Sustainable Youth Ministry: An Interview With Mark DeVries

My interview with Mark DeVries, author of Family-Based Youth Ministry and Sustainable Youth Ministry is now online at the Worldview Church website.  I’m grateful to Mark for taking the time to answer my questions so thoroughly and with great wisdom.  Here’s just a portion of what we talked about:

Jimmy: There are many who are concerned that in the last couple of decades professional, programmed youth ministry has failed to help the church stem the tide of teenagers who leave the church after high school.  We’re beginning to recognize an obvious failure to pass the biblical worldview to the next generation. What are your observations about this trend? What can be done?

Mark: I have to wonder if the energy behind this question isn’t somehow connected to the foolish choices we’ve been making in the ways we build our youth ministry.  “We’re losing our kids!” the argument goes.  And the next logical step is to DO SOMETHING to fix it.  It might just be that the anxious impetus to do something quickly has been foundational to churches driven to make quick fixes by hiring a superstar, finding the perfect program, or investing millions in a youth facility. What can be done is for us to stop reacting anxiously and start designing our youth ministries deliberately, as if we want them to be better ten years from now than they are today.

Jimmy: Again, we’ll explore more of the solution in a moment, but you mentioned certain tendencies that church youth ministries have.  According to your own ministry experience and your consultation with other churches what are the general weaknesses and strengths of American youth ministry today?

Mark: The undeniable strength is that churches care about youth ministry, certainly more than ever in my lifetime.  Churches are willing to invest in solid youth ministry, and that’s good news.

The challenge is that when churches invest heavily in youth ministry they often expect immediate results, the kind of expectation that can result in short-tenured youth ministers, victims of burn-out or firings.  Most churches still aren’t embracing the idea that the youth staff person is called to steward the church’s vision and empower its people to do the work of youth ministry.  The unrealistic expectations placed on professional youth workers are a crack in the foundation of most churches’ design for youth ministry.

Read the entire article:  “Passing the Christian Worldview to the Next Generation”

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