Saturday, February 27, 2010

Youth Ministries: Wasted Opportunities

"Youth groups that follow the fun and foolishness model of ministry have been an outstanding success—if by success you mean creating at least two generations of biblically illiterate, immature, and conscience-free consumers of American pop culture. As for training up disciplined, mature soldiers of Jesus Christ who possess a comprehensive knowledge of the Scriptures, most evangelical youth groups get an F."

Yep, it's entitled "Time to Dump Youth Ministry" and unfortunately for all of us, it makes some good points. About negligent parents as well.

I've been working with Bible Quiz teams and youth ministries for many years, and it's easy for youth pastors to fill Youth Service time with a solid sermon and little else of lasting value. But then, can we say the same about pastors, and our own adult services? It's not easy to make time for quality Bible training at home or in Youth Service and Sunday school, but let's not blame the kids for not loving God enough if we're not training them in the way they should go.


John said...

Ingrid Schlueter and Scott Brown must live in a nice world. One where the kids parents are saved, attending church regularly, not needing to work most Sundays, not divorced assuming they were once married and are not on drugs or other addictive substances. Must be a nice world; I wonder what the collar of its sky is?

"Stop delegating the job to fools who are leading your children off a cliff spiritually."

Well I'm one of the fools trying to get the kids off a cliff that is crumbling under them. I co-teach 1-10 year olds. I have four or five kids I see most Sundays the rest three to five times a quarter. Some of them the only reason any one from there family has walked in the church is do to the kid.

"Next, their 'youth leaders' have failed them by perpetuating foolishness and buffoonery in the name of ministry."

What should I do lecture them? Seen that done; did not work.

I think Ingrid Schlueter and Scott Brown are missing a big point. Kids are growing up slower to day, the critical years are the early twenties not the teens. Emerging Adulthood by Jeffrey Arnett that states "In statistical analyses, there was no relationshp between exposure to religious traininng [(Christian, atheists,...)] in childhood and any aspect of their religious beliefs as emerging adults [aka ~19-30]"

The norm for the last 50+ years and now is for kids at 18 to leave the church and come beck when they have kids. In the 1950s people started having kids about the age of twenty now there staring families in their late twenties, thirties if ever. In the 50s a church did not need to try to retain the the post kids pre paints since that was only a year or three of the persons life. But now we are looking at decades. And it would seem the decades missed are the most important.

From Schlueter "In terms of encouraging teens to avoid sex, drugs, booze and armed robbery, youth groups at evangelical churches probably get a few points. But when did avoiding procreation and police contact become the measure of success among Christian youth?"

If I can get them to not make major life mistakes, maybe be saved and on a Godward life trajectory I'll be happy. I'd like to see more but my fist and mane goal is to do the will of God and one day seeing them in Heaven, despite the odds and the enemy's plans.

Darla said...

I think you misunderstand the point as well, John. If we, the parent, take our own children to church, we should be the ones to disciple them. Not OTHER youth and not the YOUTH minister. However, I realize that some youth that come to church do not have the benefit of having parents who nurture them. In that case, however, I would still argue that it is still best for that youth to attach themselves to a strong male (for young male youths) or female (for young female youths) as a ADULT MENTOR. NOT OTHER YOUTHS.

I have always been confused on why it is that parents (the ones who go take their own children to church) seem content to "throw their youths to the lions", (their peers) once they hit the most vulnerable age. I do not get it. Instead of making sure to form an even stronger bond with their youth, they allow them more liberty to hang with those of like-minded silliness. It only breeds trouble.

My opinion.....agree 100 percent with these articles and really with churches in general would wake up on this issue.

John said...


I suspect you overestimate the abundances of Godly adults, their ability and the number of contact hours they are going to have with the kids. As well you seem to understatement the power and inevitability of peer groups.

When growing up I flowed a modal much like what you and Schlueter are proposing but not do to plane. I do not know if my church did not have youth functions or it did not advertised them. Ether way I went to a total of two from the ages of 10-18. I went to church twice on Sunday and sometimes on Thursday, then went home. Not counting acquaintances and good acquaintances (ie Facebook friends) I had a total of 0 AP fiends.

I looked like I was a strong christian youth and many people assumed as much, even had the nick name of bishop, but the opposite was true. I could quote scripture, ague the Godhead, did not do unchristian things but God was not part of my belief system. God was like the president, I knew a lot about hem, but never met the guy. My walk/relationship with God was zilch until I moved to Ohio and made a few AP friends. Once my relationships with God's people moved beyond rules and trivia then my relationship with God moved beyond rules and trivia.

I have gone to a few youth events as a bystander since moving to Ohio and apart of me always becomes sick and sad: "Where was this a decade ago; when I was the youth?"

Is our youth ministry modal perfect? No. Is it junk? Only if it is not used.

We have little to no active post youth ministries and post youth is when we loose most of our kids. We should be shocked if we weren't loosing them.

In Ohio we are starting to add hyphen events to preexisting youth events. A little light, but it is a start.

Darla said...

John: Truthfully, I don't overestimate the abundance of Godly adults. I mourn the lack of them, in fact.

However, there are a few reasons why I agree with these articles (and have for some time and was quite pleasantly surprised to find others beginning to).

First of all, people have the ability to follow tradition blindly. There are many examples of this, I'm sure you understand my point. Youth ministry/youth groups, I believe, has been largely followed blindly. What very likely started out as honorable intentions has turned into the "norm" of the church society.

We both know that societal norms are not always the best for society.

I think this is one of those times. Because "everyone" has youth groups/youth ministers, then surely it must be "the way". And people rarely stop and think about whether this "way" is really working or is any good.

Let me tell you my experience. I, too, did not have a youth group. I have never regretted that. It allowed me to spend more time with mature adults than peers. Although I was in no way perfect, I never ran into the same temptations as many other youth did. Those were the youth that spent much of their time around other youth. In fact, in my experience, there are more backslidden youth that had a large support group of youth and/or youth ministry than there are who did not.

I think there should be youth prayer meetings. I think there should be youth service. I think it's great to preach about the things that youth face, to youth. What I don't like is the "youth segregation" - otherwise known as "youth groups". NOTHING good ever comes from the segregating of youth. They need to have fun with the regular church crowd. And hopefully, their own family (if they're so blessed).

I really do think there is a better "system" than the one presently in place.

All the best.