What Does the Bible Say About "Youth Ministry?"

A Young Billy Graham

What Does the Bible Say About Youth Ministry?

The Bible doesn’t address “youth ministry.” Youth Ministry is a phenomenon of the 20th Century, though an important one.
The word “adolescent” wasn’t coined until about 1942. At least three major historical movements led “Youth Ministry” as we know it.

1) The Industrial Revolution and Challenging Economic Times for Families Led Children Into the Work Force Where they Faced Adult Situations and Adult Temptations.

Times were tough in the 1800s and 1900s. People were scratching a living in order to survive, and this often led to the need for children to work on their farms and in their homes. Then, as the Industrial Revolution occurred, it offered more jobs and the opportunity for making money and upward mobility. Lots of children entered the work force.
Keep in mind that most kids at this time had little education and few educational opportunities. Plus ‘public school’ as we now know it didn’t exist in most places. So kids got very little education on average, unless they were wealthy.
Portrait of a child laborer standing between a spinning loom and a window at a cotton mill.  The young girl wears tattered work clothes. North America 1909
Portrait of a child laborer standing between a spinning loom and a window at a cotton mill. The young girl wears tattered work clothes.
North America
The lack of child labor laws and the sheer need for income led to many kids moving into the workplace.
As these kids were exposed to adults, they were exposed to adult situations. This forced them to grow up quickly.
It also led to lots of stress and the opportunity to make mistakes. This led to an enormous upswing in lifestyle issues, moral problems, and challenges with working young people. There became a growing conviction that there was a problem and that something needed done.

2) More Educational Opportunities For Young People Delayed Their Move Into Full Adult Society and Its Responsibilities.

Even though children grew up and matured into adults throughout history, it wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution and on into the Early 20th Century that there rose a need for more highly-trained people to serve in larger companies as managers. This led to more and more people making the decision to pursue formal education in hopes of even higher paying jobs as, because, for the first time in U.S. history, a “Middle Class” was rising.
Prior to more people going to college, there were simply the “haves” and “have nots.” But the opportunities and needs resulting from the Industrial Revolution led to more production and the growth of industry, resulting in large businesses. These large businesses required middle-management positions. All this led to higher tiers of income and entirely new working classes, from Blue Collar, to Gray Collar, and White Collar.
But getting an education took time. So more and more children began delaying entering the workforce as kids and continued though grade school and high school, with some also entering college. In addition, because corporations had been abusing child laborers for decades, laws began keeping children from working as much. As as result, they were not intermingling as much with grown adults and being forced to “grow up.”
In 1925, the release of public tax funds (US v. School District No. 1 of Kalamazoo, MI) allowed more children to get education, because it was now being offered for everyone and paid for by U.S. taxpayers.
Before long, school attendance became ‘compulsory.’ When that happened, kids were systematically delayed from entering adult life and the work force until later.
The outcome of that was young people entered a period where they did not move from “childhood” into “adulthood” quite so rapidly. This leisure and time to grow up more slowly without adult responsibilities soon resulted in a sociological phenomenon called “adolescence.”

3) Delayed Adulthood (for those not going into the work force and spending more time in school) Resulted in Young People Having More Identity Crises and Moral Challenges.

Because more and more children were not moving directly into adult life with adult responsibilities (full work weeks, job responsibilities, hard labor, early marriages, and having children while still in their teens), they had time to develop and mature.
But because they didn’t yet have ‘careers’ and were increasingly going away from family-based trades they had done for generations, more began to struggle with their identities: “Who am I?” “What am I going to do?” “Where will I live?” “Will I make it?” These identity crises led to stress and struggle. Also, with teenagers with adult bodies and adult urges but child-like responsibilities and delayed adulthood, this increasingly became a time of moral struggles, experimentation, and often ‘excess.’
As kids were sometimes able to have childhood responsibilities (not work) but adult freedoms (living on their parents’ money while they went to school), this responsibility-freedom imbalance began to cause problems. Young people and early adults were increasingly struggling with behavioral issues, sexual struggles, alcohol problems, and more.

