Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Youth Ministries? Part 2


I recently asked in my first post "Is the youth minister a scriptural office?"

A few wrote back and stated that " 'xyz' is not in the Bible either, does that make it wrong?"

To me this is what is described in Latin as "argumentum a silentio" or an argument from silence.

To follow this reasoning one could easily take anything that is not specifically prohibited in the Bible and say that it is fine.

The problem I still see that is most prevalent is that "it works." Just because something works does not make it a good thing. Pointing a gun at someone's head "works" also. That does not make it right. Again, this is pragmatism.

Then we have others who think that since little Jr. and little Jane do not have a godly daddy that a youth minister is or can be a blessing to them. What is wrong with the men and women of the church pointing little Jr. and little Jane (Titus 2) to the Lord and to good works?

Here is an interesting question to consider. Why do we feel that little Jr. and little Jane need a specialized service like children's church, youth groups, youth Bible studies and so on? What is wrong with the Word from the pulpit? Does it really need to be scaled down to help them understand when in fact the Holy Spirit is the One who opens our spiritual eyes to understand.

I know this is not popular in a day when we have singles Bible studies, singles-again Bible studies, senior adult Bible studies, men and women's Bible studies and left-handed blue eyed people that like American Idol Bible studies. But I think these questions have to be asked.

We have "specialized" groups so much that "big" church is not needed or relevant. Since when does something have to be relevant to be spiritually productive?

Besides, little Jr. and little Jane cannot sit still during church for a whole service.

28 comments:

Patrick said...

Brother, I was a youth pastor at one time, and I would say that much done in the name of "youth ministry" is questionable at best, and unbiblical at worst.

I am concerned for the youth in the Chruch nowadays as there really isn't substance to anything being taught in the majority of our
youth groups aside from-
-Who wants to receive Jesus as their Saviour?
-Pray this prayer after me
-Ok you're in

Then folks wonder why these kids fall away in College!!!

Mark La Roi said...

While I used to believe having those who were seemingly gifted at such things teach them specifically in the Church was a good thing, as I grow in Christ I find myself getting more away from that thinking.

The training of the children belongs to the parents. If a child doesn't have parents, or that child's parents are unsaved, then adults in the church should be training them as they go along the way.

Along with what patrick said, I also see a greater percentage of unbiblical practice in youth ministries than eanywhere else and I think it's because kids can be so quick to respond, the leaders just throw the Lord's name at them and then it's done. They don't often get into serious study, and one of the findings of even superficial studies is that kids have serious questions and want straight-forward, serious answers.

jon said...

Hi Pastor T.,

As you know, I got to spend 3 weeks up at Covenant Bible Camp with the Sr. High, Jr. High, and 5-6 Graders recently. Having one of the village pastors there was a treat for the Camp staff (so they said) because village pastors have so much going on that we rarely have an opportunity to do something like that.

Anyway, before the Sr. High week ended and the Jr. High week begun, I was invited to teach a one hour "cabin initiatives" class that the couselors could sign their cabins up for. I told the Program Director that I'd teach them a Biblical foundations class. With that, I was told that, because they're Jr. High, they may not be able to sit for an hour of Bible teaching. I thought, "What in the world are you talking about? Eskimo kids in my village spend 2 hours watching a movie without moving. They sit in front of the computer for 6 hours... and I even saw one kid once stand in one place for three hours doing nothing but push buttons on a portable playstation."

So for the class I asked them what they thought the Bible was. Then I asked them what they thought that meant. After various answers I brought them to 1 Corinthians 2:14 and told them that they couldn't understand the Bible unless they were saved... and I immediately preached Christ and Him crucified for the rest of my time with them. No altar call. No sinner's prayer. Then I told them if they weren't sure they were saved after what I just shared with them from Scripture, they could come talk to me any time during the week. That week, I know every kid and every counselor heard the gospel.

In the bush villages, many of us pastors are the only spiritual leader for the entire community. In our village, we have no youth workers, nor any youth volunteers from the congregation. We do have a "children's church" on Sunday afternoon between our morning and evening services but it's basically just a Sunday School for the younger kids... and even many of these kids come to our regular services with the teens and the parents. We trust that if it's the Holy Spirit doing the work through our expositional teaching and preaching of the Word of God, then the kids will be able to ask their parents, their older siblings, and/or my wife and me.

