I’m in class the other day and I get hit with three questions back to back:

How do we disciple mixed up young men?

How do we minister to kids from broken families?

How do we help youth who are seeing way too much of the world at too early an age?

Wow—great questions, what a class (go YM 191!). In fact, if you can get the answers to these questions nailed shut, you’ve almost got a whole slab of effective youth ministry down tight.

These questions deserve much more than the brief on-the-spot answers restricted to one lecture and I spent the next couple of days mulling these over. Here’s what I’ve got…

Isn’t the most common thing we are dealing with breakdown of relationship? Certainly it is in the first two questions. Mixed up young men usually have some sort of ‘dad trouble’ lurking in the background. Not always, but quite often. The solid young men that I’ve met often have a solid family. Certainly those from broken homes have relational issues (obviously).

So, if we are trying to solve issues stemming from poor relationships, and, at the very heart of the issue, a broken relationship with God… then we must work for good relationships. That is the key! This may seem pretty basic and not that earth shattering but please remember what drives so much of our youth ministries—the desire to reach the lost through excitement and fun. This will never work because it is the wrong filler for the hole that exists in all of us.

What youth from a broken home needs more fun? What child who has been exposed to porn at way too early an age (there really is no acceptable age but you catch my drift) needs youth group games to straighten them out? The answer of course is … none!

The issue is that most youth today have that hole inside them that comes from some broken relationship either one that is a present reality (like at home) or one that is an existential reality (them and God). To fix this we must have a youth program that is built solidly around strong godly relationships.

I’m going to write more on small group discipleship in the coming weeks but consistent, dedicated small group Bible studies is the place to start. A godly older leader mentoring a group of younger Christians is a must. When a ‘youth with a relationship hole’ comes into youth group he/she should be thunderstruck by the holy relationships that are so evident in that group that they enter on the road to wholeness.

So is your group characterized by solid godly relationships? Are there good small groups? Are you the leader meeting regularly with your leadership team to build them up and have fellowship together? Does the group have a good relationship with the other members of the church?

Get these things right and wholeness will follow.