Pastors, parents disagree over purpose of youth ministry

The latest research on youth ministry in the United States found that parents and pastors are in disagreement when it comes to the goals of youth ministry.

The Barna Group’s study noted and followed up on a public debate over a related topic that was brought up a few years ago, when The Atlantic published a piece titled “The Overprotected Kid,” which argued that overprotective parents keep kids from discovering things, taking risks and learning independence – without necessarily making them safer.

“The ensuing discussion raised a number of questions about the tug-of-war between a parent’s protective instincts and their desire to raise fearless kids,” Barna researchers recounted. “This dynamic plays out in schools and child care centers across the country, but is acutely felt in youth ministries.”

To find out whether parental priorities of safety are shared by youth pastors and leaders – and to see whose goals take precedence – Barna partnered with Youth Specialties and YouthWorks to conduct a major study on the state of youth ministry across the United States and got a better picture of the expectations of pastors, youth leaders and parents.

What pastors say kids need …

The Christian research organization discovered that senior pastors and youth leaders typically agree about the objectives of youth ministry.

“When they are asked to identify the top two goals of youth ministry, a substantial majority of church leaders choose ‘discipleship and spiritual instruction’ as one of their highest priorities,” Barna researchers divulged. “Seven in 10 senior pastors (71 percent) and three-quarters of youth pastors (75 percent) say this is one of their top goals.”

Other priorities were found to be the main goal of less than a majority of senior and youth pastors.

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