Is Ministry To Young People An Amenity Or Value?
Being More Than An Amenity of the Church.
When I used to travel, you know prior to the Covid-19 Era we find ourselves, I would book a place to stay based on location, price, and amenities they offer. I wanted the place to be close to where I wanted to spend my time. Who wants to spend all your time traveling to and from some place. I want it to feel like I am getting a good value for what I paying. I also enjoy the free wifi, indoor pool for the kids, breakfast bar, free parking, room service, and then the fitness center to combat the breakfast bar and room service I enjoyed. I believe this same list isn’t that different than how many people identify which church they are going to call their home church.
- Location - People want to find a church close to them or at least a church that considers their neighborhood part of their mission field.
- Value - People want to feel value add to their life and the world around them as they commit their time, prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness.
- Amenity - People also keep coming, and often invite others, because of the amenities a church offers through certain events, consistent quality of offerings, and connections they make with others in and around the church.
This all sounds great and probably isn’t new information to many of you but stay with me for a few more minutes.
From stories I have heard and witnessed, as the focus of local churches has shifted from bringing people to the church building to connecting people to Jesus and each other, many shifts have taken place. Shifting things around makes sense as a church’s location becomes less relevant and most amenities become very difficult to offer in times of social distancing. This means the value category has grown even more important than ever. Using this understanding, sometimes (especially during the turn everything upside down due to the Covd-19 pandemic time) things get put in the wrong category. One example of this is classifying Children’s and Youth Ministries as an amenity. In many churches Children’s and Youth Ministries efforts and resources have taken a back seat or been redeployed. This would be the right move IF they are amenities.
However, I would argue that Children’s and Youth Ministries have never been an amenity to help drive families into the faith community. Children’s and Youth Ministries are a critical value of discipleship. From Jerusalem in the 7th century BCE we know Deuteronomy 6:4-9 calls us to diligently disciple our children.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." - Deuteronomy 6:4-9
It doesn’t stop there, we can fast forward about 700 years and we find Jesus teaching about what many considered adult issues but he stops teaching and reprimands the people sending the children away because of the topic at hand in Luke 18. Jesus knew teaching the children was not only about keeping the parents around the table.
"But Jesus called them to him, saying, 'Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.'” - Luke 18:16
We continue fast forwarding to today and we see studies from Fuller Youth Institute, Barna, and Pew Research Center about the critical mission of discipling children and youth. Let us make sure that we keep Children’s and Youth Ministries in the value category. Disciples of Jesus Christ that are children and youth add value to the church, to the community, and most importantly to the mission God is carrying out from creation, through Jesus, and now through the Holy Spirit in us.
Children’s and Youth Ministry leaders, know you are mission critical! The value your ministry brings to the church is immeasurable. Therefore, as we find ourselves wavering between in person and digital experiences, experiencing fading numbers because dodgeball, nine square, and pizza parties (children and youth amenities) aren’t go to ideas, and finding many of us “Zoomed out” continue to do the work God has called and equipped you to do! Do not give up even though it is hard. Do not sacrifice the ministry to young people to be your church’s video editor or Facebook/Instagram Live guru. Sure those are good things, and if you can do them and keep the focus, go for it! Use your gifting for the whole body of the church, but not at the cost of ministry to young people. You are offering more than an amenity that people think are nice to have. You are bringing value to the lives of the children and youth. You are bringing value to the church as more young people engage in the life of the church. You are continuing God’s mission here on earth.
“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” - 1 Timothy 6:12
Looking for some data around the VALUE of children’s and youth ministry check out these links:
Rev. Brent Dearnell
Brent is married to Sara and is a father to four young children. He has served as a volunteer, interim, and full-time youth pastor, discipleship pastor, and executive pastor. Before going into ministry full-time he was a middle school teacher in an urban environment as well as a varsity soccer coach. He is passionate about helping young people live into their passion, faith, and call. This passion is why he is one of the cofounders of Colocate Ministry Consulting and serves as one of our coaches.