No gimmicks. No pragmatic hoops to jump through. No glory for man. Plus, doing it that way, I don't have to fret in my prayer closet over the kids that raised their hand at VBS and live like the world the other 51 weeks of the year... I can continue to pray that God will save their souls.

Thanks for your posts, my brother.

Blessings,

jon cardwell
scammon bay, alaska

Larry said...

If I might take a stab at this one too, (and hopefully not get in trouble this time), I think the answer to this is the same reason we have a first grade, second grade, third grade ... twelfth grade: People have to learn basics and move up. Adults learn differently than first graders do, particularly in this age of TV and movies, and video games, and the like. We can curse the darkness brought on by these things, but we still have to minister to the people.

I don't think children's church needs to be games and candy and the like. I think it can be solid biblical teaching geared towards the audience.

Every good teacher must know his audience as well as his material and must adjust his material to fit his audience.

Some suggest that the adults should be training the kids. I agree. That's why we have adults teach children in SS and children's church. We offer a children's church program. Kids are not required to attend, and not even encouraged. When parents come, we tell them it is available and leave it at that.

I will refrain from disliking the solution since it hasn't been stated this time.

Dead Theologians said...

Jon,

You said "No altar call. No sinner's prayer...No gimmicks. No pragmatic hoops to jump through. No glory for man."

How is someone going to be saved without the altar call and the man-made sinner's prayer?:)

The tricks that we have employed these days are shameful.

You said "Plus, doing it that way, I don't have to fret in my prayer closet over the kids that raised their hand at VBS and live like the world the other 51 weeks of the year"

All I can say is AMEN!!!!

DT

Dead Theologians said...

Patrick,
I cannot tell you how many people that I have talked to that echo what you have just said.

The lack of substance I'm afraid is a lack of salvation oftentimes.

Mark,

You said "the leaders just throw the Lord's name at them and then it's done. They don't often get into serious study,"

This is so true. I suppose you can throw the Lord's name into anything and its ok according to some.

Larry,

What you do with your church is up to you but you have not answered the question that I have put forth. What is wrong with the little ones and youth sitting in "big" church?

DT

Larry said...

It seemed there were two questions: Why do we feel that little Jr. and little Jane need a specialized service like children's church, youth groups, youth Bible studies and so on? What is wrong with the Word from the pulpit?

I answered the first by saying some feel that they need a specialized service because people learn differently at different ages.

As to the second question of "What's wrong with it" ... My answer is nothing per se, but if children are not learning, that is a problem. I think "what's wrong" is when kids sit through a whole service and when you ask them what that was about they say "I don't know. I couldn't understand it."

I don't think it has to be "fun and games" to have age appropriate teaching. I think we instinctively recognize that at all levels of life.

approvedworkman said...

jon
Can I come join you?? :-)

Anonymous said...

As a Children's Minister, I can tell you that a 5 year old learns differently than a 12 year old.

What I'm having trouble with is the mindset that parents have- "Church is responsible for teaching my kids the Bible". Wrong! PARENTS are responsible for teaching their own children about God and His Word and the Gospel.

And I absolutely DETEST "Children's Church". Saying goodbye to your children when you arrive at church and then picking them up afterward is horrible.

Children learn best from their parents. If they do not have believing parents, then they should have "parents" in the church body, discipling them and encouraging them since they won't receive that encouragement from home.

It's frustrating trying to turn these church "consumers" into disciples of Christ.

terriergal said...

Hear hear.... I got the best 'fellowship' with adults anyway, with only a few exceptions (those being exceptional youths with real hearts for the Lord!)

It's kind of like daycare -- we ship our kids off to spend day after day with a herd of chaotic selfish immature people (children) and wonder why they grow up to be impulsive, selfish, irrational and immature.

Our church is pretty good but also has a 'youth program' which I constantly talk to my kids about -- how I wish they could mingle more with the adults. My oldest (14) is fine with that. She loves to interact with all ages and just seems to really 'get it.' She does appreciate kids of her own age, but also is a joy to spend time with for us adults as well and discuss the Lord, (well, when she isn't cranky...which can hardly be blamed on her age necessarily!) :-)

I read a great article on Christian Worldview Network:

Don't Give Spiritual Custody Of Your Children To The Church!"

