A History Of Youth Ministry

The history of Youth Ministry is a remarkable journey. In some ways difficult to chronicle, but, exciting to research.
From Sunday School To Public School

It mostly began about 150+ years ago in the mid-1800's with Sunday Schools in the Church that began aged-group emphasis to youth for the training of young people in their Christian faith. Kind of the original 'small group' so prevalent in the modern Church today.

Along with this Sunday School model in the mid 19th century, we saw the YMCA movement in the cities of America that stirred the wave of para-church organizations working alongside the Church. The Y ministry placed Youth Ministry in a different setting outside the Church for the first time and began a public movement of Christianity in the marketplace. One of those organizations was Christian Endeavor, a major missions movement that impacted the world globally. 

In the mid-1900's, one of the leading para-church organizations that changed Youth Ministry was Youth For Christ (YFC). And YFC authored the beginning of hundreds of such organizations across America that would rise up about the same time as one of the most historic Christian movements in modern history was just beginning.

In the early 1970's, the West would see an awakening that stirred California and the rest of the country in many ways. We call it the Jesus Movement. A grass-roots awakening which started a cultural phenomenon that influenced a wave of young people into the Church. And with this wave came an increasing need to disciple these young converts.

Just before the turn of the century, in the 1990's, the Church saw another powerful wave of Youth Ministry spurred by a growing number of mega-churches and full-time Youth Ministry teams that placed a major emphasis upon the middle school, high school, and university campus. These Youth Leaders would stir a generation of young people to take their faith to the public schools and transform the way Youth Ministry was done in the Church. 

A Common Denominator In All Of This 

With all of that history aside, there is one thread that has never changed in Youth Ministry. The Volunteer. Because only about 80% of churches in America have a part-time or full-time paid Youth Pastor (Group Inc, Simply Youth Ministry, Youth Pastor.com), there is still a unique dynamic going on in Christianity. The volunteer Youth Leader.
The Volunteer Dynamic In Youth Ministry 
If we are going to turn the Church over to the next generation, we must place a greater emphasis upon Resourcing, Coaching, and Training our Youth Leaders and Youth Ministry. And where it is applicable, Resourcing, Coaching, and Training our Youth Leaders to mentor the many volunteers who work in the Church. Obviously, it depends on the size, the philosophy, and the mission of each Church. But, we cannot deny the great need for a Youth Ministry Leadership emphasis in America at this time. There is too much at stake.

With the alarming rate of young people leaving the Church after High School and University, it is apparent that the Church must be intentional about developing children from birth to graduation. While reading an article this past week by Dan Reiland, the leadership guru, I was struck by his comments that if we are going to enlist volunteers at any level of leadership we have to listen to them. Reiland speaks of the wealth of knowledge that our volunteers can give us if we would simply listen to them.
The future of Youth Ministry is being written still today. If the Lord tarries, what will it look like in 10 years? How does Church and Campus relate? What is the relationship between para-Church and local Church? As Forbes.com reported, there is no more fulfilling occupation than Youth Ministry (April, 2015).  For Youth Ministry to walk into a bright future we need quality Youth Leaders to be trained and released 
into para-Church in Church settings.