Youth ministry—what’s the point? God has mandated the church and all Christians with the purposes derived from Matthew 22:37—40 and Matthew 28:19—20: worship, evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, and ministry. Let’s begin with worship…
Somewhere during the past two millennia the church traded worship as a lifestyle for worship as an event. In our consumerist culture everything is an event. Eating is an event. Shopping is an event. Sporting competitions are an event. School is an event. And so too church has become an event. And the highlight of the church event is none other than…the worship service, that is—the music.
During my ten years in youth ministry I have served at a small, medium, and large-sized church (in regard to attendance). While each church was very different from the other, one thing is sure across the board: everyone has preferences. Everyone has a preference about how the church should be run, who should be in charge, what programs and activities should be offered and many more tedious items of preference beyond these. But out of all the possibilities on which one could voice a preference, the debate about the style of the music in worship services rises above the rest. Personally, I have a wide taste in music. I love the hymns, I love the praise songs, I love a choir and orchestra, I love a praise team, and I love a live band. I don’t care for skinny jeans or fog machines in worship, but that’s just my preference. But at the end of the day guess what…my preference doesn’t matter. Guess what else…when we have made worship a service or an event we have missed the mark completely.
Worship is a lifestyle. I am certain that a fair share of students who drop out of church and leave their faith do so because they were never taught about true worship or they never saw worship modeled a lifestyle—a response to God’s greatness and love that involves every aspect as of our beings. Worship services—the music—is but a minute part of genuine worship of God Almighty.
In Matthew 22 Jesus says the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind (v.37).” Can we love God in these ways during a worship services; certainly. But does loving God in these ways end when the service is over; absolutely not. In fact, a genuine life of worship involves the other four purposes: evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, and ministry. Worship is a life lived for God, in honor of God, and by the power of God—in every action, word, and thought. It is a life empowered by the Holy Spirit and also motivated by an obsessive awe of and love for the Lord.
Do our student’s understand worship in this way? If they do not—if they understand worship only as a service—why would they feel obligated to carry that on into their adult years? Why wouldn’t we expect students to abandon the church and even their faith when they have never been taught anything beyond worship through attendance in a service?
Youth ministry—what’s the point? To teach students that worship is a lifestyle and to provide models of a life of worship. To challenge students to offer their bodies (and hearts and minds) as living sacrifices unto the one who loves and saves them. Life—every second of it—is our service of worship unto God. Worship of God is the primary reason we exist.
“Youth Ministry—What’s the Point? 2 (Worship)” is part 1 of forthcoming seven part series written by John Howard, Minister to Students at First Baptist Church, O’Fallon Illinois.