Larry said...

I certainly agree that the parents should take responsibility for their children's spiritual growth and teaching. I see having a children's church type teaching time as a part of that, not a substitute for it.

Redobs said...

Some thoughts...

Dad leads his family spiritually, teaching wife and kids corporately and individually (one on one studies can focus the discipleship of each member according to the needs and maturity). All receive the same teaching, presented at their level of maturity.

The family worships together, with the kids learning what it looks like to worship with maturity in a corporate setting. The kids come along side to serve with the adults, learning what it looks like to serve with maturity. We are raising men and women for Christ. They start as girls and boys and we are moving them to be men and women. That doesn't happen in youth group. I've watched and assisted, noting the environment most often mirrors the world in its attempt to be appealing to youth so they will stay interested. The culture around us worships youth, not maturity. Scripture views youth as something we are to move away from onto maturity. Youth = immaturity.

Parents, fathers in particular, are central here, not the youth ministries. The Church is to support the work of raising Godly children, as God clearly states His desire for bringing couples together in Malachi is for Godly seed.

The church needs to spend more time discipling fathers and mothers in their task so we are nuturing this maturity.

Enough for now...

Melissa said...

DT,

This is kinda not going along with the question, but:

It seems to me that children not following along in "big" church is a learned behavior.

Larry said that it's bad when children don't know what's going on in church because they can't understand it. I'm wondering if children not understanding what the pastor is saying has become a learned behavior. They know that there is a class that can make it fun and simple, so they just tune out what the Pastor says because they don't feel like he is speaking on their level.

It's kinda like if you tell a child that they are not good at Math, and probably never will be, they'll probably stop trying to understand Math. Likewise, if you tell a child there is a class for them to go to so they can understand the Bible better, then they'll stop trying to learn in "big" church and just go to class.

Children to follow what's expected of them.

I've tried teaching my little class to pay attention and take notes during preaching. I once gave them each a notebook and told them to take notes during service. I spoke with their parents about ONLY allowing them to use the notebook for that reason. One student that very night actually took notes from our Pastor's sermon, I then answered her questions. I have yet to see the notebooks come back with more notes. Why? Because it's not reinforced by the parents.

Wouldn't these parents want to know how their child was doing in school, why not church?

So many Christian parents are not stepping up to their roles as spiritual leaders in their homes. Unfortunately, there are children with Christian parents who are just like the children without Christian parents, spiritually unfed. There is little spoken of at home about God and then after church God is left on church's doorsteps.

Melissa said...

About the notebooks, it sounded like I was saying that the notebooks during service should be reinforced...what I meant is that paying attention and asking questions is not reinforced. If more parents would ask their children questions after church and involve them in conversation about the sermon, then the children are more likely to come back with MORE questions for the parents. I mean, children ask amazing questions like how do we not fall off the world, or what are hot dogs made of? They are also filled with questions about God and His Son all it takes is a person to start the conversation with them.

You know, Children are commended for sitting still and not talking. What about actually listening? Don't they listen to what the television says? I hear a lot of children repeat their favorite commercials....

Dead Theologians said...

Larry,

You said "I answered the first by saying some feel that they need a specialized service because people learn differently at different ages."

Again, how did anyone do it before public schools and youth/children's ministries? Their parents or leaders in the church took the initiative.
It reminds me of what Jon said earlier.
"I told the Program Director that I'd teach them a Biblical foundations class. With that, I was told that, because they're Jr. High, they may not be able to sit for an hour of Bible teaching. I thought, "What in the world are you talking about? Eskimo kids in my village spend 2 hours watching a movie without moving. They sit in front of the computer for 6 hours... and I even saw one kid once stand in one place for three hours doing nothing but push buttons on a portable playstation."

It all goes back to the discipline (teaching)that the child receives at home. If we have trained them to sit still because they are fixing to be entertained by a game, TV, silly-song, drama, games and etc. then they will NEVER sit still during a sermon.

DT

Dead Theologians said...

Larry,

You said "I think "what's wrong" is when kids sit through a whole service and when you ask them what that was about they say "I don't know. I couldn't understand it."

Who opens their spiritual eyes to understand you or the Holy Spirit?

DT

Dead Theologians said...

