How do our youth ministries help students to actually grow in their faith? More pertinent than that, what methods are we using to create faith ownership that lasts beyond high school and college?
Here’s the challenge I keep battling with:
Am I, (are we), spoon-feeding our students so much, that they are not owning or developing their own faith? Are our programs and efforts so focused on one youth group night per week that students “starve” the rest of the week? Do we help students fail by helping them focus so much on their youth group experience that we don’t help them experience God daily? Bottom line: Are we creating spoon-feeders who depend on us, or self-feeders who become faith owners?
Now, first let me say, there are some incredible ministries who are doing some fantastic stuff that is bringing about life-change from the methods they employ. Here’s what I am talking about:
- Ministries who have weekly meetings with incredible teaching and connection times
- Worship times where students connect deeply with God
- Service projects and missions trips
- Weekend retreats and summer camps
- Student leadership teams
- Amazing events that students wants to bring their friends to
For the most part, all of these events and programs, while they are great, center around us and our churches providing opportunities for students to grow. Now you might be thinking, “well, of course they do! That’s what we are supposed to do right? That’s what my job description tells me to do… That’s what my pastor, parents, and students expect me to do…” And of course I would wholeheartedly agree with you… Well, to a point…
But here’s a central problem I am seeing in my ministry and so many ministries I am connected with. Over the decades of youth ministry, there has been such a focus on churches teaching and feeding the students spiritually, that we have forgotten a very important aspect of teaching students to become self-feeders. Are we creating expectations, environments, and opportunities for students to self-feed in their faith or are students showing up to be fed by our exceptional programs and events?
Just look at the local church today… It is filled with many adults who grew up in vibrant youth ministries and were spoon fed on a weekly basis by people like you and I. Many of them are now dependent on their weekly “spiritual meal” on Sundays, while the rest of the week they starve spiritually. Many of them have turned into church consumers who rate their churches by what they get out of it…
Think about your ministry for a moment… Are you really supporting students in faith ownership, or are you helping them depend on you and your programs? Take a few more moments… Are we helping them to be self-feeders or spoon-feeders?
Here are some pertinent questions to think through: What are we doing to help students develop spiritual habits during the week when they are not with us? What are we constantly communicating to ensure that self-feeding is an expectation for our students? What materials are we making available to students to help get them started as self-feeders? What self-feeding principles are we constantly smattering into our messages to point students to a self-feeding lifestyle?
Tomorrow, I will list some things I am doing to create a self-feeding ministry… Be thinking about what you do. I would love YOUR imput on this! Please feel free to comment!!!!