Enter Youth Ministry

All this led to organizations coming into existence to help young people.
From the Society of Christian Endeavor to other Temperance Societies, to the Boys Clubs and Girls Clubs, to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the YMCA and YWCA, Sunday Schools, Singing Schools, and denominational camps and recreation ministries, there was a growing specialization in ministering to young people.
So “ministries to youth” became ‘a thing’ and grew rapidly. By the early 1900s, educational institutions recognized the need to help equip youth workers, so academic programs started developing to train them. That led to a growth of literature in this area.
With academic degrees, a growing literature base, and more and more jobs in the field… “Youth Ministry” as a profession was born. This began to really happen in the 1920s, and it soon exploded in the 1940s-50s-60s-70s and beyond.


15 Reasons Teens and Emerging Adults Should Work

Photo courtesy Ryan McGuire, credit, gratisography, Why Teenagers Should Work 

Fifteen Reasons Teenagers Should Work a Significant Number of Hours at a Job

I have two sons I’m really proud of. They’re both teenagers at this time, and both have jobs. So this post shouldn’t necessarily be interpreted as targeting them—or any one else in particular. Even so, we were recently discussing this issue in our home. Specifically—why “working more hours” is important. And I jotted down some ideas. The family thought it would be a good idea to share it with others, so I decided to place this post here. I hope it creates some good discussion in your home. I suggest you share it with your working-age children (or that teens and young adults themselves read it), and then discuss some of the questions at the end.

