Friday, June 29, 2007

Youth Ministries? Part 1


I know that I am bound to make people mad at this post. That is ok. My goal is to get people to think and to live a life that pleases God. I think the best way to handle this post is not to get emotionally involved and consider the content. Is there any truth to it? Is it a valid point? Also, I would ask that before you bring out your pen (sword) please consider some of the questions that I am raising.

For a while I have wondered about Youth ministries. Is the youth minister a scriptural office? What is the point to a "youth ministry" led by a certain leader?

I understand that many of you are thinking about how your children have been blessed by the young man who is the youth leader or youth minister. Let me get straight to the point.

1. Why would I want my child going to a young man telling him things that he should be telling his father and/or mother?
2. Why do most youth ministries seem to specialize in entertainment and teaching the Word seems to be minimized?
3. Why do we want the children/youth separated from the parents more than they already are?
4. What did the youth do before youth minstries existed?

I pose a few questions here with the intention of answer a few and asking a few more in my next post.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Weren't Timothy and Titus both youth ministers? Oh, yeah, they were "youthful" ministers. Timothy pastored at Corinth and then at a huge church in Ephesus. Titus went to Crete to rebuke in a church that included young and old alike.

There is absolutely no such office as "youth pastor." It's about as Scriptural as "spiritual director." Sorry, but mentor or teacher is the proper designation. Young people need to be taught the Scriptures by competent teachers--not entertained or moralized by "youth pastors." The world is full of entertainment (lots of it is family friendly, even!) and every cult under the sun gives moral instruction. Christians should be different because Christians should live and teach Scripturally. A "good" idea that is not a God idea (i.e. it ain't found in Scripture) is a 0. That means it's worthless. So let's dispense with this bogus notion of "youth pastor" and get real--get Scriptural.

PG, Indiana

Dead Theologians said...

Indiana,

Thanks for your comments. I wholeheartedly agree. I want people to sit back and think on this one. Just because little Jr. is happy and entertained with Pizza and loud music does not mean that he has been spiritually fed.

DT

jon said...

Hi Todd,

It's interesting that you should pose this question...

I spent the last 3 weeks at Covenant Bible Camp in Unalakleet, AK this summer. My 2nd day there, an intern with our denomination, working with the youth at a local village church, asked me several deep and thoughtful questions about the gospel, "altar calls", "the sinner's prayer," etc. Before we knew it, 3 hours had lapsed in our conversation about the things of God and His Word. He finally asked me, "Then how should we approach Youth Ministry?" I told him that I didn't see that youth ministry was any different than any other ministry because all ministries, regardless of those being ministered to, should be nurtured from the same core truths: Jesus Christ exalted with the reality and sufficiency of God's grace in the Cross of Christ, for God's glory alone, by faith alone, according to Scripture alone.

Coincidence that I should speak to this young man right around the same time that you pose this question? I think not... or as the rabbis sometimes say, "Conincidence is not a kosher word."

Blessings to you, brother,

jon cardwell
scammon bay, ak

Steven Dresen said...

Let's try looking at this issue from another perspective rather then looking at the worst case scenarios of youth ministry. In an ideal world the parents would be the primary one's teaching their children, but this world isn't ideal and no matter how much you plead with some people they will never step up as spiritual leaders in their home, and then you have nonChristian parents, I personally would prefer a youth minister teaching and ministering to the youth rather then leaving them alone to the spiritual influences of a lost parent. One might object and say that older members of the church can step up and disciple the youth, the reality though is they don't, so does that mean we leave youth undiscipled and untaught? I go back and forth on the issue of the validity of youth ministry and am convinced that if parents won't stand in the gap and teach their kids then somebody needs to commit themselves to doing it.

Dead Theologians said...

Steve,

Thanks for the comments.

You said "and am convinced that if parents won't stand in the gap and teach their kids then somebody needs to commit themselves to doing it."

I say what about the present leaders of the church such as the pastor?
Isn't that what it used to be like before there were youth ministers?

I will address what you brought up about youth of lost parents in the next post.

Oak Leaf Church said...

there's no biblical office of a worship leader, director of evangelism or accountant. that doesn't make it wrong for a church to have a youth pastor.

i think the modern state of youth ministry, however, is pretty bad. we need some wholesale changes.

Dead Theologians said...

Oak Leaf,

I do agree that not all the offices are listed. To me the bigger picture is the "youth ministry."

I completely agree that there has to be MAJOR changes if a church is going to have a minstry for the youth.

