Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Youth Min vs. Student Min

Youth Group--The designated term given to any church program that takes place Wednesday Nights for students in the grade range of 6th-12th.

Movie night at the church for 8th graders at 7pm? Youth Group.

Small group discussion time for 12th graders at 6:15? Youth Group.

Game night for middle schoolers? Youth Group.

I don’t have a problem with the term youth, or the term group, it’s the fusing of these terms that irks me. Let me tell you why.

Let’s start with the word youth. 6th-12th graders are lumped into this category and are defined as youth in churches across America. For continuity sake across denominational lines I guess this is helpful, but I think that is the only benefit of using this word. 

Youth- The main reason why I abhor the word youth is that across America, youth is mostly used inside the four walls of the church. Otherwise in schools and in community events they are typically referred to as teenagers, or students. Since our job in the local church is to penetrate souls of individuals in culture, I think we should use terminology that is used by the souls of the individuals in that very culture.

Group- Secondly, the word group indicates staleness. Most groups have a tendency to be closed off, small-ish in mentality and size, and insider focused.  Similar to that of country clubs, small groups, supper clubs, senior citizen centers, book groups, etc.  As you can see, most of these “groups” in our culture are inwardly focused.

Now you are probably thinking, “Ok, so youth group, it’s just semantics, who cares, we’re not a culturally disconnected inwardly focused assembly, so it’s fine to keep up what we’re already doing.”

To an extent I would say, yes, it is semantics. But however, if you make a big deal of not using that term because you have a reason, I will contend it begins to indicate a mind-set shift.  When you start to call yourself a student ministry, as opposed to a youth group, you can start to show that you have a vision.  Not using the term “Youth Group” is more than just a pet peeve of mine, it is an intentional, missional, conscious decision that defines our reason for existence.

A “Student Ministry” attempts to regularly connect with culture, and it is concerned about reaching out to students who don’t know Christ.

Matthew 28:18-20 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you, and surely I am with you, even to the very end of the age.”

We are given a commission to go, not to be a closed off collection of adolescents who are more focused on inside jokes than the eternal destination of their friend’s souls.

That is why I chose to use the term Student Ministry.

What do you have to say about it? What terms does your ministry typically use? Is there another one that I’m not thinking about?

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