A couple blogs ago, I wrote a blog on a defense of youth ministry. Many people believe youth ministry to be un-helpful, wrong, or un-needed in the church, especially the way that most youth ministry is done today. In this, I would agree that many churches do youth ministry wrong and therefore give youth ministry a bad rap. However, if youth ministry is seen as an arm of the church and the church leadership is committed to making disciples of the youth in their church, then youth ministry is a great ministry. Let me encourage you to go read my blog again and see why I believe youth ministry (when done right) is necessary.
Today, I want to springboard off my defense of youth ministry to what are the essential to youth ministry. If we are going to do youth ministry in the church, what are the necessary components that we need to do youth ministry that give honor and glory to God? Over the next few blogs I write, I want to look at four key essentials. Today I start with regular prayer.
Generally speaking, prayer is an absolute necessity of the Christian’s new life in Christ. It is not a ritual that keeps us in right standing before God (Matt 6:7-8), but, as John Bunyan defines prayer, “prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised or according to His Word, for the good of the Church, with submission in faith to the will of God.” Additionally, prayer should be persistent (Luke 11:1-13; 18:1-18) and regular (Eph 6:18; Phil 4:6; Col 4:2,12; 1 Thess 5:17). If a Christian ignores this vital part of their new-born spiritual life, I would say they need to take a long, intent look at their spiritual life, because (1) it is a common mark of their election (Luke 18:7; Rom 8:15), (2) it is the pattern of all the saints of the Bible (e.g., David, Daniel, the Apostles), and (3) prayerlessness is a characteristic of the wicked (Ps 14:4).
Since prayer is critical in the Christian life generally, it should be critical in the life of any ministry that is done for the glory of God; including youth ministry. Youth pastors and youth leaders/volunteers should be in regular prayer in two directions:
(1) for students: this is the flock which has been entrusted to youth ministers, therefore praying for them should be regular. This mean praying for the group as a whole, as well as praying for students individually. Youth pastors need to be praying for salvation and sanctification in their students. He also needs to be asking for prayer requests and taking every one of the requests seriously before the throne of God, then follow up with the student to see where God has answered or need of continued prayer. May I encourage youth leaders, at this point, to work on getting prayer request that are about the students and their immediate family only. Yes, the family dog is important to them. Yes, their friend’s friend is having a math final to get into a prestigious college next week. However, none of these are about the student. Get into their lives and pray for them and their immediate influence (family) before your get requests about something or someone else. I can’t tell you how many times students (and parents) have appreciated me doing this throughout the years. It shows that you genuinely care for them individually. This intentional seeking of individual prayer will knit your heart closer to them as you continue in regular prayer for them.
(2) for the student’s parents: this is a HUGE part of youth ministry. As I stated in my last blog, youth ministry in the church serves the parents because youth ministry comes alongside the parents to shepherd the students. Youth ministry is not taking the role of spiritual oversight from the parents, but helping the parents in this regard. Praying, then, becomes absolutely vital because the parents have more time with the students than you do. Youth leaders need to be praying for the salvation and on-going sanctification of each student’s home. Just like the students, youth leaders need to be asking for prayer requests so that they can pray specifically for all the needs of the household.
One final note to prayer in youth ministry: prayer is not only for the youth pastor. Rather prayer should be done by students, with students, by the leaders of the church, with the leaders of the church, by the members of the church, with the members of the church. I think you see my point. Prayer for effective, God-honoring, faithful youth ministry is church wide. Everyone in the church needs (yes, needs) to be praying for their youth ministry.
From this youth pastor to all lay-church member: please, please, pray for us weekly. We need your intercession on our behalf. Add us to your weekly routine of prayer.
In sum: J.C. Ryle, “prayer is the most important subject in practical religion. All other subjects are second to it. Reading the Bible, … hearing sermons, attending public worship, going to the Lord’s Table—all these are very weighty matters. But none of them is as important as private prayer.”
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 John Bunyan, “What True Prayer is,” Chapel Library, accessed September 2, 2014, http://www.chapellibrary.org/files/ebooks/vprafg/OEBPS/Text/Article_0001.xhtml.
 J. C. Ryle, “The Most Important Subject,” Chapel Library, accessed September 2, 2014, http://www.chapellibrary.org/files/ebooks/vprafg/OEBPS/Text/Article_0000.xhtml.