DT

Larry said...

I'll take a stab:

1. Why would I want my child going to a young man telling him things that he should be telling his father and/or mother?

Are you sure that is a fair representation of youth ministry? Perhaps your son does not connect with you well. Perhaps your son doesn't tell a youth pastor stuff he doesn't tell you. And if your church is a great commission church, it is likely that there are teens in the youth age who do not have godly parents in church.

2. Why do most youth ministries seem to specialize in entertainment and teaching the Word seems to be minimized?

Because they are wrong. But is that really an indictment on all youth pastors and youth ministers?

3. Why do we want the children/youth separated from the parents more than they already are?

There is in general a recognition that different stages of life have different needs. As a pastor, I am glad that we have qualified youth pastor who can teach teens. Furthermore, they are not always separated from adults.

4. What did the youth do before youth minstries existed?

I don't know.

In the end, I think you raise some valid concerns about youth ministry but none of them demand us not to have a youth pastor. I think youth ministry needs to be greatly revolutionized.

But a youth pastor is just like a visitation pastor, a seniors pastor, music pastor, or some such. He is an elder in the church who must meet all the qualifications, who ministers to the church with a particular focus on young people.

That's the reason he is a called a youth pastor ... because that's what the Bible calls people who do what he is supposed to be doing.

Youth ministry doesn't have to consist of pizza and loud music. SO I join your concerns, but not your solution. My solution is have a biblical youth pastor ... one who meets the biblical qualifications who ministers to youth primarily.

Dead Theologians said...

Larry,

You said "Perhaps your son does not connect with you well. Perhaps your son doesn't tell a youth pastor stuff he doesn't tell you."

As a pastor writing to another pastor; I am surprised to see you try to hit below the belt. Your comment does not deserve any elaboration.

You said "But is that really an indictment on all youth pastors and youth ministers?"

You need to read my comments more carefully. I said MOST ministries. I have indicted no one.

You said "SO I join your concerns, but not your solution."

Did I already give a solution?

DT

Anonymous said...

Well, as a college kid that has seen several youth groups and many more youth leaders/pastors, I don't see much benefit to them. Some of you claim to want a more biblical role of youth ministry, but if you do that, you'll lose your youth. They don't want loads of Scripture, they want entertainment. I've seen it happen. The best youth leader I've been around spent 90% of his time with us going over Scripture and reading John Piper's quotes about those Scriptures. All that he did could be done in a normal service. The youth griped and complained. Every other youth leader I've seen was focused on the hype, food, games, and music. They wanted to get the kids stoked with (sometimes questionable) games, give them food, pump their emotions in music, and finish off with a 5 minute devotion while they are still on an emotional high. Youth groups ended up being a place for guys and girls to sharpen their flirting/kissing skills and at lock-ins for guys to talk about sex and their sexual conquest. This is no exaggeration. All that these the youth ever needed to study and learn could have been in a normal church service. Take this from someone who seen the many shades of the unscriptural youth ministry.

-Joshua

Anonymous said...

Another thought, re: youth pastors, youth ministry--the PASTOR of a local church is the overseer of that church. Every part of that church is his responsibility. Because we live in a world of specialization, it is easy to fall into the trap that "youth ministry" requires highly trained "specialists" that know best. There are dozens of conferences, seminars, weekend getaways, etc., designed to make such "highly trained specialists."

The fatal flaw in youth ministry today is the same flaw found in the marketing approach to ministry--attract 'em any way you can. BUT, what in the world are you going to do with them when you get them into the building? If you are not going to preach the Word and teach the Word, you have done nothing. You have defrauded them.

PG
Indiana

Dead Theologians said...

Indiana,

You said "BUT, what in the world are you going to do with them when you get them into the building? If you are not going to preach the Word and teach the Word, you have done nothing. You have defrauded them."

I agree. It brings me back to my "Pragmatism Illustrated" post. If we use whatever means we can to get them into the church then preach the word we have deceived them. This is dishonest.

DT

Steven Dresen said...

Yes it does primarily fall upon the pastor but a pastor can only do so much. Let's say the pastor has a church of over 100 adults and then you add youth and children he may well need or desire the assistance. That's how I became the youth leader at my church basically.

Disclaimer:
I am the youth leader at my church, currently taking a break from it for summer missions, and I absolutely will not allow the youth to call me their youth pastor. I try to put the primary responsibility of discipling the youth on the parents and leave myself self the responsibility of planning missions activities and teaching/preaching Wednesday nights. The entertainment strain of youth "ministry" really sickens me as well because I've seen youth exchange biblical teaching for fun.

newcenturion said...

