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Why Youth Ministry Now

Zion Deacon Board - April 20, 2023

As a leadership, we have identified an urgent need for investing in youth ministry from three vantage points:

First, we see the need in the community. Current youth ministry research is painting a picture not just of cultural decline over the last 30 years or even 10 years, but a radical cultural shift that has taken place in just the last 3 years since the beginning of COVID lockdowns. Known cultural trends that gravely concerned the church have been exponentially accelerated. Even in the minds of professional researchers, we’re 15 years ahead of where we thought we’d be. And the trends aren’t improving. Our parents, teachers, and students are seeing those same trends here. Across America, we’re seeing dramatic increases in:

  • Family and social instability

  • Patterns of social isolation

  • Technology use and screen time

  • Loss of purpose and belonging

  • Lack of motivation to grow

  • Depression and anxiety

  • Porn use and sexting

  • Personal and sexual identity crises

  • Alcohol and substance abuse

  • Suicide attempts

Cultural winds were already blowing hard against those families and youth who are spiritually minded. Now, it can seem hopeless. As much as we may want to return to the familiar ground of youth ministry 30, 10, or even 3 years ago, that ground simply does not exist anymore. The mission field is outside our door.

Many came to Tioga after the last oil boom and stayed to raise their families. These young families and youth struggle to find connection and belonging. Their world is secular, inconsistent, anxious, isolated, and ultimately too busy for Jesus. Ironically, they’ve never needed Him more.

Our children lack consistent and authentic relationships. Our students lack identity and purpose. Our parents lack community and support. Yet for all of them, the greatest need is a Savior who orients their life to the hope, purpose, and grace of the cross.

Second, we see the need in the congregation. Zion’s youth ministry has been emphasized in the history of our congregation. Yet in addition to the steep aforementioned challenges faced by ministries everywhere, Zion faced other transitional challenges in the space of the last few years:

  • Zion’s youth director left and maintenance of youth ministry programming was a struggle.

  • Facility construction and COVID further interrupted patterns of youth ministry.

  • Enough time elapsed that the core group had aged-out as YFC became a new hub for youth.

In 2022, Zion identified youth ministry as a priority ministry focus based on discussion, surveys, and planning for a pastoral search.

Since the call of Pastor Chris Kumpula, this priority has been confirmed. Parents of youth, our teachers, and the youth themselves have all spoken to the urgent need for returning to Zion’s roots in youth ministry. There is shared concern for the discipleship of children and youth such that their faith is durable enough to last past school into adulthood. Furthermore, youth ministry unites our ministries in a healthy way by making living, lasting faith the focus of what we do as a church.

Third, we see the need in the leadership. The need to approach youth ministry comprehensively and consistently is clear to us. Over 75% of Christians 18-29 years old will leave the church. Youth ministry must be comprehensive in viewing the road of spiritual development from early childhood all the way through mature adulthood. Youth ministry must be consistent in providing a venue for discipleship and relationship building that prioritizes connections between youth and spiritually mature adults. This requires time, energy, and expertise that challenges our current capacity. We readily recognize that the ministry responsibilities shouldered by Pastor Chris prohibit him from providing the sort of comprehensive and consistent support necessary to successful youth ministry. We want to encourage faith in youth that will last.

Over 75% of Christians 18-29 years old will LEAVE the church.

As a result, we are recommending to the congregation that we move forward with investing in our youth ministry program by pursuing necessary additional staff. We recognize the value of having someone focused and dedicated to youth and family ministry for the growth and future health of our congregation. Please be in prayer as we take small steps and plan bigger ones together as a congregation focused on showing the love of Jesus through what we teach and do. -Zion Deacon Board


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