Artist JR through a mother's eyes in the bronx.

Raising the Bar

April 24, 2017 | Josh Johnson | Ministry

“We know how to be teenagers. We want [the church] to show us how to be adults.” Kristin, aged 17, from Raising the Bar: Ministry to Youth in the New Millennium by Alvin Reid

Our students today are constantly fighting to find a place they can gain a feeling of self-worth. No one likes to feel useless or unproductive. It often becomes easy to judge people we see in struggles and think their circumstances are strictly their fault. But far too often the students that walk through our doors have done nothing to choose the life they live. These students are a product of neglect, brokenness, and purposelessness. Students come to your ministry for this need; they want to feel relevant.

How do we make students feel relevant?

Far too often our world has watered down its expectation of young people. We chalk up every mistake, every question, and every small triumph as adolescence. Dr. Alvin Reid discusses this issue in his book Raising the Bar: Ministry to Youth in the New Millennium. In chapter 4, titled “Truth or Consequences,” he covers how the Bible treats the myth of adolescence. This idea is upside down from what the world expects: kids will be kids . . .well into their twenties! God expects our young people to be the church of today. This can only be done when we stop treating youth as children. When we read God’s Word, it addresses two groups: children and adults. There are no tweens, teens, or even youth groups with cleverly named programs. Instead we see in Scripture . . .

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11 HCSB

“Let no one despise your youth; instead, you should be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12 HCSB

Healthy youth ministry must include some form of expectation followed by accountability to meet those expectations.

Take a moment and honestly think of the youth ministry you were, are, or need to be a part of today. What can you do to change the thinking of how our youth are equipped for the kingdom? Will you equip our young adults for His kingdom?

Josh Johnson is the youth director at Graffiti 2 Community Ministries in the South Bronx of New York City.