“What is your current assessment of youth ministries today? And how have they changed since you first began?”
Pastor Raymond: I think youth ministries are still doing great work and still hitting the fundamentals. To me, the fundamentals are summed up in three questions.
What has changed is the landscape – the competing demands on the youths’ time.
In my time, we had so much time for church, and we really wanted to spend time in church, know about God’s word and grow in the ways of the Lord.
But the youths of today are really busy; studies and social media take up a lot of time.
Church and God become one of the many compartments in a youth’s life. Youth ministries need to take note of this to handle the competing demands, and yet still be creative in covering the fundamentals.
Isaac: The past youth ministries have done really great. The many of us who are here are a testament to what our pastors have done.
But we’re at a pivotal point right now where things are changing so fast.
So the question is: How do we as a new generation – a new breed of ministers, leaders and marketplace people – take responsibility in this turning tide?
“How do you think discipleship has evolved today?”
Pastor Joel: In some ways, discipleship is still the same. We can’t run away from discipleship being something that requires personal involvement and investment. There has to be a personal touch.
As much as you can structure things, and have systems and processes in place to make sure that you don’t miss people out – the reality at the end of the day is that discipleship is still very much a personal thing. There has to be a relationship involved.
At the same time, we’ve got to be careful that discipleship is not just me telling you what to do, or teaching something to you. It has to be something like: “Come and do it with me, let me show you how to live life”.
As leaders, we’re called to demonstrate and show someone what life looks when we’re on fire for God. That’s something that we need to constantly think about – how to model an example.
We’re looking for exemplary leaders we can point a young person to and say: “If you just live your life this way, you are going to be okay.”
At the same time, the way we carry across such conversations has changed. In the past it would have been enough for a leader to tell me the Bible says this, this, this. And I would have listened.
But Generation Z wants to have honest and open dialogues. They’re not afraid of it – so we shouldn’t be afraid of having such conversations either.
Pastor Raymond: In youth ministry today, we typically have a good time of worship (we spend a lot of time on programmes), we do a good Bible study – and it’s a lot of information. But youths have no lack of information today!
They want someone to be able to journey with their doubts and questions. Modelling shows them how to live a life of a Christ-centred believer.
These days, we often try to be relevant. But did you know, a survey was done in the US concerning youths, and 87% said they don’t want relevance? They want you to be real.
We’re trying to be relevant and compete with what’s out in the world, but the youths really want you to be authentic and real. They want you to admit that you don’t have all the answers.
“How can we get young people to own their faith and get excited about it?”
Pastor Joel: One of the most helpful things is to be able to give the young people something they are proud of. Whether it’s a graphic, promo, video or teaching material – give them something that they’re genuinely proud of.
Let’s be real. We’ve all been in a service where you’ve cringed. It’s hard to be excited about something you’re embarrassed about.
An average young person is so used to a standard of excellence. As a youth ministry, we don’t compete with those things, but we don’t want to give them something that makes them think we could have tried a bit harder.
And we’re not talking about big services, lights or smokes. Whatever it is, from small groups to a one-to-one conversation – make it well done so they can be proud of it. When we give them something they’re proud of, they’ll naturally get excited about faith and church. They’re naturally going to want to bring people.
And get them involved in it. That’s when they’re invested, when their hands are in it. We’re going to make sure this is well done, well produced, well put together.
Hern Shung: The gospel is a message that pulls passion out of us. If we learn to represent it rightly, preach and teach it well, we would get people passionate.
Pastor Raymond: When you help them see the power of the gospel lived out in everyday life, and the relevancy of the gospel to transform every facet of their lives, that excites them.
When they see that there is a much larger spiritual dimension, that excites them. Knowing there is a true reality, a life they can have beyond the one they have – that is passion-generating.
“What is one thing we can do to develop young leaders?”
Isaac: For me, the way I coach leaders is through deep friendship – having them walk with me wherever I go and whatever I do. It’s important not to see them as an assignment or project – they would know it as well.
Leadership requires heart and passion. It requires building a friendship, walking with them through a journey. So they’re not just hearing instructions, but seeing that their lives are being cared for.
And as they see how I lead them, they replicate or just want to bless as they have been blessed.
Hern Shung: My advice: Find your circle. Find that group of guys you can pour your life into.
What’s your capacity? If you only have capacity for one or two – then find that one or two. If 12 or 15, then 12 or 15.
Just bring them on a journey with you. You reproduce who you are. Help them catch what is on your heart. The Bible itself says:, “Follow me as I follow Christ”. That’s a model for me.
“Any last words or encouragement?”
Pastor Joel: Youth ministry is a long game. The win in youth ministry is not a packed-out hall or great numbers. The win in youth ministry comes 10, 15, 20 years later, when young people are serving Jesus, their families are in church, they’re plugging their kids in and serving. That’s the win in youth ministry.
And anything you can do to move someone just a little bit along on that long game – that’s a win.
Pastor Raymond: You will reap what you sow. When you sow your heart and your passion for this generation and the next, trust me, there will be a fruit you do not see immediately. Press on.
We work with the ultimate goal in mind, to meet with the Lord and hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant”.
Isaac Ong: Fix your eyes on Jesus and run with endurance. If you don’t feel the zeal and the passion sometimes, that’s okay. It’s important to run with endurance.
Make time for the secret place. Remember, your ministry is unto the Lord; make time so you can grow, are well-fed and safe with the Lord.
In youth ministry today, because of so many optics and eyeballs – there’s always a pressure to create a certain look for the youth ministry: “This amount of numbers, vibe or design.”
That can be a deep distraction to long-term discipleship. You do all these different things to look like you’re doing good youth ministry – but you’re actually not discipling well.
More than the likes and more than someone going “wah, your youth ministry looks awesome,” we work with the ultimate goal in mind.
To meet with the Lord and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant”.
- Describe your youth ministry with 3 words.
- Which of the panelists’ suggestions might you apply to your own church context?
- What is one practical way you can appreciate your leaders?