A Teenager On Youth Ministry

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I’m recycling a post about a teenager named Erica who was given an assignment to write an editorial on the subject of her choice. She choose youth ministry. Youth ministry is difficult. Questions are often asked about how to best reach and minister to youth. It can be hard to get into the mind of a teenager. Adults may be surprised of the wisdom that may be found in those young, developing minds. The article offered below may be one such surprise.

Erica’s editorial is republished below exactly as it was sent to a friend of mine who is also a family friend of Erica’s.  Read the editorial and try to guess her age.

What do you think?

A new phenomena is going on in churches these days. Picture this: You enter into the youth group of a church on a Sunday or Wednesday night. You see at least fifty kids around. Some are off talking or playing a game, but most are in a circle watching and laughing at something. You move closer into the circle and see the youth pastor and a kid trying to eat a banana through pantyhose covering their heads. You look around and notice no open Bibles, no sound of hymns or worship music, and no one praying. All you see is just a group of teenagers watching an adult and one of their peers awkwardly trying to eat a banana. You think to yourself, “Is this supposed to be church? This looks more like a party!” Well, unfortunately, this is church now. Youth group used to be opening your Bible and hearing what God had to say to you. It used to be led by someone older, someone with more experience and wisdom on how to live a godly life. It used to be about learning to listen to God and keeping Him close to your heart. Not anymore. Don’t get me wrong, though, they still do open Bibles, and maybe sing a few praise songs. The youth pastor might read a verse or two, but only after losing the kids’ attention and respect because of his display of looking like a fool.

According to Life Way research, 70% of 18-22 year olds drop out of church for at least one year. Ninety-seven percent of these church drop-outs reported that a “life change” was their reason for leaving the church. One of these “life changes” included wanting a break from church. Now why would someone who had gone to church for years and years, suddenly just want a break? There are many reasons for this, I suppose, but here’s my theory: These kids have grown to perceive church as being a joke. Watching their youth pastor do lame “gross out” games, and listening to music that is more like a copy-cat version of secular music, with Jesus thrown in here and there, has made teenagers see church as uncool and fake. Church, especially youth group, is no longer about conviction and growing closer to God, but has instead turned into a hang-out for people who don’t “do” church. Because of this, a lot of teenagers, who have grown up in the church, don’t even know that they are sinners.

So what’s the solution to this church problem? Well, I believe the perfect answer comes from C.S. Lewis when he was asked the question,” Do you feel, then, that modern culture is being de-Christianized?” and answered with this: “…I have some definite views on the de-Christianizing of the church. I believe that there are many accommodating preachers, and too many practitioners in the church who are not believers. Jesus Christ did not say, ‘Go into all the world and tell the world that it is quite right.’ The Gospel is something completely different. In fact, it is directly the opposed to the world.” What C.S. Lewis says here is so true, in that, churches should not be accommodating to the world, but be different and set apart. We are to be, as Christ Himself said, “the light and salt of the earth.” We must be the opposite of this dark world. We must be the light.

(HT: Brian who has a great blog.)

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tagged as , in Church Issues,Culture,Gospel,theology

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brent Hobbs June 28, 2011 at 9:39 am

As someone who’s been involved in youth ministry in several churches—and seen what I feel like is a greater-than-usual amount of spiritual growth in our students—I’d like to point out one thing…

Eating bananas through pantyhose is not the problem. The lack of Bible-centeredness certainly is. You can play ridiculous games (spitting pickles has always been one of my personal favorites) and still keep the authority of Scripture firmly in place.

There are plenty of things to criticize about youth ministry the way it’s normally practiced, but I don’t think leaving out fun, silly games and activities is all that helpful. (Not that it’s the main point of the article, just a point I wanted to push on a little bit.)

2 Mark June 28, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Brent, you make a good point. From this girls perspective it is likely that the emphasis and/or the majority of the time was spent on games rather than Bible teaching.

Should there be a healthy balance between games and teaching? What is that balance? I often read questions about how to reach youth with the answers coming back to certain games and activities.

I wonder sometimes if we aren’t giving youth the wrong impression about the church gathered that it is about being entertained. I have also heard complaints from teens about shallow teaching that does not challenge them which makes them lose interest.

3 Peter L June 30, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Did Jesus do “youth ministry”? He said not to hinder children form coming to him. Did the early church do “youth ministry”? Many times we read of a new convert “and his household” being converted and baptized.

So, how best do we reach the young? How about treating them as young adults and challenging them to be a light in a dark world, to be different from their peers at school? Get them grounded in the Word of God, fully washed in the blood and walking on the path of righteousness. Solomon said that if we train a child in the right way, he would not depart form it. That can go both ways. If we don’t train them in the right way, they will never depart from the wrong way! Play games after the serious study of God’s word.

4 Mark June 30, 2011 at 9:53 pm

Peter, you made some great points in your second paragraph about reaching and treating youth in the church. Thanks.

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