Question: "What does the Bible say about youth ministry?"
Answer: Although youth ministry is a fixture in the modern church, there is no biblical model for such a ministry. However, biblical principles can and should be the model for all ministries in the local church, including ministry to youth. Sadly, too many youth ministries are built not on biblical principles but on fads, hype, and shallow youth culture. For this reason, many are asking the question “Is youth ministry even something God wants the church involved in?” If the church wants to follow the model of fads, hype, and shallow youth culture, then the answer is a resounding no! However, student ministry, at its core, should be evaluated on the same biblical basis as any other functioning ministry in the local church.
Our God has already given us everything pertaining to life and godliness, including the principles and models of ministry in the Scriptures. If our goal is not to grow a youth group, but to see the first-century church ideals and convictions reproduced in the context of twenty-first-century teens, then Scripture does indeed contain sound principles for youth ministries within the church.
Every ministry’s goal is to make disciples. Student ministry should be purposeful, active, engaging, and spiritual. For it to be biblical, it needs to follow the model in 2 Timothy 3:16-17—students being mentored for character, instructed in doctrine, and equipped for every good work so that they will engage in effective ministry. The leaders (i.e., adults, mentors, pastors, youth leaders) are there to model, mentor, and equip these young ministers in Christ-like character, sound doctrine, and effective methods to reach lost peers and make disciples of their own (Matthew 28:18-20). This is clearly the ministry model of Jesus Himself. According to many scholars and experts on the life of Christ, somewhere around half of His original disciples were teenagers when He began His discipling ministry to them. His was the original “youth group.”
The Apostle Paul gives us a good picture of this kind of effective mentoring ministry in 2 Timothy 2:2, when he says to Timothy, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” Here is the application for those in student ministry today. Mature believers are called to equip the saints with sound doctrine to produce the outcome of sound living. Now let us bring this all back into a twenty-first-century student ministries context. The goal is making disciples and seeing the power of God unleashed in and through the lives of young people. Teens are at the point in their lives where they need to know the truth of God, how to live a life pleasing to Him, and what task He has called them to. As long as our motivation and message match that of Christ, then our ministries to youth are not only biblical, but necessary.