Youth ministry has become a common area of outreach and discipleship in modern churches. However, separate ministries for youth do not appear to have been common in the early churches of the New Testament. Instead, most church gatherings met in houses with entire families in less formal services than those of today.
Yet the Bible does say much that is important about ministering to teenagers. First Timothy 4:12 especially notes, "Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity." Teenagers are to live by example as young followers of Jesus.
In addition, teenagers have many of the same spiritual needs as adults. These include the need to know Christ personally by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), to grow in understanding of God's truth (2 Timothy 3:16-17), to serve others, to enjoy friendships with other believers (Acts 2:42), and to learn how to share their faith with others.
The overall goal of youth ministry should resemble that of the church—a focus on honoring God through making disciples, or fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), and living out the Great Commandment, loving God and loving people (Matthew 22:37-40). For teenagers, mentoring can also play a large role in this process. The apostle Paul provided and taught this type of training with Timothy: "What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Timothy 2:2).
Another biblical principle relevant to youth ministry can be found in 1 Corinthians 12. In this chapter, Paul compares believers in the church to different parts of a human body. Every part is important, and there is no part that is more important than another part. When teenagers are cared for and given ministry opportunities in the local church, they can grow as "part of the body" and feel like an essential part of God's work in the local church.
Finally, 1 Timothy 5 offers instructions for various groups of people in the local church. Verses 1-2 state, "Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity." Church leaders are to treat younger men as brothers and younger women as sisters. The youth of our church are our family members. They are not just another ministry, but are an essential part of our church family.
Youth ministry has grown into a more developed area of service in many of today's churches than in biblical times. However, the same biblical principles apply as with any area of ministry—making disciples, serving God and others, personal growth, living as part of the body of Christ, and being seen as an essential part of the family of God.
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