I have been working with student for 26 years. In that time there has been changes in student ministry. Obviously things have to change as technology and society/culture change, I’m not talking about changing the gospel but how it is delivered, how ministry takes place, etc. It used to take a clip art book, photocopier, glue, tape to make an event poster and if you wanted it to be fancy you copied it onto colored paper. Time changes what we do and how we do it.
Times are changing and changing faster. Think of the changes in technology since smartphones hit the scene seven years ago. Student ministry has changed in the past ten years. If feels weird to even type this but . . . Christian students aren’t as interested in participating in youth group or church as they once were. What was once considered regular attendance at church for families has even changed. This represents a problem for many youth pastors and student ministries who’s effectiveness is measured by numbers. The changes caused me to step back and evaluate how we are doing at discipleship with students.
I recently asked large group of youth pastors who have been in student ministry for longer than ten years to give me three significant changes they have noticed. I took what they gave me and was able to put them into four categories.
Social Media (fake connections seem real, students lonelier than ever)
Easy access to pornography
Social network is now on their phone – face to face social interaction reduced
Entertainment is in their pocket
No white space on their calendar
More sports/longer seasons/travel ball
Pressure to excel in academics and athletics (beyond the normal “do your best”)
Unrealistic expectations in academics and athletics
Destruction of family unit
Parents being fearful of their teen instead of leading their teen
Super busy so church attendance is the easiest thing to cut out of the calendar
Less trust in truth
Parents allowing students to make the choice about youth group/church participation
The consumer mentality of the church has caught up with us
Parents not leading their teen in faith
Parents not modeling discipleship
Students not sharing their faith
Many student ministries in America are operating as they have since the beginning of youth groups in the early 70’s. Weekly gathering, Sunday School, games events, Bible study. With the exception of cooler technology most student ministry is still being programmed the way it was in the early days.
Looking at the changes over the past ten years how are we going to change to effectively minister to students? What adjustments need to be made? What will “youth group” even look like in 5 years?
Parents, looking at the changes in students over the past ten years, are there changes you need to make? How often do you step back as a parent and evaluate? Is there anything on the above lists that bother you? Are there issues in the four categories that you see in your own family? What steps will you take to remedy those issues?