Martin Luther’s Reformational Vision of Youth Ministry

Luther didn’t mince words. He was ticked. He found the theological illiteracy of the people sickening. He blamed the pastors. And so he wrote a short instructional guide for them to begin discipling the simple and the young. He launched the Reformation. Now he was launching local church youth ministry.

“Mercy! Good God!” Luther exclaimed, “what manifold misery I beheld! The common people, especially in the villages, have no knowledge whatever of Christian doctrine, and, alas! many pastors are altogether incapable and incompetent to teach … ” These fiery words are found in Luther’s Small Catechism which he wrote to be used with young people. Luther was calling for an emphasis on doctrine with special focus, in the Small Catechism, on teaching youth.

“O ye bishops!,” Luther continues, “to whom this charge has been committed by God, what will ye ever answer to Christ for having so shamefully neglected the people and never for a moment discharged your office?” Luther wasn’t pulling punches. This was serious business. The youth must be taught robust doctrine. And the pastors needed to do it. In spite of Luther’s strong rebuke, the Small Catechism gives simple directions for training young people. He was essentially calling for a line of serious minded, doctrinally focused, youth pastors.

This Wednesday, October, 31, 2018, on Reformation Day, let’s remember Luther’s passion for passing the faith to the next generation. Let it not be said to us what Luther said to them, “you do not care in the least whether the people know the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, the Ten Commandments, or any part of the Word of God. Woe, woe, unto you forever!”

Strong words. Let us heed them.

“Therefore I entreat [and adjure] you all for God’s sake, my dear sirs and brethren, who are pastors or preachers, to devote yourselves heartily to your office, to have pity on the people who are entrusted to you, and to help us inculcate the Catechism upon the people, and especially upon the young.” —Martin Luther