There are three types of youth ministries that can describe 99% of all youth groups today. Of the three, one of them has the substance to develop students that become humble servants that lead in the Kingdom of Heaven. I am a firm believer that the atmosphere of a youth ministry is directly reflective upon leadership; and too many times, us leaders rely on our own godly, yet selfish ambitions to pave the way for the next youth revival. I want to discuss the three main types of ministry, the forces that drive them, and what can be done to make each one better.

TYPE ONE:  The Babysitter’s Club

There is nothing in youth ministry that urks me more than a teenage nursery in church. Call it what you want, but these are the ministries that really have no ministry at all. The leadership serves as chaperones, the kids show up because they have to, and the best time of the year is when the group returns from Acquire the Fire, Youth Camp or some other event where someone else ministered to them. I know this sounds harsh, but I know all too well the effects (or lack there of) of this type of ministry.

The problem – Babysitter ministries do nothing to disciple their kids. They may have some cool hang out nights and go on some rockin trips, but there is no mentoring, discipling or commissioning of any type. Kids are taught that nothing is really expected of them spiritually until they are an adult. Sadly, the college years are the most trying times for a Christian to become rooted in their faith.

The solution – Form some discipleship groups. Let the kids hang around leadership one-on-one. Hold them accountable not only for sin in their lives, but also to the relationship that they desire to have with Christ. Teenagers seek truth, companionship and affirmation. They thrive on the now and can be propelled into a stronger, deeper walk with the Lord if they are pushed in a healthy way.

TYPE TWO: WE love Jesus yes we do, WE love Jesus, How about you?

I know, long subtitle…but stick with me. The typical “Type Two” group usually has a strong leader that is favored by most of the group. They have already implemented many of the discipleship classes, group trips, retreats and maybe even some outreaches. Kids enjoy bringing their friends to youth because it is fun and they are proud of the group they are a part of. These ministries usually grow fairly strong, but are often undermined by political correctness and parent/elder politics. There are boundaries as to what is expected. New youth pastors can feel accountable to the habits of youth pastors past, and often are held in a shadow of comparison, causing them to feel as though they have to “perform” well.

The problem – While soaring in the area of unity, organization and relevance, these youth ministries still lack a fire and passion that sparks revival in schools and communities. It is nothing to be ashamed of, as few youth ministries achieve such a fervor and audacity. However, it is completely attainable and should be strived for.

The solution – Teens need to be challenged. Push them to the limits by implementing a street or school witnessing program. Hold passionate prayer meetings in which the purpose is not only to pray for others, but also to soak in the presence of the Almighty God. Purposefully place them in situations that stretch them. Let them teach a Sunday School class, let them organize an outreach, let them pray for their peers one-on-one. It is this type of hands-on ministry that builds faith, confidence and passion in the hearts and minds of teenagers.

TYPE THREE: Energizer Bunnies

The Energizer Bunnies are the youth ministries that are few and far between. They are completely sustainable despite who their youth pastor is, as the youth know that their identity lies in Christ rather than a ministry. There are no expectations other than for the presence of God to show up in their services. They literally carry light into a dark world through hands-on ministry, and the countenance of the teenagers is unlike most.

Room for Improvements – No one is perfect. We all need fine tuning, tweaking and pruning to become more like Christ. These ministries should take it up a notch. Implement or refer older teens to internships. Partner with other ministries around the world and pray for each other on a regular basis (maybe via skype?). Most importantly, build relationships with other youth ministries. Set denomination and church politics aside (kids hate that stuff anyway) and let teens do what they do best: interact. Try organizing a city-wide retreat or rally that forces teens from multiple churches to come together, meet and connect. You know that dynamic you get when you come back from camp and kids are ready to take over the world? Imagine if that experience stretched beyond the borders of youth group and into other ministries around the city. Imagine for one second the impact that would have on a school of young people who are connecting, building godly relationships and holding each other accountable for their actions!

I know that not all youth ministries fall into one of these categories, and many may cross borders with traits in more than one category. In all honesty, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is finding the weaknesses and eliminating them. My goal here is not to make generalizations. Instead, it is my heart (and I imagine yours too) to see revival come to this generation. I want to see them fall relentlessly in love with their Savior, willing to follow boldly after Him.