You’ve all heard the cliche, “It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it.” Well, it seems like youth ministry could probably be lumped in with those “dirty jobs” when it comes to church work. Anything to do with children or teenagers will happily be left up to a select few – or even a select one.

I’m also reminded of a song by Acappella – “Everybody Said but Nobody Did.” The chorus is fitting:

Everybody said that anybody could do
The important things somebody should do
Everybody knows that anybody could do
All the good things that nobody did

Why does my job exist? Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE doing what I’m doing. Working with and teaching teenagers is something I not only enjoy but feel called to do. It’s so exciting to me when I see those wheels turning and when I see teens begin to develop their own faith. But the more I experience ministry in the broader context of the church and the more I read – both Scripture and recent releases – I am beginning to see some of the pitfalls in our paradigm of youth ministry.

When a church hires a minister specifically for youth the burden of spiritual development is then placed on his shoulders. You will have the youth minister, some select volunteers, maybe some substitute teachers, but that’s it. And we somehow expect a couple hours a week to be enough.

No one will ever develop expertise in a certain field through one or two hours of lecture-based study each week. But we are shocked when our teenagers lack spiritual development and thus leave the church during their college and young adult years.

No. There has got to be a better way.

And there is. It’s been there all along. Right in front of us.

“Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.” Deuteronomy 6:6-9, The Message

Spiritual development of the children is first and foremost the responsibility of the parents. Truth is, parents aren’t talking to their children, especially their teenage children. But as I read it, this is not a suggestion. It’s a command. And if you haven’t noticed, God doesn’t care what our excuses are when it comes to commands.

This is your child’s eternal salvation we’re talking about! And believe it or not, parents are still the number 1 influence on a teenager’s faith development.

But what about those teens who don’t have faithful parents?

“Your job is to speak out on the things that make for solid doctrine. Guide older men into lives of temperance, dignity, and wisdom, into healthy faith, love, and endurance. Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don’t want anyone looking down on God’s Message because of their behavior. Also, guide the young men to live disciplined lives.

“But mostly, show them all this by doing it yourself, incorruptible in your teaching, your words solid and sane. Then anyone who is dead set against us, when he finds nothing weird or misguided, might eventually come around.” Titus 2:1-8, The Message

Older women teach the younger women. Older men teach the younger men. Show them your faith by doing – and then teach them how! I think this is a beautiful vision of how the church is supposed to function and reproduce.

As a youth minister, I am pleading with parents and adult Christians everywhere – teach your children. If you don’t have children, find one or two younger Christians to take under your wings. Show and teach them what it means to live faithfully.

Again, it’s not a suggestion. It’s a command.

And it’s their souls we’re talking about.

If somebody’s gotta do it, why don’t we ALL do it?

Put me out of a job. I dare you.