What saith the word?
Where do we read of youth ministers in the bible. Well, we don’t. I know many will completely disagree with this assessment, but both history and the scriptures are clear about the role and functions of the local church, and there is no mention of youth ministers in our holy scriptures. We read of Minister, Elders, Deacons and teachers, but not “youth” ministers. So where did this all begin and how did it become prevalent in the churches of Christ?
In the 1940s, Jim Rayburn began a ministry to teach teens at the local high school, which became Young Life. Their mission was to introduce adolescents to Christ and to help them grow in their faith. At the same time, Youth for Christ (YFC), was holding large rallies in Canada, England, and the United States. They quickly organized a national movement that turned to local Bible clubs in the late 50s and 60s. By the early 70s, churches began to desire ministries to appeal to teenagers and began hiring youth ministers. In an effort to reach the local youth and the youth in the congregation, youth ministers began to utilize modern methods of attraction. Many became focused more on entertaining than on Bible study and memorization. This process continued in the denominational and community churches, and like in many others areas was adopted by some churches of Christ in an effort to promote faithfulness. What was the result? Separating the youth from the more mature Christians and the congregational Bible studies.
The Results are easily seen in many congregations. Students in many churches no longer engage with “adults”, do not benefit from inter-generational relationships, and do not participate in the “in-depth” studies of the “adult-class”. Additionally, many churches now have an entertainment-driven atmosphere instead of a Bible study atmosphere focused on knowledge. Many youth are not learning to truly study as commanded. (II Timothy 2:15 [KJV]) Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. It is interesting that many churches are opposed to youth worship, but have no problem with “youth” ministers. However, in reality, youth worship came about due to youth ministry. It was a natural progression which mimicked the denominational and community churches. As a result of those youth now being grown into adulthood, today’s “adult church” has in many cases become just a slightly toned-down version of yesterday’s “youth group” mentality. This has led to a environment where many today desire to be entertained in worship and hear “feel good” sermons which tickle the ears. We ought not be surprised. (II Timothy 4:3-4 [KJV])  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. This warning is appropriate based on recent trends within the churches of Christ. In recent years, increasing numbers of congregations which were once faithful are beginning to falter. In reality, we now call them mainstream, or some may call them liberal. Do not misunderstand. No one opposes occasional sermons targeted at particular segments of the audience (married, single, adults, youth), nor do we underestimate the value of young Christians getting together. However, when Bible studies for young people take on a more entertaining atmosphere and true bible study becomes a rarity, we will continue to lose our young people because we did not prepare them for Christian adulthood through example or study.