Leading a youth ministry in today’s world is not for the faint of heart. Tiger McLuen has been leading the ministry Youth Leadership for almost 30 years. He says the current mood of youth pastors around the country can be described in two words:

“One word is complicated. I think it’s more complicated than ever before: families are complicated, the ways in which kids travel through adolescence is more complicated, church life is complicated. Parents are aware of it, but we often don’t know what to do with it.”

“That leads to the second word: discouraged. People who run youth ministries just get discouraged more as they try to serve God in that complicated culture and world.”

McLuen says today’s youth face unique challenges, one of which is a major struggle over identity.

“Everyone was ‘that age’ once. But you were never ‘that age’ in this age. My belief is that we’ve created the problem; remember always that adults create the culture that kids grow up in. We’ve given kids this message: you can be anything you want. Anything. That gets pretty confusing, if I’m an adolescent.”

“One of the key things in adolescence is to answer the question ‘who am I? and ‘whose am I?’. In today’s world, you can be anything…well if I’m 14, I have no idea what that means. It’s complicated for kids.”

“Now, even when we start to feel like this is the path we’re wired for, there’s a voice behind us saying, but maybe there’s something better…you should travel the world more…you should do one more thing because that might be the thing.”

“The good things we’ve said, you can be be anything, created this back flow of but what else? I should be able to try every option and it can get a little tricky.”

Despite the changing times and new concerns that crop up, McLuen reminds youth leaders that their goal remains unchanged.

“The job is still the same: to build a faith into this person that can live their adult life, connected to Jesus and connected to the church, and live out their life faithfully.”

Older adults shouldn’t think that teens will ignore them because of the age gap. McLuen says young people care less about age, and more about genuine interest.

“I call it the ‘ministry of ignorance:’ it’s OK to be ignorant of new trend and what’s cool. Just be passionately listening to the next generation.”

“I tell parents, or anyone wants to have an impact even if you’re not skilled in youth ministry, do something that will set you apart from almost every other adult. Look the kid in the eye as if they really matter, and show interest in their world. That builds bridges you can walk across.”


Tiger McLuen is the President of Youth Leadership, a ministry committed to transforming the lives of the next generation by equipping leaders, parents and churches.

Reaching today's youth

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