10 myths that need busting in Youth Ministry, 10 that need to be circulated

Over time, stories become myths and legends are created, and there are stories of people, and good that is worth fighting for, or something like this says Samwise Gamgee in Lord of the Rings. And over time, tales become myths, become legends in youth ministry. And there is still good worth fighting for, but even some of the those myths especially within youth ministry might need revising and busting, or new one created…

So here are 20 myths in Youth Ministry that need busting:

  1. There were golden eras in Youth Ministry. Some eras had large attending sunday schools (1700’s), some created ministries (60’s), some managed to get young people to festivals (90’s) – but golden era?
  2. Youth Ministry is easy. Its not. Think of it as an ongoing drama.
  3. Youth Ministry is well understood by the church.
  4. In youth ministry you will be valued, and regarded just like a minister (hahahahahaha)
  5. Youth Ministry is all up front, being witty and funny to a bunch of impressionable (ahem gullable..?) young people and singing songs. Nope, its emails, admin, planning, and getting stuck into the grind, youth ministry needs to work on a wet night in november, not just the summer festivals and gatherings.
  6. Your resources will work.
  7. Young people will change a generation – nope the cultural impacts with dilute these as soon as a young person leaves the gathering, and even if they did – how would you measure it? 
  8. Generationalisms – if we understand a universal culture (gen x, Y, Z, millenials  aarrgh, ) then youth ministry will be able to adapt. Nope, young people are context driven, and thats where research should be. if at all.
  9. professional is better than voluntary. Nope, professional help to help volunteers maybe. but unless you have more than 15 young people and have resources to help the youth worker connect in the local area, then stick to volunteers, however old they are.
  10. Bigger is better. Nope. Small churches with the right culture create far more opportunities for young people to thrive, as they have more space to ‘do things’. Its the culture not the size that matters.

From a different angle, the following are 10 myths that need to be circulated a little more…..

  1. Parents are still the most important people in a young persons life, even when friend might be said to get as important

  2. You are not the only person to help a young person think about spiritual matters. You arent. You might want to think you are, but you’re not. And even if you are, there might be a next person, so make it easier for them. 

  3. We dont need to be on the internet to find young people. 

  4. The church is not a barrier.Its history might be, the people inside it might be, its reputation might be, or what happened there that scared young people off might be. But on their terms young people might opt in to going inside one. 

  5. Events with posters work. 

  6. Theology is important and young people might quite like to be challenged with it. 

  7. Being Managed by a vicar is not a bed of roses, it takes work. 

  8. The more you give young people the more receptive they are. Nope, the more you give them, the more they want. 

  9. Being a youth worker must be fun because thats what being in youth group was all about. 

  10. Young people need someone young to relate to them. 

As a youthworker ive heard many of these, or certainly words to this effect. Usually they’re said to justify how important the ministry is; like ‘if we dont tell a young person about Jesus, no one else will’ or from churches who repeat the same thing about getting a young person in to relate to young people. The thing about myths is that they get circulated around easily, and at one point in one situation they might well have been true, or interpreted as such. In the christian faith, some circulate without a shred of evidence, or even with any realism, because its been a myth for so long. Like the one about parents not being important to a young person beyond 14-18, is simply not true. And the events with posters, even events with facebook event pages – have been known for ages, all posters are are a reminder for those who were coming already. There are a few exceptions.

So – any other myth in Youth Ministry that you think need to be busted? or what about myths that need starting?  like positive ‘chinese’ whispers amongst youth workers…



Author: James

Currently I work part time for both Frontier Youth Trust (www.fyt.org.uk) and Communities Together Durham (www.communitiestogetherdurham.org) and am also self employed and do various aspects of youthwork consultancy, including training, writing, lecturing, seminars and written pieces, including organisational consultancy, community profiling and detached/youthwork training. Please do get in touch if I can be of help to you in your church, project or organisation to develop your youth and community work. I have contributed to 'Here be Dragons (2013), and two recent articles in the youth and theology journal and 'ANVIL' the CMS online journal. My recent employment includes, working for FYT as a youthwork development adviser, being the centre director at Durham YFC, and before this I was known as 'Mr Sidewalk' as I was the project coordinator for the Sidewalk Project in Perth, where I facilitated the delivery of 5 years of detached youthwork on the streets, schools and communities to engage with young people , and support through alcohol misuse issues. In 2017 I completed an MA in Theology & Ministry at St John's College, Durham, and in 2008 graduated from ICC (now NTC Glasgow) with an honours degree in youth work with Applied theology.

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