Here is an article I came across and through that it articulated the evangelism and discipleship tension very well. It is something that is on my mind a lot. enjoy the read and comment here if you would like or at the youth specialties blog (link at the end)
I attend a church plant in the Mid-City area of San Diego. It’s a neighborhood filled with hard-working immigrants from all over the world. That part probably isn’t surprising. But this is: My family joined a church without a youth ministry! Up until this point, the priorities of the church haven’t focused on youth ministry. Some mentorship sprang up organically and some short-term stuff was done which were both primarily organic and the result of pursuing other priorities. But there really wasn’t anything you could point to and say, “This is how Harbor reaches adolescents.”
Yesterday, I sat down with a couple pastors from the church to talk about launching a youth ministry this Fall. As much as I’m a youth ministry nut, I agreed with them that up until this point– youth ministry didn’t need to be a priority. There are plenty of other excellent ministries doing a good job in our area among adolescents. This allowed them to focus on reaching other people who weren’t being reached. But now, for a lot of obvious reasons, this is the right time.
As we talked, we talked about designing something that complimented their vision for the church. Creating a ministry leadership that is sustainable, a ministry that meets practical needs, a ministry that complimented the parachurch ministries instead of competed with them, and a few other things you’d expect from 3 guys dreaming about youth ministry over tacos, rice, beans.
For me, a key part of this conversation was understanding what the church wanted to get out of having a youth group. Having done youth ministry for all of my adult life I know that every church leadership team has both stated expectations and unstated expectations. The stated ones are always big and obvious. But the unstated ones take some digging.
The Teeter Totter
Here’s how I understand youth ministry in the church. Maybe this is jaded, but it’s been my experience. As much as we’d like to be an equal, complimentary balance between evangelism and discipleship, it always plays out that one wins. Either evangelism or discipleship becomes the default home. Typically, people of the church desire a ministry heavy on discipleship. Typically, the vision of the church calls for an evangelism focused ministry. And typically the youth worker lives in that tension of seeking a little bit of both.