Before youth ministry receives any criticism or praise, I think it is only fair to clarify what youth ministry is and what it is not.
Specifically, what is the primary role and function of a youth group?
The youth ministry at your church is a wonderful golf club (hopefully), but it is not meant to be an entire set of clubs.
Like a 9 iron, youth group has a certain ability to influence teenagers, yet it needs the other clubs to play the whole “game” of discipleship. Many parents rely too heavily on the 9 iron which makes for a pretty frustrating game of golf. I have actually heard parents say that the youth group should not only “turn their son into a Christian”, but also make sure he knows about sex, the danger of pornography, drinking, drugs, dating, sexual diseases, tithing, apologetics and chivalry. Is this too much to ask of a 9 iron? Is this even the function of the 9 iron?
Yet those parents who see the church youth ministry as one of many discipleship experiences or those who use several clubs often have a more holistic journey raising their kids in the faith.
So what are the other clubs in the bag?
Driver- You (parents)
3 Wood- Young Life, FCA
9 Iron- Youth Group
8 Iron- A Mentor
7 Iron- Corporate Worship
6 Iron- Bible Study
5 Iron- Sunday School
4 Iron- Missions and service experiences
3 Iron- Online resources for specific topics (rightnowmedia)
Sand Wedge- retreats, camps and conferences
Putter- Participate in music, worship band, choir
So who provides all the clubs?
Good question, if I don’t say so myself. I would say that the local church can provide many of these clubs, but some clubs will be in better shape than others. I believe it is the responsibility of the parents to know what clubs exist and then to help the student decide which club they should “use” at any given time.
If a student is “using” every single club I mentioned at the same time, then they are OVERLY PROGRAMMED in Christian activity, which can be a dangerous bubble. Focus on the few clubs that make the most sense right now and then get out on the course and play.