  1. To Prepare to Be in the Majority Population. At the end of the age of minority (children are “minors” until 18) when a man or woman reaches the age of majority, life and society forces them to take on “adult” responsibility. The options in adult life are either education (temporarily) or employment or both. Either way, you’re heading toward “employment” and all future employment rests on past employment—so experience is critical for future work. To become an adult, we don’t just “turn 18.” Becoming an adult isn’t only reaching a biological age. Being an adult is as much sociological as biological. Sociologically, being an adult means that society TELLS YOU you’re an adult. Society treats you like an adult. And if you don’t live like one, then society will consider you a ManChild or WomanChild. Becoming an adult is like turning on a light—but not a “light switch”… a light “dimmer.” A light dimmer is turned up slowly and the light increasingly comes on, until it’s bright/full. That’s how adulthood is. We don’t just ‘become’ an adult at a specific age. Like a dimmer switch, we become adults over time as we increasingly exhibit grown-up behaviors and take on adult responsibilities.
  2. To Get Good Future Work References. Your significant employment provides businesses and bosses the opportunity to really get to know you and your work ethic. That’s how you form a “track record” and it’s how you get people willing to give you ‘references’ for future employment. Without references you’re not going to get a good job because “past performance is the best indicator of future success.”
  3. Because Little or No Work Doesn’t Teach Us Much. Inadequate number of hours working doesn’t interrupt your life enough to learn the lessons that employment teaches. There are 168 hours in a week. 5 hours of work doesn’t interrupt it very much. That’s only 1/34 of a week! But if a student works 40 hours during summer—that’s a little more than 20%. That is enough to get someone’s attention and actually teach them something. No pain, no gain.
  4. Because Teens Want More Than Their Parents Are Responsible to Give. Working provides money to provide for the increased cost of “experiences” and “wants” that teenagers have that go beyond basic needs for which parents are responsible. Parents can’t and shouldn’t provide everything teens want. That only makes “entitled brats.” Instead, teens and young adults/emerging adults should “learn to earn.” Then they can have their needs AND lots of their wants.
  5. To Get a Financial Education. Earning, spending, and saving money provides teenagers the real-life financial education (the value of money, the value of “wants” and “experiences” versus their cost, etc.) they need in only a few months or years that they would not get if they only learned about finance “hypothetically.”
  6. To Complement Formal Education with Life Experience. The best incomes and jobs with the best benefits go to those with strong work experience, because years of education without years of real-life work is still an “incomplete” education.
  7. To Save Money For Needs Just Around the Corner. Significant work can produce savings for the very near future when extra money will be needed. That money that can be saved is an amount of money you won’t be able to make during the few weeks or months before “you need it.” Before too long you’ll need money for your own cell phone service, a new cell phone purchase, apartment deposit, apartment rent, car maintenance and fixes, graduate school, moving expenses, travel and entertainment— all of which get much more expensive as an adult. These are things you, not your parents, are responsible for when you become an adult. So the options you have are to prepare now and have those needed funds or work little or none and live in poverty and in need, without nearly any of your wants or desires—or even necessities. You can’t just have the money for adult life the moment or months before you decide you have to get ready for life on your own.
  8. To Demonstrate Responsibility. It’s a way to demonstrate to a future spouse and their parents that you are responsible, and that you are capable of contributing to the survival of you and your spouse. For the guys: If you aren’t, then you’re not ready for marriage—because that shows you’re not a man… you’re still a boy if you can’t take care of yourself. And you certainly aren’t a man ready for marriage if you don’t demonstrate that you can take care of a wife and household needs. Not demonstrating responsibility will result in disrespect from future would-be parents-in-law, and probable loss of a good woman, since she feels insecure about whether or not you can do Job 1 of being a man (take care of her). So you’ll lose her to _______ (that guy) because “at least he can take care of me.” I have sons, so I’m speaking to that issue. If you have daughters, that’s something to consider how to articulate to them.
  9. To Show Self-Respect and Honor Parents. It’s a way to demonstrate self-respect that you can be responsible and begin to take care of yourself and your wants and needs as an emerging adult, and that you can honor your parents by showing them they prepared you to be a responsible adult.
  10. To Learn Personal Management. Work helps you learn to balance life responsibilities. It helps you manage your time better. After you learn better personal/time management, you realize you have more time than you ever thought you would—and you can be a better steward of your time. And “time” equals “life” because time is all that life is made of. So when you handle your time better, you handle your life better—and you become better at being a steward of your life. That helps you actually live for something and for your life to “mean” something because you learn to accomplish things of importance because you learned to juggle all the responsibilities of life and still make time for work AND still make time for your dreams and what is important to you.
  11. To Increase Personal Intensity Enough to Perform Better. We perform better when there’s at least a little pressure. Studies have shown that teens who work (up to hours) during school (and, arguably, even more during summers) earn higher grades than students who don’t work at all. That’s because their better work ethic helps them perform better.
  12. To Prove To Themselves What They’re Capable Of. Work is called “industry.” Industry is positive and productive work. Work is good because industry gives people a sense of accomplishment which convinces them that they’re capable of doing things—and of attempting even bigger things.
  13. Because Work is Good— and Good for You. God created work and it’s good for you. God created work for Adam and Eve before even the sin in the Garden of Eden, so work isn’t bad… it’s always been a part of God’s plan, because it teaches us things we can’t learn apart from doing it.
  14. Because They’ll Realize That Money Equals Choices. More significant work hours produces more income. More income produces a higher standard of living because money = choices/options and money = greater financial freedom.
  15. Because It Helps Them Be More Successful in Career-Choosing. Part-time jobs can help you identify your long-term future career. When you do certain jobs you learn more about yourself and the types of things you are good at and aren’t good at. You learn what you like and what you don’t. Not so much whether you like flipping burgers or not, but whether you are good at certain skills and you develop skills you wouldn’t have apart from those jobs. Those skills help you prepare for your career and help you on your way to knowing yourself which, in turn, helps you know what you might be good at in a career. That helps you not be as stressed about your future career, and not to be completely lost on what you might want to do in life, and helps you not flounder around for years in early adulthood because you have no idea what you want to do in life.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are 2-3 of these principles that make the most sense to you as a teenager/emerging adult? Discuss.
  2. What 2-3 of these make the most sense to you as a parent? Explain.
  3. What principles would you as a teenager/emerging adult like to hear more about or have better explained?
  4. What are some areas of growth that you as a teenager/young adult can take on in this area?
  5. What are some things you as a parent can do to help your teenager/emerging adult be ready for adulthood?
  6. What are the effects if you, as a parent, don’t help your maturing children take responsibility in these areas?
  7. What are possible outcomes in your teenagers’ lives if they don’t learn these lessons?

Freddy Cardoza