Youth ministry can be a frustrating activity. Not the youths themselves, mind you; they bring curiosity, energy, vitality to the disciple-making enterprise. No, the trouble is the warnings shouted at those of us who have the privilege of ministering to youth.
You mustn’t talk of theology, we are told, for they will grow bored quickly. Our children need games, activities, to keep them interested and involved. No wonder many youth leaders seem better equipped to lead games than rightly divide the Word of truth—useful though it is for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. (And if youth ministry isn’t about those things, then what is it?)
In a bit of perverse irony, some in the church have now turned Paul’s teaching on its head: Don’t preach the Word; instead, to suit the “desires” of your audience, say what their itching ears want to hear (2 Timothy 4:2-3).
Give them biblical meat and they will choke on it, we are told. They are just children. Keep giving them milk. But considering that a majority of teens who attend youth group abandon the church after they graduate, perhaps it is time for a different tack. Cut the spiritual umbilical cord. Teach them to chew and swallow the most rigorous truths of Scripture.
In trying to make our youth groups “relevant” and “applicable,” have we lost our way?
As Bonhoeffer reminds us, “Do not try to make the Bible relevant. Its relevance is axiomatic. . . . Trust to the Word. It is a ship loaded to the very limits of its capacity!”
The Scriptures are difficult but powerful, God’s word does not return to him void, Christ alone has the words of life. Let us live and minister like we believe this. Even when it comes to our youth.