I think Joshua hit the nail on the head. I find that the emphasis on getting youth into the church at any cost is ridiculous. More often than not these "youth groups" are nothing more than social clubs where young "christians" can engage in all sorts of worldly behaviours all under the guise of Christianity. I came to Christ as a teenager not through some youth group gimmick but by hearing the word of God.

Melissa said...

My experience in a Youth Group:

Being in a youth group helped me feel special, involved, and befriended.

However, it left me with a sense of insecurity when youth pastors would leave, with a gossip filled heart, and with teenagers I couldn't possibly truly relate to, even if I was one.

My parents did not go to church, they dropped me off. So, to me, a youth group seemed the best choice.

I didn't learn anything in Youth Group. I did learn a few basic things, but nothing about David and Bathsheba, Queen Ester, or Timothy. I knew lots of plays, lots of cute songs, and who was having sex with who....yes, in my youth group.

Youth group was like school, too many youth to give the right amount of attention to, but I guess it could have been done if someone really cared and wanted to REALLY talk, I mean more about drinking and smoking (which was going to be done any how).

Or perhaps youth group was like nursery. Here's what I've learned about church nursery. If you train a child to sit in church, they will. If you train a child to sit in nursery, they will. Nursery is merely babysitting when a child could learn something important, like being involved in the learning. Youth groups are the same. Teens aren't taught to sit in church and learn, so when they have to for the most part they just pass notes, laugh and whisper. They can't help it they are bored. Their minds are watching for the latest and greatest things...meanwhile the Pastor preachers from a book, the Bible. Besides, "church music is soooo boring!"

I think I went into youth group thinking that I was going to be "feed" spiritually and be surrounded by people my age who really loved Jesus....I was wrong. I would have done better sitting by myself in "big church" :D Instead I was learning more about the teen harlot.

Lastly, I'll never forget when I finally decided youth groups were a waste. I was with Campus Outreach on Summer Beach Project (a great experience for me personally). Our group was preparing to leave and I was glad to leave, but glad to see that a youth group was coming to fill the hotel (where we stayed for two months) and possibly share the love of Christ with others there as we hoped to. I saw the group in our meeting room and was completely disgusted to see a teenage girl running and dancing around in her bikini as all the other youth hung out. I was sick and embarrassed to have young college men, who the loved the Lord, standing close to me and seeing what I saw, as their hearts possibly were punctured.

This is youth group like I remember it.

David said...

Jesus was a children's minister.
(among other things)

Anonymous said...

I hope the kids Jesus ministers to don't see your nude statue of David.

Melissa said...

interesting

Andrew H said...

The first comment proposes:
"A "good" idea that is not a God idea (i.e. it ain't found in Scripture) is a 0. That means it's worthless."

I agree that an idea that contradicts scripture is worse than worthless. However, aren't there 'good' ideas that are in accordance with, but not found in, the scriptures - and that are incredibly helpful?

For example: where do we find the use of commentaries and Bible-study notes in the scriptures? Are these worthless?
I would say they are wonderfully helpful. One could argue that help in interpreting the Bible is the job of your parents or a Pastor... but few Evangelicals would dispute their use.

Or what about meeting in small groups to study the bible (bible studies, community groups, home groups, call them what you will)? Are these biblical?
Should we abandon the practice of a home-group leader who runs a weekly bible study because it isn't found in the bible? Again, pastors are supposed to be in charge of edification aren't they?

Of course, the case would be made:
We are to meet together to encourage one another. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
The Bereans were held up as an example because they "examined the scriptures every day". (Acts 17:11)
Thus, we are to meet, and to examine the scriptures. To combine them would not go against any other principles. So let us meet and study!

It is not a logical proof - discernment must be used. Yet I do not hear you calling for group bible studies to end.

In fact, the two above verses commend youth ministry to me strongly as well. Especially in light of Paul, who became all things to all men - would he not have become 'indie-rock' to indie rockers? (Of course, there are behavious to reject, as there are behaviours to accept or redeem - listen to Mark Driscoll for more).
In fact, would Paul go so far as to say "But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice." (Phil. 1:18a)

Andrew H said...

I am in my last year of being a 'youth'. It sounds like there are many things wrong with many youth ministries. Does that mean the practice itself is wrong, or is it merely in need of reform?

