What Happens After Youth Group & College?

From the Catalyst Blog. Nothing new here, but it did get me thinking yet again about this topic. I have to ask the question, does our contemporary youth ministry model make this problem worse. I can’t help but feel that we have taught teenagers for too long to worship youth group and not worship Christ. It is easy to create a comfortable atmosphere with rockin games and even serious Bible Study, but too often I see kids fall apart as soon as they leave the support and security of their Christian friends.

So here is what I have been contemplating. I think that the structure of most churches promotes the “church-within-a-church” concept of youth ministry. What I mean by that is the teenagers come to see the youth group as “their church” and they see the main service as something that is not relevant to them and is only for older people. The structure of most churches tends to contribute to this problem. The Youth Pastor tends to only have responsibility to oversee the youth ministry. They then become the chief cheerleader, fundraiser, and planner for all youth events. It then creates an atmosphere where the youth ministry must compete with other ministries in the church for resources and staff. Am I being a little simplistic and cynical? Perhaps, but I think that this happens in way too many churches.

So part of the solution needs to be how we keep teens involved in all aspects of the church, even outside of youth ministry. I also think the youth pastor should have responsibilities outside of youth, so that bridges can be built between different ministries. We must teach youth more than just handling temptation in high school. We must impart a life-long love of the Word of God along with a grasp of the importance of Biblical support and fellowship. The need to be self-motivated is an extremely important life skill that we must constantly set before them. We must involve the church in youth ministry and the youth ministry in the church!!

I have some more ideas as well, but I think I will let them stew in my mind for a while before sharing. Send me your comments if you have some thoughts on the subject.

A Barna study finds most 20-somethings disengage from active participation in the Christian faith during their young adult years despite 61% being involved in a church as a teen. 50% of teens attend a church-related service or activity in a typical week and more than three-quarters discuss matters of faith with peers. However, only 20% of 20-somethings have maintained a level of spiritual activity consistent with their high school experiences. Just 33% of 20-somethings who are parents regularly take their kids to church, vs. 40% of parents in their 30s and 50% who are 40 or older. Most 20-somethings maintain outward allegiance to Christianity: 78% say they are Christians, vs. 83% of teens. 20-somethings are 70%more likely than older adults to strongly assert if they “cannot find a local church that will help them become more like Christ, they will find people and groups that will, and connect with them instead of a local church.” They are also less likely to believe “a person’s faith in God is meant to be developed by involvement in a local church.” Much of the activity of young adults takes place outside congregations.


I am a former design engineer who now pastors Cornerstone Community Church in Galax, Virginia. I'm passionate about following Jesus and I love technology. I've been married to Jennifer for 28 years, and we have three adult children.

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2 Responses

  1. Tim says:

    Man, I totally agree with you. I’ve been a long-time supporter of intergenerational ministry in church (that’s why I majored in Youth Min in college and Family Life Ministry in seminary). Surprisingly the problem I’ve run into is not that the kids are resistant to it, but that the adults are! Students seem willing to enter the “adult world” but most adults don’t understand students and feel uneasy with their weird use of language, style of dress, loud music and all that stuff. The adults in our church need to be willing to accept these teenagers into “their world” and grow with them as members of the same body of Christ.

  2. Matthew J. Hind says:

    Good word. I am a youth minister of a small church and what you talk about happens here as well. I have found that half of the youth that “graduate” out of our group just disappear off the radar screen. I have tried to encourage them to continue on by joining a college group (we have one at our church), but they still seem resistant. The other half call and stay in contact at least once a week (mind you they are not involved with a group either) and still come to our current youth events or meetings. I am with you that the youth are not the church of the future, but the church now. I have tried to show them how to “own” their faith, rather than putting it in our pastor, church or even me. Thanks for you good words. I have enjoyed reading your blogs.

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