Youth ministry exists to share the Gospel with young people in order to make them disciples of Jesus (Matt 28:19ff), leading them to maturity in Christ (Col 1:28); to help them discover their spiritual gifts and potentials so that they can use them to make an impact in and out of the Church (Eph 4:26ff; Matt 5:13-16). Youth ministry employs the tools of evangelism and discipleship to lead young people to maturity in Christ. It provides mentorship and counsel to aid youth in harnessing their gifts, to help them become influential leaders, and to help them navigate the various challenges of their generation.
Consequently, we can diagrammatically think of this as a bi-layered-triangle with evangelism and discipleship as the foundation of youth ministry and mentoring and counseling at the peak of the triangle. Counseling is at the peak – the place of apparency – because of the challenges that youth face. And while these daily challenges may not result from faith issues, they have the potential to affect faith. This sets the background for the need for Christian counseling among youth.
Dr. Ed Hindson defines Christian counseling as a revelation of the life and love of Jesus Christ in helping someone change for the better. That life, that love, comes alive through the use of the Bible, and in relying upon the Holy Spirit to advance the goals and challenges of counseling.
The ministry of counseling among youth is undoubtedly necessary. While counseling may not completely be a discipleship process, a significant part of discipleship and spiritual growth is found in counseling. Since the issues that cause a young person to seek counsel mostly have spiritual roots (like matters of purpose, worldview, calling, knowing the will of God, etc.), counseling has a key role to play in the spiritual development of the young person.
As a result, the developmental realities of youth mostly require counseling. Adolescence and young adulthood come with soul-searching, coping, and maladjustment problems that usually require help from a second party. It is common among this group to find meaning-based problems like a search for identity, discovering God’s will, career choices, etc. Other psychological problems such as depression, trauma for violent and distressing experiences, child abuse, etc. are also common in this group. Social issues like low self-esteem; navigating relationships with family members, peers, and the opposite sex; etc. are difficult to face alone. Other behavioral issues like experimentation with drugs, various forms of addictions, and matters of sexuality raise a common need for counseling among youths.
The contemporary society offers a variety of suggestions on how problems can be handled, some of which are largely against biblical principles; thus, the need for Christian counseling. An example is the response to same-sex attraction. Popular opinion suggests that one with such feelings should simply live by them. But the Christian counselor can walk the youth through the biblical understanding of human sexuality and show how the youth can deal with such feelings as the Bible prescribes, viz., not acting on them.