My own youth group has been only a wonderful blessing. If it weren't for the leaders, who by God's grace, loved Jesus and loved me, I don't think I would be a Christian today.
Sorry for such long comments. I have pages more I could write about the importance of youth ministry. Instead, here is a list of words:
Support.
Encouragement.
Christian Friends.
Safe.
Learning.
Teaching.
Edifying.
Accountability.
Outreach.
Relevant.
Contextualising.
Better-than-doing-drugs-etc. (Though some youth groups might be little more than pickup bars, mine is a Godly sanctuary from the world.)

Run by mature Christian leaders who love Jesus and love youth, I find it hard to see a downside, especially used in conjunction with, rather than instead of, church.

Andrew H (again, sorry!) said...

BTW, one semi-famous dead theologian named Martin Luther seems to be in favour of youth ministry:

'Therefore, I too, with the help of others, have brought together some sacred songs in order to make a good beginning and to give an incentive to those who can better carry on the Gospel and bring it to the people... And these songs were arranged in four parts for no other reason than I wanted to attract youth (who should be trained in music and other fine arts) away from love songs and carnal pieces and to give them something wholesome to learn instead... It is unfortunate that everyone else forgets to teach and train the poor young people; we must not be responsible for this too.'

Shamelessly stolen from Dan's blog

Larry said...

DT,

As for my comments about "your son," that was a generic "you," not a specific one. I don't even know if you have a son. In fact, to my knowledge, I don't think I have ever read your blog before. It was not in anyway intended to hit below the belt. I was just taking a stab at trying to offer some answers to the questions you raised.

As for solutions, it seems your solution is not to have a youth pastor since you seem to be calling it unbiblical. That was the basis of my comments.

Dead Theologians said...

Andrew,

You said "If it weren't for the leaders, who by God's grace, loved Jesus and loved me, I don't think I would be a Christian today."

I don't think it was up to them to do the saving. It was God's Spirit that convicted you and brought you to Himself. They might have been instruments of His grace but he did the drawing and saving.

You also said "BTW, one semi-famous dead theologian named Martin Luther seems to be in favour of youth ministry:"

I think this was about youth music.

DT

Steven said...

I'm going back in time, but I'll answer the question you have presented me with.

1. Why would I want my child going to a young man telling him things that he should be telling his father and/or mother?

I have no reason to believe that the child will go to the youth pastor – but what if he does? Are we saying that it is ok for adults to go to a senior pastor (the opposite of a child going to a youth pastor) but not our children going to a youth pastor? We’ve all been kids at one time – some more recent than others. Is it possible to believe that we can be so blind and forgetful and not remember how difficult or how uninviting our parents can be with it comes to certain issues?

2. Why do most youth ministries seem to specialize in entertainment and teaching the Word seems to be minimized?

Today’s youth are moving at a much faster pace than they did when we were growing up. Do we think that reading alone will catch their attention and hold their focus? Good luck. If this was the case, VBS would not have recess or build birdhouses. What do crafts have to do with the bible? Nothing, it’s entertaining. Right or wrong, the church uses entertainment the same way the world does – to catch the attention of its audience. With that attention, the church can then spread the word. No, it should not be in that order, but reality is just that. Now, with that said, how hypocritical should the church be with it comes to other churches? If we should avoid entertainment in the church, should we remove the toys in the nursery or should and have picture bibles only and live audio feeds? This may be an extreme, but it begs the question of how much entertainment a church should offer.

3. Why do we want the children/youth separated from the parents more than they already are?

If (a maximum of) 3-hours a week of separation is causing a problem with the relationship between the parents and the child, then the problem stated before the family stepped out of the front door of their home. People of different ages have different needs and understand things differently. Recently, our church went over the book of Revelation. Had a child been present, the only thing that would have stuck would have been the image of a seven-headed dragon. Do we want our young children taking everything so literal without being able to comprehend the symbolism we often find in the bible? No… You as a pastor do not have the time to discuss topics in the bible and give the entire background origin of its meaning.

4. What did the youth do before youth ministries existed?
Other than drawing pretty pictures on the bulletins – I’m not sure. I will admit, at one time, I was the child out with in the “big peoples church”. While I’m being honest, I’ll also say that I do not remember what I was doing other than drawing on the bulletin. As for the past, I would like to think that children were receiving the word of the Lord from their parents, but I’m not sure if they were since I wasn’t there.

JSU said...

