Did you know that 94% of Christians surrendered their life to Jesus before the age of 18? That statistic alone emphasizes the importance of youth ministry for local churches. And yet, there’s more we could be doing to engage the youth in church—to encourage students to grow their faith and put it into action.
Let’s take a closer look at why youth ministry is important and how we can help students live out their faith.
Why Is Youth Ministry Important?
We are seeing a generation seeking to belong to anything and everything that will give them purpose, meaning, joy, and hope. Youth today have a spiritual fire that most can’t see because youth are too often relegated to “kids these days” zones and perspectives. Youth are capable and ready to see the gospel move through their homes, schools, cities, and world. And they will! That is, once they receive the one thing desired and required—someone to help equip them with the needed heart and tools to do so.
Cue the dodgeball and pizza. Just kidding.
Trying to compete with the world’s ability to entertain youth left the youth room and church building long ago. Youth want, and desperately need, something the world is incapable of delivering. They need to know there is an unshakable identity, unwavering hope, and unconditional love available to them in the person of Jesus Christ. The spiritual kindling this generation has is evident. Youth are simply waiting to be ignited by the fire of God’s love and the tools to live out the gospel wherever they go.
That’s why youth ministry is important and why we must…
- Preach the gospel
- Be living examples of the gospel
- Equip students with the gospel
2 Ways to Encourage the Spiritual Fire of Youth
But once we understand the “why,” what about the “how?” How do we get students to see the importance of their faith—not just a personal faith, but a faith put into action? How do we nurture that spiritual fire they have?
Here are 2 ways to encourage youth today:
- Create space and community for gospel equipping.
Having the gospel be important to youth starts with us believing it’s important for them as well. Leaders and mentors must communicate to youth that the gospel isn’t for someday in their life; the gospel is crucially important and relevant to their life right now. That’s why providing a space for students to be equipped in practical, everyday ways for the unique places, environments, and culture they live in is so crucial.
Spaces for equipping go far beyond fundraisers, fun outings, summer camps, and mission trips. While those things can be good and meaningful, what youth need more than anything is faith tools and faith mentors for real life. They need space and community where the Bible—when opened, taught, and obeyed—sets their feet on solid and unchanging truth as they navigate a world where what is “true” seems to change daily. What youth need is deep, authentic, and practical discipleship.
For some, discipling youth may seem just the opposite of what’s needed—that there’s no way that youth would ever show up to be taught, mentored, and discipled in “the ways of faith.” But consider this: Students are willing to give themselves to the rigors of learning algebra, dissecting sentences, and mastering chemistry equations for the sake of bettering themselves educationally. Don’t you think they are willing and able to learn and be discipled by Jesus and those who love them for the sake of living the life always meant for them spiritually?
Youth aren’t looking for easier; they’re looking for better. It is time we as leaders teach the depths of…
- Who Jesus is
- The impact of sin in our lives
- What a life empowered by the Spirit can do and be
Youth don’t need a watered-down gospel that leads to a watered-down generation. They need leaders and mentors willing to help them know, experience, and share the gospel in ways that will help impact and transform the world.
- Challenge youth to impact people beyond themselves.
Some have said, “Student ministry is the tail that wags the dog. If the tail is wagging, the dog is happy.” Simply put, if a church has a student ministry that is getting after it, it doesn’t just impact the youth; it impacts the entire congregation and beyond.
Students have to know that their faith is not just about them—their lives, their needs, and their salvation. They need to know that while the gospel includes them, the gospel extends far beyond them. That, as those transformed by the gospel, they become good news agents of the gospel to a waiting, watching world desperately in need of what Jesus offers.
In my experience, students want so much more than to consume the gospel. They want to be challenged by it. Like, big-time challenged!
Here’s one example…
We started a “Students Who Serve” campaign at our church. I challenged our youth to make it hard for an adult to find somewhere to serve on the weekends. The students rose to the occasion. In fact, they’ve volunteered so much and so well that whenever the student ministry is out of town for the weekend, adult ministry leaders have to work twice as hard to fill their teams!
Students love being challenged. They love hearing and knowing they are making a tangible kingdom impact through their efforts.
Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Youth Ministry
The younger generation is full of potential Kingdom Laborers—those who want to deepen their personal faith and live purposefully for God. That’s why we can’t underestimate the importance of youth ministry. We need to create gospel-equipping spaces and challenge youth. But most importantly, we need to get out of the way as we watch what God does in and through them for the sake of His kingdom!