I get it. Pastors have a lot on their plates. They are expected to be skilled administrators and astute financial experts. They are required to be effective evangelists and visionary leaders. They are to settle for nothing less than being a powerful biblical preacher, while at the same time being a kindhearted visitation specialist. Let’s not forget to mention that they are also supposed to be adept volunteer managers, an authority on non-profit fundraising, a compassionate counseling professional, a master biblical theologian, and an intuitive cultural interpreter.
All of this in addition to being a loving spouse, a tender parent, and a balanced human being. The idea of adding one more specialty to an already impossible job description is preposterous! Yet, I am going to do just that. Here are 4 reasons why every pastor should be a youth ministry expert.
Reason #1: Young people are members of your church too.
It is the responsibility of the local church pastor to make sure that every member in the congregation is being intentionally discipled into committed followers of Jesus. To completely ignore an entire group of individuals would not only be irresponsible, but also a serious blow to the church’s mission of making “disciples of all nations.” Even Jesus stressed the importance of a multi-generational ministry when He rebuked the disciples for not giving youth ministry enough importance (Mark 10:13-16).
As ministers, let’s avoid making the same mistake as the disciples, and make sure that the young people in our congregations are given an opportunity to be directly ministered to.
Reason #2: We are losing too many young people.
According to a recent study, only 56% of the younger millennials (those who are currently 20 to 26 years old) consider themselves to be Christian. This statistic is in spite of the fact that about 80% of them were raised in religious homes. The news doesn’t get any better for Generation Z. While religious statistics on this generation are scarce, a YouGov survey projects that only 45% are going to believe in God by the time they reach adulthood. Slowly, but surely, we are losing our young people.
These statistics tell us that whatever we are doing to try to reach young people is not working. The status quo is not enough. A new model of youth ministry needs to be adopted. And pastors need to take a serious look at how youth ministry is done in their churches. Which leads to my next point:
Reason #3: Ministry to young people is not the same as ministry to adults.
Young people are facing issues that adults are not. They are asking questions that adults are not asking. And while they live alongside adults in their day to day lives, their world is very different from their adult counterparts. Ministering to young people means providing scriptural answers to issues related to identity formation, peer pressure, dating, and self-image, to name a few. A pastor needs to make sure that the young people in his or her congregation are being taught the scriptural truths that speak to their lives as they are currently living it, not the lives they will one day live.
A pastor who desires to minister to young people will make sure that a space and time is provided on a regular basis for young people to be ministered to directly.
Reason #4: Even if you can’t do youth ministry yourself, you should be able to train those who can.
Embracing a biblical model of pastor-teacher requires the minister to be able to train and equip the saints so that the “body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:12). In many churches, this principle is applied when pastors train their leaders to preach, give a bible study, and lead a committee. But where is the training for local youth leaders? How are pastors making sure that the individuals appointed to evangelize and disciple the young people in a congregation have been thoroughly equipped to handle the job? Ministers who take their role as pastor-teacher seriously will make sure the youth leaders in their congregations have been equipped to do youth ministry; if it’s not the pastor leading the way with this training, then who?
As a pastor myself, I hate the thought of giving pastors more to do. But I am firmly convinced that in the midst of all the other expectations thrust upon the pastor, one has been deemphasized in the least, and rejected at the most. If pastors, who are called by God to lead their congregation to be all that God intends for them to be, forget about ministry to young people, then who will remember? Because of this, I urge all pastors to educate themselves in the practice of youth ministry. What would happen in our churches if every pastor committed to read one book and attended one seminar each year on the subject of youth ministry? Now that’s an exciting prospect!
Jonathan Martin is the Youth Pastor at the Markham Woods Church of Seventh-day Adventists in Longwood, FL. He is passionate about helping young people discover a personal and dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ, and is always looking for relevant and innovative ways to accomplish that task. He is currently in the process of completing his Doctor of Ministry in Ministry to Emerging Generations through Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. Jonathan is married to the love of his life, Raisel Martin, and has two children, Railyn and Josiah.
 Daniel Burke, “Millennials leaving church in droves, study finds,” http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/12/living/pew-religion-study/ (accessed 4/7/16).
 Mike Calhoun, “Secularization’s Ultimatum for Student Ministry,” http://mikecalhoun.org/2015/06/secularizations-ultimatum-for-student-ministry/