Hi Steven,

DT asked an excellent question in the second paragraph, “Is the youth minister a scriptural office?” By answering this question, all the following questions fall into place. Since a youth minister is not a Scriptural office, should we be telling this person of our deep concerns and seeking their leadership? The senior pastor is a shepherd of the sheep according to Scripture, so he has Biblical authority to lead the church. Should a person be leading the church (youth) when Scripture does not give them the authority to? This is not an easy cup of tea, but Scripture must be our foundation - for everything.

You said that, “today's youth are moving at a much faster pace than they did when we were growing up.” So does that mean the church should conform? Are we supposed to keep up with the world? Are we competing against the world? Many professing Christians believe that if more entertainment gets the kids in, do it. Pragmatism is anti-Scriptural. I don’t think Paul was building birdhouses and I know Peter wasn’t having puppet shows. Acts 8 even describes how Phillip wasn’t in competition with Simon’s magic show. How did Phillip get the people’s attention? I believe it was the boring preaching.

On DT’s 3rd question you missed his point: Kids spend at least 8 hours a day in school. So that’s at least 40 hours a week at school with definitely some overtime. Segregation doesn’t promote family closeness. More segregation in the church doesn’t help either.

I was also that little kid who drew on the bulletin, but if heard something about a 7-headed dragon my ears would tune in. If I heard about the sword of faith, my eyes would shoot up.

Church is not here to meet the kids’ desire for fun. The world has corporations who make video games for that. The church is here to preach the Word and edify the believers. No matter which way you take it, youth ministries dilute the Word of God by slathering it with entertainment. How about just straight Scripture? That’s the way the apostles did it. They weren’t in competition with the Coliseum or Olympics. Sola Scriptura.

dsstanfield said...

Steven,

I have NEVER seen a Youth Group that promoted true Godliness. Generally, I have seen Youth Groups that cater to the Youth's immaturity by attracting them with silly and often irreverent games. I have seen Youth Groups who teach shallow things, because the Youth are "turned off" by the deeper things of God. I have seen Youth Groups that will pander to the world in order to attract the youth. After all, don't we need to keep the Youth coming to church, even if we compromise the very doctrines upon which the church was founded???? I reject that notion.

As for most Youth Ministers, well they are simply young, immature men who are trying to "connect" with immature youth. I was repulsed when I visited a local church's website to find a picture of their "Youth Minister" with his finger shoved up his nose in an attempt to be funny. Is this the kind of example you want leading God's covenant children?

Observe the dress allowed in most Youth Groups and you will see the maturity level often found in them. Boys with their pants hanging low, and girls with short skirts and their mid drifts exposed.... Where is the discernment? Where is God's Holy people who are supposed to be different than the world? When thrown together, most youths gravitate to the strongest personality in the group. If that personality is not a shining example of Godliness, then one could expect trouble.

What about raising our young men and women to maturity through allowing them to participate in the Adult Bible studies? How about including them in church functions. What about actually expecting our young adults to LIVE UP to the professions that they have made. Too often the church has adopted the world's philosophy that teenagers can't really be expected to be mature because they need to "sow their wild oats." In many cases, fornication runs rampant through the youth groups and it is "overlooked" instead of challenged and disciplined.

This is Baloney.... Christian teenagers should behave like Christians.

It does happen. I have seen it time and again in Reformed circles both Baptist and Presbyterian. I have watched wholesome children have conversations about deeply spiritual things and doctrines. I have watched teenagers eagerly take notes at family conferences only to discuss them with other teenagers and adults afterwards. I have seen families where the parents are respected and the brothers and sisters live in harmony. I have seen young men and women concerning with dressing modestly.

I will say that I have never seen this in a church that promotes a Youth Group. As a side, neither have I seen this where the children attend a public or private school. I won't say it doesn't exist, but I have yet to see it.

We as Christians, must be diligent in our task of raising the covenant children that God has sovereignly place in our households. When we hand that authority exclusively over to even the church, we fail to keep our mandate from God. (Deuteronomy 6)

My children have always worshiped with us. I have three children (the youngest who is now 8) who not only take notes on every sermon, but look forward to discussing them with their daddy. Because they have been included in all of our church activities, my children understand more doctrines and have a deeper understanding of the Law and Christ as children than I did as a young adult. (By the way, I attended Sunday School, VBS, and most of the youth group functions my church offered). They also have developed wonderful relationships with all the people in our church from the youngest to the oldest.


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