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Stop the insanity in youth ministry by asking the question “What if?”

Picture of Greg Stier
Greg Stier

Someone once defined insanity as “doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.” Isn’t this what typical youth ministry is doing? We have the same basic strategies as we did 30 years ago and we are getting the same basic results (maybe even less!)

Think about it this way, the typical youth ministry is an endless cycle of the same brand of camps and curriculums, the same basic pizza and programs, the same kinds of mission trips and messages. And it’s leading to the same kinds of results!


Have you ever had that nagging feeling down deep inside that something is wrong with youth ministry, that something big is missing in our strategies and philosophies? In moments of raw honesty countless youth leaders have confided in me that they’ve had that low hum of doubt in the depths of their souls at times.

But, instead of trying to discover what’s wrong and what’s missing, most just try harder. As a result many burn out, move on or just blindly choose to live in the cycle of insanity because they don’t know how to break it. 

So how do we stop the insanity in youth ministry? How do we turn the tide and actually start gaining ground when it comes to reaching what Barna calls the first post Christian generation in the history of the United States?

If we want to stop the insanity we must start reading the Gospels and book of Acts from a youth ministry perspective. We must look at Jesus at the ultimate prototype for a youth leader and the disciples as the ultimate example of what a youth group could look like. We must start looking for the key elements that made the early church so effective at making and multiplying disciples (and I guarantee it wasn’t having the coolest youth room in town!) We must reimagine the entire system of youth ministry, not just in light of the culture, but in light of the Scriptures!

And, as we read these passages of God’s Word we must start asking the question, “What if?”

What if we fused our discipleship and evangelism efforts together like Jesus did with his disciples? In Matthew 4:19-20 Jesus permanently welded together our evangelism and discipleship efforts when he told his young fisherman followers, “Come, follow me…and I will send you out to fish for people.”

What if we helped teenager understand that sharing the Gospel was the inevitable consequence of following Jesus?

What if we embraced the reality that the best way to get teenagers to grow in their faith was to mobilize them to go share their faith? If you think about how Jesus ran his “youth group” of mostly teenaged disciples it was more missions trip than Sunday school.

What if we rebranded the Great Commission as the Greatest Cause ever and helped every believing teenager embrace this cause as their very own? When Jesus told his disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations” in Matthew 28:19 he was entrusting them with the Greatest Cause ever. This yet-to-be-fully-completed Cause of making disciples everywhere has been handed down over the centuries to every new generation of believers.

It is our duty to pass this Cause on to Generation Z, the current generation of teenagers. The good news is that this is a cause-centric generation. From stopping human trafficking to eradicating poverty to building water wells, teenagers today want to make a difference. And there’s nothing that will enable them to make more of a difference than the cause of making and multiplying disciples worldwide!

What if we harnessed the average teenager’s digital prowess to accelerate the spread of the Gospel? Just like the early church took advantage of a common worldwide language (Koine Greek) and highways that were made safe by Roman rule (Pax Romana) to take the Gospel “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8), we must help teenagers utilize social media and the internet to spread the Good News around the world.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries John Wesley and Francis Asbury led thousands of “circuit riders“, many of them teenagers, to take the Gospel on horseback to the unreached parts of America. They established bands and societies that helped forge and form the new believers into fully committed followers of Jesus. From this the Methodist movement was born and a nation was reborn as a Christian one.

What if we mobilized our teenagers to become circuit riders of a different kind?

What if we challenged them to use their social networking platforms to proclaim the good news to their online friends? 

What if we equipped them to use SnapChat, Instagram, group chats and face-to-face conversations to spread the Gospel to every teen everywhere?

What if we infused a storytelling culture into youth ministry like Paul and Barnabas did in Acts 15:4?

What if every week teenagers shared stories of other teenagers they were engaging in Gospel conversations?

What if we made prayer a true priority in our lives and ministries?

What if we programmed times of prayer into our programs and nights of prayer onto our calendars?

What if this prayer included intercessory prayer for the lost like Paul instructed his younger protege in 1 Timothy 2:1-4.

What if the most fun we had in our youth ministry was not from games played but from parties thrown in honor of all the new believers being added to your numbers daily (Acts 2:47)?

What if our youth ministries went off script at times and we set aside typical curriculum in exchange for raw Q & A sessions with our teenagers?

What if questions about God, sexuality, identity, the exclusivity of Christ, salvation, other beliefs and the reliability of Scripture dominated our best youth ministry nights?

If you think about it the entire book of 1 Corinthians is basically Paul addressing some very specific questions that the Corinthians had. These questions ranged from decorum in worship to Christian lawsuits to questions about sexuality to spiritual gifts to how to deal with disputable issues like eating meat sacrificed to idols. It was the A part of a Q & A session.

What if we followed Paul’s lead and answered questions that teenagers were actually asking?

What if no question was out of bounds because the Word of God and the Spirit of God was our guide?

What if we were honest enough with our teenagers that, when we  didn’t know the the answers to their questions, we invited them back the next week so we could have time to find the answers in Scripture?

What if we invited our teenagers to search the Scriptures with us to help find the answers?

What if our teenagers prayed in youth group as much as they played in youth group ?

What if we gave the gospel as consistently as we gave announcements?

What if our student leaders were the ones leading the students when it came to making and multiplying disciples?

What if our adult leaders were setting the pace for the teenagers when it came to prayer, evangelism and disciple making?

At Dare 2 Share we are witnessing God raise up youth leaders from around the world who have decided to stop the insanity by asking the question “What if?” So far, over 6,000 youth workers have said “YES!” to becoming Gospel Advancing leaders by turning these “what if” questions into real world reality through the power of the Holy Spirit!

But more youth leaders are needed! After all, there are one billion teenagers worldwide, most of whom have not yet experienced the life-transforming, soul-saving, darkness-eradicating power of the Gospel!

What if you made the courageous decision to become one of these Gospel Advancing leaders?

What if you decided to stop the insanity by clicking here and sealing your decision to join the global Gospel Advancing movement? 

There’s a great line in the movie Braveheart where Stephen, an Irishman who wants to join William Wallace’s army of Scottish rebels, is called insane by one of Wallace’s fellow warriors. Stephen starts laughing (of course, like a crazy man) and then says, “I’ve come to the right place then!” And they all start laughing and welcome him in.

If you’re ready to stop the insanity in youth ministry and start a new kind of crazy…you’ve come to the right place!

Unlikely Fighter

#1 new release in Evangelism on Amazon

The story of how a fatherless street kid overcame violence, chaos, and confusion to become a radical Christ follower.

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