Where does youth ministry go wrong?

The Barna Group just released a new study: Most Twentysomethings Put Christianity on the Shelf Following Spiritually Active Teen Years

The study lists a few suggestions to fix the situation; however, I believe they don't touch on the heart of the problem.

One of the main problems about youth ministry is that our teen years our lived out in an environment that turns out to be as permanent as a week of church camp. All of the friends that we make commitments with and hold are held accountable by move to a different place just like we move on to a different place. Sadly, I don't hang out with anyone that I went to high school with. And that not hanging out, allows for a clean break from who we were in high school. In my case that is a great thing. In teens who grow up in the church and involved in youth group, that is a bad thing.

However, I do still have my relationship with my family members. If the church created family ministries rather than youth ministries, I believe the permanent impact of the growth that occurs in one's spiritual life during their teen years would be more likely to stick. Those children who don't have families could be "spiritually adopted" into families that are already involved. It might not be as hip or cool as what youth ministry has become, but it would be more effective because the relationships in which the decisions and changes were made would be done in a more permanent environment.

Loyalty to congregations is one of the casualties of young adulthood: twentysomethings were nearly 70% more likely than older adults to strongly assert that if they “cannot find a local church that will help them become more like Christ, then they will find people and groups that will, and connect with them instead of a local church.” They are also significantly less likely to believe that “a person’s faith in God is meant to be developed by involvement in a local church.”

I think the church has done a terrible job teaching people why it is essential. Sadly, I think that is because of the way most churches function. They are not being the essential church. The local church is one of the most important elements of a believer's life, and lives should be lived in such a way that all believer's would know it is essential. What are we doing to make our local congregation essential to believers?

Watch out for the potholes.