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Does Youth Ministry Need to Change for the New Generation?

Today’s teens, known as Generation Z, are drifting further and further away from the traditional youth meetings of the eighties. It seems this Converse-clad group, who are excellent multitaskers yet suffer from perpetual distraction, just don’t have time for youth ministry as they once did in the past.

Greg Stier, founder of Dare 2 Share, said that during his travels across the nation he is hears the same message over and over from youth leaders regarding the lack of involvement they are noting among their various groups. They said things like the following:

“My teenagers seems more apathetic than ever.”

“Our Wednesday night youth group meetings are steadily shrinking in attendance.”

“My teenagers are way too busy.”

It is easy for youth leaders to place the blame on the younger generation for their lack of commitment, instead of looking deeper into the issue. However, according to Stier, the problem could have more to do with the way youth ministries are approaching today’s young people than anything today’s teens are or are not doing.

Stier believes that youth ministry is stuck in the past, that “we are doing youth ministry like it’s still the eighties. And the ‘rally, hype, worship, talk, repeat’ approach is just not working with this ultra-busy, uber-distracted generation of teenagers. This generation is cause-centric, they are easily bored and they are excessively busy.” This means youth ministry has to change to reach teens where they are at instead of expecting them to go back in time as it were and relate to the way many ministries continue to approach them.

Thankfully, all is not lost. Generation Z can still be ministered to and engaged. It just takes a little bit different method. The following are some ways modern youth ministers and their ministries as a whole can evolve to meet the ever changing needs of today’s stressed out youth.

  • Go Digital: A Pew Research Center study recently discovered some 85% of teens used YouTube regularly. Second and third in line are the popular platforms Instagram and SnapChat. The prevalence of social media use presents a prime opportunity for youth ministers to reach and engage teens. They could post short videos that deliver discipleship content and then encourage more discussion in a youth meeting later. Youth leaders can also set up group chats or texting groups to engage students and encourage relationships to grow between youth members. All of which can take place outside of a youth room.
  • Encourage Gospel Activism: Modern teens are passionate about social justice and ensuring everyone gets a fair share. They care about causes. Therefore, if youth leaders can engage their groups in gospel activities that have a social impact, that’s a win-win. Think of the way missionaries minister in other countries, they spread the gospel, but at the same time build an orphanage, operate a soup kitchen or launch a school in the community. In the same way youth leaders can combine youth ministry and social activism or meeting a practical need. It’s also important for leaders to teach their teens that “spreading the Gospel is the primary way we can make an impact on society.” When teens grasp this fact, they will be engaged, passionate and ready to tackle whatever need they hear about.
  • Rethink Youth Group: Meetings should no longer be seen as a once a week, hour long devotional with some singing. Teens today want to make a difference, for their lives to mean something and that requires more than one meeting a week. Leaders must rethink the way they have been doing “youth group” and instead begin to see it as a week-long endeavor that encourages discipleship and relationships all throughout the week. It could be that meetings even take place different times or places than Wednesday night at 7:00 as well.

Today’s youth leaders have a wonderful opportunity in place if they will recognize it as such. This generation is far from lazy, and they want very much to feel needed and to make a difference in a world so often full of chaos and hate. Youth leaders who embrace this will see their ministries thrive, while those who stick dogmatically to the old ways will likely continue to notice a decrease in the number of teens they have attending youth group.

~ 1776 Christian


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