Ross encourages focusing on reaching the next generation

Richard Ross_1123

Reach the next generation by “taking the long view” preached Richard Ross, senior professor of student ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary during his Nov. 7 chapel message at Southwestern Seminary and Texas Baptist College.

“There is no need for an introduction for Richard Ross, he is simply Richard Ross,” President David S. Dockery said. “He sits in a class among himself here at Southwestern and we are grateful to God for his amazing influence.”

Dockery noted Ross’s experience in both the classroom and the local church as he has served in a local church setting for over three decades and as a professor at Southwestern for over 20 years. Before he began serving at Southwestern, Ross served for 16 years as the youth ministry consultant at Lifeway Christian Resources.

“While I was preparing for this message, the question I kept asking myself was this, ‘If this is the last time to stand here, what is it that I would want to say?’” Ross said. “What would I leave with you if I don’t get to say anything else?”

Preaching from Psalm 110, Ross emphasized the need to reach the next generation in new ways.

He began by raising the question of what would happen if the church made changes to the way they reached young people.

“First, the young could bring revival to the church,” Ross said. “I was able to see students spark revival with my own eyes. I was right in the middle of the Jesus movement.”

Ross added that “only God can make the winds of revival blow,” but the church has a role to play in helping to “raise the sails” for revival.

Second, he said that young people could reform the culture. Ross cited many times throughout history when young people helped spark movements and changed the culture around them.

Third, young people could take the Gospel to the last groups on earth. Ross said that the “math works” in showing that the next generation could reach the last unreached people groups on earth.

Ross then asked what would happen if the church does not make any changes to the way they reach youth.

He said four things would happen, including “the harvest among teenagers would continue to fall,” “churches will become increasingly empty,” “the culture will increasingly collapse,” and “reduced church contributions will handicap Kingdom activity.”

“With very few tiny tweaks, we are doing student ministry the way it was done in 1950,” Ross said. “Don’t you think it is time for a change? I do.”

Ross explained what he believes are the necessary changes to student ministry to best reach youth.

First, he said, “Awaken the full church to the glory of King Jesus.”

“Young people are full of moral, therapeutic deism,” Ross said. “Young people are full of moral, therapeutic deism because the church is full of moral, therapeutic deism. The young people are simply reflecting the adults of the church.”

Second, the “church needs to take the Gospel to teenagers outside of the church,” Ross told the Southwestern community.

“We cannot out-entertain the world anymore,” Ross said. “They can get better pizzas in other places. Our focus must be on Gospel conversations outside of the church.”

Third, it is necessary to truly disciple parents as “parents cannot provide what they have not received,” Ross said.

Fourth, give teenagers relationships with all generations in the church because “teenagers today are much more likely to say that they love their youth group and not their church,” Ross said. “When they outgrow the youth group, they just simply leave the church. Create environments where relationships flourish across generations.”

Fifth, give students ministry roles in the full church as students will not “remain in the church in which they have made no investments” Ross said. “In your church, how many teenagers are in church ministry teams and committees?”

Ross said each aspect should be covered in prayer and noted the model Southwestern leadership has provided for the seminary community in praying about every aspect of ministry on Seminary Hill.

Ross concluded by referencing back to Psalm 110:3 saying, “Until they pull the sheet over my face in hospice, I’m going to focus on evangelizing, discipling, and sending out the young, and I invite you to join me.”

Ross has served as professor of student ministry in the Jack D. Terry School of Educational Ministries since 2000. He served as a local church student minister for 30 years and still preaches in youth retreats, worship services, and events.

Ross’s entire message can be viewed here.

Chapel is held every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 10 a.m. (CT) in MacGorman Chapel on the campus of Southwestern Seminary and TBC. Chapel may be viewed live at