Youth ministry is an age-specific religious ministry and is the way in which a faith group, or other religious organization, engages with the young people who attend its place of worship, or live in its community. Youth ministry will usually encompass one or more of the following:
- Encouraging young people who profess a faith to learn more about it and become more involved in spiritual life.
- Proselytism of young people who do not profess the faith of the organization, but who may have shown an interest.
- Providing open youth clubs or other activities for the common good of the young people, sometimes without an overtly religious agenda.
In Protestant churches, the term "ministry" often implies the service of an ordained minister or pastor. In youth ministry, however, this is not always the case — a youth ministry leader may be an ordained member of the clergy, an employed lay person, or a volunteer. Titles applied to youth ministry leaders vary widely as well, even within denominations, using terms such as "Youth Minister", "Youth Pastor", or simply "Youth Worker".
Unlike the case in some Protestant churches, a Youth Minister in the Roman Catholic Church is not a member of the clergy. Ministry, including youth ministry, is considered a function within the church. Therefore, one is more likely to hear the terms "Youth ministry leaders" or "Youth workers", rather than "Youth Ministers".
There are many organizations within the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (the primary organization of Unitarian Universalist Congregations in the United States), as well as within the Canadian Unitarian Council (the national body for Unitarian Universalists in Canada), which minister to and with Youth, of which Young Religious Unitarian Universalists (YRUU) is the largest and most apparent. YRUU strongly emphasizes Youth empowerment, along with Youth-adult partnership. There are also specific youth-oriented programs, such as Coming of Age, and Our Whole Lives, a lifespan Sexuality education program with a youth age group.