Youth Ministry

Youth Group: Huh! What Is It Good For?

Youth ministries are made up of lots of activities. Sunday school, small groups, mission trips, the weekly youth group, youth choir: these are but a few of the church activities that fall under the “youth ministry” category. Some of them fall under other categories, too.

They involve different students. A very small percentage of youth participate in two or more of them; most participants probably stick to one.

They do different things. Sunday school teaches. The mission trip serves. Yet they all do more than one thing. They all teach. They can all serve.

What about the weekly youth group? What does it do? What is it’s main aim? How does it complement the small group or the service project? How is it different from the multitude of “groups” that seek to enhance our students’ development, from student government to soccer?

What is the weekly youth group’s primary job?

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9 thoughts on “Youth Group: Huh! What Is It Good For?

  1. Yo Yo DJ Pastor E says:

    Youth group is the church’s attempt to provide recreation, embarrassing moments for both youth and adults (further destructing already disturbingly fragile egos), and the opportunity to “shape” (code for “manipulate”) youth into a “healthy” (code for “conformist”) adults.

  2. Yo Yo DJ Pastor E says:

    And the above comment is referred to generally as “sarcasm” or even as a “joke” (just sayin’!).

  3. Matt Schultz says:

    This is probably a question best answered by each local congregation for itself. For us, we call it “Fellowship” (a title we inherited but have gladly kept). Sunday School teaches, Mission Trip serve, Fellowship builds relationships. Within the context of a community of Christ, we seek to build, deepen and strengthen friendships with Christ as the mortar between the bricks.
    The youthful need to be seen and heard, to belong, to be a part of something greater than themselves, to be vulnerable in a safe place… These are all seen to. We also work against the isolation so common in our tech-heavy area.

    • Yo Yo DJ Pastor E says:

      I like your descriptions–a well rounded and wholistic perspective. But I have always struggled with what happens for youth who only participate in one or another program (e.g., Sunday school but not youth group thus losing the importance of fellowship in the Christian journey; or youth group but not mission trips, thus losing any sense of reaching to the “other”; or they only go on mission trips, thus losing the theological and communal foundations that help us understand “why” we go on mission)? (very trinitarian, by the way…I like it! Lol)

      • Yeah, Eric, I like to think of all those program pieces as comprising a whole youth ministry. But if most students are only getting a piece of the whole, then it’s not a whole for them. The question is whether or not that’s really a problem. We probably need to trust that God is present to teach and guide and accompany our youth when they’re doing those other things, like soccer and scouts, etc. That lessens the urgency around planning youth group, right? If it’s not, like, the only time they’re going to get some God all week. But the youth group meeting still needs some intentional planning and structure, with a defined purpose. What does a “community building” purpose look like structurally?

    • “We inherited but have gladly kept.” There’s some wisdom there.

      So the emphasis is on providing an experience of belonging and togetherness in a community that is distinctly, “Christian.” Is that a fair paraphrase? Does that mean that leaders don’t feel the need to press a “lesson” into the time somewhere? Or is the interaction the lesson? I figure both, but I’m curious as to the intentionality: what does a 90 minute or two hour youth group gathering look like with those kinds of things as the focus?

  4. Yo Yo DJ Pastor E says:

    Honestly, I see youth group as a space that provides an opportunity for our youth to experiment with what it means theologically and practically to be “Christian community” (and, yes, I like “quotes” and parenthetical comments). It is an opportunity for youth to interact with both those their own age as well as adults to discern God’s ongoing activity in themselves, others and in the world around them, in the hopes that they may be able to discover the reality of God and learn to walk their journeys intentionally and faithfully. This is sort of a general response. There are many more expansive explanations of in anything written by Mark Yaconelli or Kenda Creasy Dean.

  5. Such a great question man. I don’t know. And that is something we are going to be talking about when I get home because I’m at a place now where the you really just want games and hang out time…

    And is that what I was hired to do? Lead games?

    I sure hope not. Because thats not my gifts and I wouldn’t feel good about youth group simply consisting of that. But yah. I’m with you. If it’s not about trying to fit in a “lesson” – what DOES a 1.5 hr youth group time look like…

    • The games are important. In some contexts, they’re REALLY important. I’m less inclined to view the games as fluff surrounding REAL content than I was a few years ago. It’s part of a move for me away from the hangup about being distinctive; youth group can do all the things that other, non-church, youth activities do, but it needs to do them in a way that is uniquely Christian or it needs to add something distinctly Christian afterwards.
      You could probably make a case for 90 minutes of games.
      I’d love to hear that case, actually.

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