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“I’ve tried everything!” Remember those words from Part 1? If not refer back to my post on January 12. I have divided the philosophical approaches into four sections determined by their predominant thrust.

In Part 2 we will examine the first two sections and will conclude next Tuesday with Part 3, so stay with me. Keep in mind that some of these philosophies contain elements of merit. However, close inspection will reveal that they are based on a faulty premise and should not be foundational for ministry.

Section One:

“IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME” – Activity and Entertainment Centered Philosophies

Activity-centered youth ministries are a direct response to a real student need but they have glaring deficiencies. One of those deficiencies is activity without purpose is simply an event on the calendar.

When an activity plays its proper role in youth ministry it will not only be well planned but be purposeful. This is not to say that every activity must have a full-length gospel message, but each one should help accomplish something of spiritual significance in teen lives.

“Entertainment” style philosophies measure ministry impact by numbers which become the criterion for success. The reasoning goes something like this; we want to reach the largest number of people possible so let’s do whatever is necessary to attract them.

If you have large numbers attending then you must be successful, right? … Not necessarily. Face it; it is not difficult to draw a crowd to be entertained. Do not get me wrong; I am for reaching as many students as possible, but with a purpose beyond amassing a crowd.

 

Section Two:

“DON’T FENCE ME IN” – Freestyle Philosophies

The “Do-Your-Own-Thing Philosophy” is difficult to brand. Characteristics of this style will vary but share some common denominators. For example, students become leaders by default. The youth leaders are like NATO troops that are simply peacekeepers. The teens are left with the task of defining their spiritual walk, which may be formulated out of the vacuum of immaturity.

I believe students should be involved in ministry leadership. They need to have a voice and be influential within the youth group. However, they should be involved under the direction of a youth leader with a plan.

I have named a second “Free Style” approach, “No Philosophy” or sometimes the “Godly Zap” method. One of the characteristics of this approach is that all the teaching is strictly lecture with no group involvement. Leaders given to this style of ministry seem to think the criteria for success is having something (getting zapped) to say every time they stand before the group.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy manifested by this approach is the apparent lack of a strategy for building young people spiritually. Formulating a discipleship plan for every teen in the group is time consuming but necessary if we want to prepare them to handle the real world with a secure faith.

(For other blog posts on leadership, student ministry or spiritual growth, check out the archive section)

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