Wisdom From A Teenager On Youth Ministry

A teenager, named Erica, was recently given an assignment to write an editorial on the subject of her choice. Her topic? Youth ministry. 

Below is the editorial exactly as sent to a fellow blogger who is also a family friend of Erica.  Did I mention that she is only 15? Wow!

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 & Source: Brian @ Voice of the Sheep who has a great blog.)

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

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 FlameGurl April 2, 2009 at 4:25 pm

Wow. Reading this now, I remember feeling the same way. I also took a “break” from church between the ages of 18 and 22. I didn’t actually become a Christian until the age of 23. I did attend youth group right up to the age of 17. You would think that the youth group leaders would have had a clue that most of us weren’t believers. I don’t know, maybe they did. Ours weren’t a total joke, but they were seeking to entertain. I remember some fire & brimstone “someday your friend will come to you when you are standing at the Throne of Judgment and ask ‘why didn’t you tell me about Jesus?’ and you will have to answer for that, maybe you were the only one who would tell them and because of you, they will go into the lake of fire”. But there was an awful lot of just fooling around. BTW, that scenario I just described gave me nightmares for YEARS. And it didn’t preach the Gospel to ME, who needed it most at that time, at all.

2 Carla Rolfe April 3, 2009 at 9:03 am

When my now 18 yr old daughter was 16, after having only spent one year at youth group, she said to me “mom, I don’t want to go back to youth group this year, it’s stupid”. She complained that all they did was play games like 10 year olds, and they never got into the Bible and did any actual teaching. “I’m not learning anything, except how to act like an idiot and I already know how to do that!” were her exact words.

We didn’t make her go back, and she’s now going through some serious spiritual struggles after having been raised in church since the age of 4. I am convinced completely that modern day youth group does far more damage to young people than it does to help them. These youth pastors need to grow up themselves and take their responsibilities seriously, and stop teaching young people how to “act like idiots” as my daughter says.

3 Withheld April 3, 2009 at 1:27 pm

I am a youth pastor of a small group. I certainly feel the pressure to “act like an idiot” as the previous poster stated. But, my main goal is to have the kids want to be there because they feel loved and desire to grow closer to God. My fear about the lack of spiritual content the kids are getting is that they are not getting it at home either, or anywhere for that matter. The reason that we think we have to resort to gimmicks is to keep youth’s attention. Unfortunately, almost everywhere a youth goes, they are treated like this. As a society, we are not holding them accountable for the hard truths in life. They aren’t our sweet little babies, they are sinners in need of grace. We have to point them to Jesus until He becomes real to them and they are focused on Him on their own. This is not a task for the youth minister alone. It has to primarily happen in the home; not “raised in a Christian home,” but actually having parents study, read, teach, pray with their students IN the home. Sadly, none of my students seem to take their relationship with Christ seriously. But, they don’t take anything seriously: sports, school, work…life.
Please pray for this generation of youth. They are increasingly seeking distraction and entertainment, rarely focusing on the truth of Christ.

4 julius mickel April 4, 2009 at 11:20 pm

Young people respond to the level we challenge them, i’ve personally seen young children sit quietly and take in biblical truth. Making it understandable and watering it down are not the same thing.
Oh how we need some ol fashioned preachers who believe in the Gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit!

5 David Santiago January 14, 2012 at 11:53 am

Teens do not take Christianity seriously because we have watered down the Gospel in the American church. When they see the power of God demonstrated in our lives and the fear of God back in the church their thoughts of Christianity will change. Some of us need to change our method of reaching this generation of youth. Understand that it is the method that changes and not the message. We can play all of these games and teach about Gods love but if we do not teach them what the consequences of sin is or hold them accountable to their choices, we fail them as youth Pastors and parents. Our youth group is a reflection of us. If we are not on fire, neither will they be. If we are not strong in our faith and lack confidence when we teach the Word, why do we expect our teens to be any different. It starts with an evaluation of ourselves. Our we hungry for the things of God. Our we being led by the Holy Spirit. Think about it. It starts with us.

6 Ronda August 3, 2017 at 4:20 pm

Being raised by a pastor I was required to learn with a deeper understanding of what was required to go to Heaven. I remember not being old enough to go to school but I could tell you about salvation, restitution, justification,etc. It was more than ‘words’ as I had wonderful teachers who not only helped me understand but challenged me.

Now I’m teaching K-6 on Wednesday evenings and we are having fun but also some really deep discussions about spiritual things. I focus on the teaching first and then we earn our fun time. These kids ask real questions and want to know more so I feel obligated (and appreciative) to guide them. I don’t overwhelm them but I do give them Biblical perspectives about things. I worry about them moving up to the youth classes. How can I pass them on to the ‘no consequences, only fun, don’t worry God will understand’ mentality of the youth group?

I’m praying and committing them to God’s care. Hoping that, before they remember where their hope comes from and that their faith will remain strong.


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