April 25, 2024


Get In Fitness

Building a Strong Youth Ministry – An Interview With Mark DeVries, Part One

In the following interview (part one of a two part series), a nationally recognized expert on youth ministry explains why it is so important for churches to put real effort into the building of youth ministries.

You are consulting with churches nationally. Tell us about the greatest needs that you are finding in local churches today.

Mark: As you know, most churches are looking for the quick fix.  One church, who had been through 5 youth directors in 4 years, called us and asked if we could help them find a “youth ministry superstar.”  That hope fits the expectations of most churches…they are hoping for just the perfect person, just the perfect program model, just the perfect youth space to build a thriving youth ministry.  The problem is typically not with the sincerity of the leaders or with the components of the ministry; the problems is that there is no system, no process that moves the disconnected pieces of the ministry forward in a single direction.     

What has been the most encouraging trend that you have seen recently concerning student ministry?

Mark: Churches desperately want to have a thriving youth ministry.  Very few churches need to be convinced any more about how important youth ministry is.  Churches are beginning to admit that they just might need a little help rethinking youth ministry.

Do you feel that churches are catching the vision to involve parents and truly partnering with them in discipleship?

Mark: Oh I wish they were.  Most churches still see parents as ancillary to the real work of the youth ministry.  I’ve read one youth ministry professor even suggest that youth workers who focus on family ministry are misguided, that they should focus on students and let the adult ministry staff worry about parents.  At the same time, there is a groundswell of interest from a growing number of professionals, volunteers and parents involved in youth ministry that unless we equip and partner with parents, the long-term impact of our ministries will be severely compromised.  

What are the indicators that most trouble or concern you with what is happening in many student ministries today?

Mark: My concern is not “events” per se.  My concern is that events are approached episodically rather than systemically.  A church does a Discipleship Now that is totally disconnected from the small group program which is totally disconnected from the Girls of Grace Conference which is totally disconnected from Acquire the Fire, which is totally disconnected from the summer mission trips.  Each of those components are fine…usually better than fine.  They usually touch kids’ lives deeply.  What they fail to do though is to draw kids into a trajectory of faithfulness that integrates the transforming “moments” into truly transformed lives.