We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer

Friday, October 28, 2011

Church Youth Groups

I found this quote in my files.  I had torn the page from an article in O Timothy Magazine, Vol.20, Issue 7, 2003.  This citation was highlighted on page 7, and continuing on page 8.  I did not note the author.  I think it is something we need to remember when it comes to just exactly what we should be doing about our youth in church.
The church is not in the business of entertaining young people, but calling them to discipleship in Christ and separation from the world and holiness of living.  It is true that what you win them with you win them to.  If a church uses worldly means to win young people, those thusly won will be worldly.
If a church has an organized youth group, it must be very careful about the selection of those who lead the youth.  Young people don’t need a “Good Times Charlie.”  They don’t merely need another buddy who will pal around with them in fun and games.  They get plenty of that.  What they desperately need, and what the church is required by God to give them, are godly, spiritually mature people who will love them and show them the path in God’s perfect will, who will call them to reject the vain, “cool” ways of this present wicked world, who will challenge them to be pure, to pull down the worldly idols from their hearts, to give themselves wholly to the service of Jesus Christ while there is still time, to yield to Christ’s command to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.
Unfortunately, I have been in churches where the youth pastor is indeed another immature “buddy” leading immature youth.  One church we attended for about six months, a local “Willow Creek” wannabe, was one of the most disappointing in this area, and our two teens wanted nothing to do with the youth group after a few Sundays - they said it was like being back in junior high with a public school mentality and lots of PDA.  The spiritual junk food served up in that youth group, and so many others we’ve seen in operation, does nothing for building spiritual maturity in young people.
It’s time we start treating our youth like young adults and giving them real meat all the time!

6 comments:

Lydia Diaz said...

GREAT post! Thank you for saying what I've been thinking for so long!

Committed Christian said...

Churches are certainly failing the youth by not feeding them with God's word. It is no wonder that many do understand the Christian faith and end up deserting the church when they get to college.

072591 said...

As a former youth leader (stopped doing it because of time constraints), I can tell you that one of the biggest obstacles to a Biblical youth group ministry is the parents. A lot of them, especially the ones who are active in the church, want the church youth group to be just a place where Christian kids come and hang out. No real teaching, no service, and especially no discipline.

For example, there were incidents where we felt some of the teens were getting too "touchy-feely". They weren't making out in the sanctuary, but there was an incident where a boy and girl snuck off alone to the sanctuary. We established rules about physical contact between boys and girls that basically were, "no." When one of the boys publicly complained, "People will stop coming if you have these rules," I responded with, "If you decide you're not coming anymore because you can't hold your girlfriend's hand here, then quite frankly, we're better off without you."

But the parents were the biggest complainers of the rule. "You shouldn't be telling my daughter she can't be alone with a boy in the sanctuary." I told the mother in that case, "You're right. I should not have had to tell her that. But her mom didn't, so here we are."

(I don't suffer idiots gladly.)

So while it may be immaturity in the leadership, it could also be a tired, beaten down youth pastor and/or team tat is just employing a mentality that it's just not worth the constant fight and that a social club is better than the kids going out partying.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

072591,

I fully agree with you about problematic parents. However, it is still the youth pastor's job to teach what he needs to teach, and parents just have to deal with it. If they leave because of the pastor taking a stance, then the pastor cannot be blamed.

Much of this issue with parents is caused by THEM not being spiritually fed properly. Too many pastors are afraid to mention false teachers and false teachings from the pulpit because they just might step on someone's toes.

It was a sad day when church leadership began to bow to public opinion rather than teach the hard truths.

4simpsons said...

I hope 072591 gets back into youth ministry -- we need people like that!

Great post, Glenn. The parents need to do their job (Eph. 6:4 and such). And if they don't want real doctrine, then they aren't saved, so they need real doctrine! So either way, they need real doctrine.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the poster who mentions parents. I am a former youth minister too - completely burned out by having to play politics with parents.

We definitely had plenty of good times in our youth ministry. But I tried to incorporate the Word, prayer, service, participation in worship, Christian education, etc...and was beaten down for not being popular enough with the kids even though the program was growing.

Best example was the parents who flew off the handle that their son would not come to worship because of the pastor (being boring) and myself (not sure what I had to do with this but said child allegedly didn't like me).

This was the same kid who, two or three time a week, would stop by my office after school to hang out, talk, help me with projects (newsletters, etc). Yeah, the one who "didn't like me". The one who felt so pressured by his parents to live up to his superstar older sister instead of just being himself.

It got so tiring. The times with the kids were great and I treasure them. But the times with the parents were the worst. We tried to start a faith mentorship program and couldn't get enough people to sign up, and some of the ones who did didn't fulfill their promises to the kids and left them disappointed. The biggest complaint I heard from the kids regarding the church was that the adults didn't seem to want them there, or wanted them to come but "stay in their place" in the youth room!

I wore down and decided to leave before my attitudes began to cause more harm than good. I am now a Director of Music in a church and very happy with that. I work with the adult groups primarily, but as a bonus, there are wonderful kids in our church that get involved too. But the youth program at my current church struggles with the same problems.

It's not the only factor in ineffective youth ministry, and maybe not even the biggest factor, but it's definitely one of them!