decade.
Regardless of what these statistics demonstrate, they do offer up a question that most of us are itching to have answered: Why is retention so low among youth pastors? There are probably many answers to this question like salary, energy or just shifting to a different position within a church. That is, it is quite common for youth ministry to be viewed as a starting place for pastors. Yet even if the above is true, does it really explain why most youth leaders have served in their ministry for less time than their seniors have been in high school? Or is it that youth are a difficult demographic to work with?
Try This! ❯
Give one student the opportunity to own a part of this week’s youth group responsibilities.
Without a doubt being a youth leader can be extremely challenging. Teens can push you to your limit. But being in youth ministry is also incredibly rewarding because the reality is that teenagers are one of the most promising demographics in ministry. No other age group is as willing as youth to risk it all for THE Cause. And for this reason, every Gospel Advancing Ministry worth its salt understands that youth excel at gospel advancement. This is why every youth ministry should have a bold vision! But in case you want more convincing, here are four reasons why youth are the best demographic and why you should consider making a long-term commitment in youth ministry.
1. Socially Immersed
Students are the best demographic for sharing the gospel. According to Pew Research Center, the typical teen has 300 friends on Facebook, while the typical adult has 200. One hundred people may not seem like a big difference, but multiply that by 30 (which is the standard number of students attending a youth group) and that number grows to 3,000. A youth ministry’s vision can realistically be bigger and bolder than any other ministry within the church. Their social immersion alone makes them the best demographic to reach people with the gospel. Plus, the teen years are a pivotal age for making critical life decisions about spirituality. According to Barna’s research, nearly 80% of Christians surveyed made their decision for Christ before the age of 18.Students are the best demographic for sharing the gospel. Click To Tweet
2. More Available
Teens do not have nearly as much responsibility as their parents. It is always comical for me when a teen laments about their responsibilities. Oh, for the carefree days of high school, right? While I do not want to diminish the struggles some teens face, and I know that many teens are overbooked, as a general rule, students have more freedom and flexibility in their schedules than most working adults. This makes them a great demographic to work with because they have more freedom to help serve the kingdom of God.
So think of ways to let your students own a part of the youth ministry. This can be as simple as having a student co-lead a small group or start a mission project. Give them responsibility and communicate powerfully that it is OK to be young and invested in something that matters. This will help squelch apathetic attitudes and criticism, as students will be the ones leading and not the old, un-hip adults.
Just recently, I tapped a student who has a passion for graphic design. Even though she is a rookie at designing graphics, she is using her gifts to help the ministry and also gaining experience. Tapping into her interests has increased her commitment to both youth group and our student leadership meetings.
3. Reckless for Christ
The gospel is meant to go out, without question. Yet one of the travesties of getting older and having more responsibilities is that being reckless for Christ becomes more risky. I’m not talking about self-destructive recklessness, but the kind of risk-taking that allows a youth to boldly share their faith without fear of losing their job because of their Christian convictions.
4. Responsive to Your Love and Commitment
Students may struggle with apathy, but apathy is more manageable than cynicism. If you love students, they will genuinely value you for years to come. Adults, unfortunately, can easily steamroll right past your spiritual insights and leadership. Students, on the other hand, are more likely to see you as a role model. They are less cynical than adults. When you love a student and show genuine interest in them, they’re likely to blossom and often move from apathy to engagement.
Having a well-rounded view of students can radically change how we view our time in youth ministry. It can also inspire the sort of bold vision that taps into this amazing demographic. Teens’ tenacious spirit to be reckless, socially active Jesus followers can far exceed the efforts of adults. Ultimately, if we want to see the kingdom advance, teenagers are a dynamic, potential-laden demographic!
Want more practical advice on mobilizing your teens to share the gospel? All of our Mobilize stories offer great ideas for training your students and building a Gospel Advancing Ministry. Sign up here to receive this free, hands-on, weekly resource in your inbox!