Anoynmous,

You said "And I absolutely DETEST "Children's Church". Saying goodbye to your children when you arrive at church and then picking them up afterward is horrible."

Made me wonder if you were talking about DayCare or Church?

Excellent point!!

DT

Dead Theologians said...

Terriergal

You said "It's kind of like daycare -- we ship our kids off to spend day after day with a herd of chaotic selfish immature people (children) and wonder why they grow up to be impulsive, selfish, irrational and immature."

Ouch!! How true!

Thanks for your comment.
DT

Dead Theologians said...

Larry,

You said "I certainly agree that the parents should take responsibility for their children's spiritual growth and teaching. I see having a children's church type teaching time as a part of that, not a substitute for it."

I think they call this a "stretch."

DT

Dead Theologians said...

Redobs,

I do agree that the church needs to train better. I also don't want to indirectly put the "heavy" on the church to raise the child because mom and dad are not equipped to.

Mom and Dad should be feeding themselves on the Word at home during the week before they come to church.

DT

Dead Theologians said...

Melissa,

You said "Wouldn't these parents want to know how their child was doing in school, why not church?"

I think most don't care as long as their child is having fun and wants to come back to church.

I think most view church as a drudgery or as an act of making God happy.

DT

jon said...

btw, Pastor T.,

On our children's church in the afternoons, we openly invite our parents and teens to join us during that time. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don't.

When they do join in, many of the kids like to sit near the parents or older siblings and it makes a more orderly service because the kids are more likely to keep still and pay attention (not something we had to think about- just something that happened). It's not perfect, but then again, neither are we.

...and to approvedworkman, I was thinking of joining you down in beautiful 4 corners, my friend!! :-)

blessings,
jon

Larry said...

Thanks for your response DT. Perhaps I can offer a few thoughts in return.

Again, how did anyone do it before public schools and youth/children's ministries?

By teaching people on their own level. I don’t think that has ever changed, though the delivery methods may have. I think the idea that kids can’t pay attention for an hour to teaching is ludicrous, since they play video games for hours on end and watch TV for hours on end. However, teaching is a different delivery method and that is why it is harder to pay attention. It requires thought, and people (old and young) are not accustomed to giving thought.

I think that is just the way life is. We can wish it were different, or we can minister to people where they are at and try to bring them along.

I agree that it all (or at least most of it) goes back to the home. But unfortunately, we are not all reaching people with godly backgrounds. And sanctification doesn’t happen overnight.

Who opens their spiritual eyes to understand you or the Holy Spirit?

I think this is a false dichotomy. The Holy Spirit gives spiritual understanding, not linguistic understanding. The Holy Spirit does not make a first grader learn like a doctoral student.

You said "I certainly agree that the parents should take responsibility for their children's spiritual growth and teaching. I see having a children's church type teaching time as a part of that, not a substitute for it."

I think they call this a "stretch."


I don’t think so. It is one of the ways that we view our children’s ministry. We are not a substitute for parents. We try to equip parents to teach their children and raise them in a godly way. I am so radical that I think parents ought to have their children in church every time the doors are open. I think they should go to church on vacation and skip sports and school work for church.

We also live in the reality that some kids come to our church whose parents don’t come. And we minister to them and try to teach them.

Part of this discussion is certainly going to hinge on the type of ministry you have. What works well in a church with mature Christian families and parents who take their responsibilities seriously is a lot different than what works well in a church where teens and children come without their parents, and where parents are doing drugs, living with boyfriends and girlfriends, and the like.

I detest the destruction of the family as much as you do I am sure, and detest the fact that dads don’t lead their families spiritually, don’t pray with them, and don’t read the Bible with them, and don’t teach them.

But in the end, we have to “serve the present age” to cite Wesley. We have to meet people where they are at and move them forward spiritually.

Thanks for the interaction.

Dead Theologians said...

Larry,

I am reformed in my doctrine and that may play a part in our discussion. I believe it is God's Spirit that helps the little ones to understand and open their eyes to salvation. My goal is not to make sure people "get something" out of the service, ie children's church, youth group, and the like. My goal is to preach Christ and Him crucified. My goal is for the Lord to be lifted up and He will draw men unto Himself.

I am not wanting people to get their money's worth so that they can feel like they have done their duty. Sunday should be a culmination of what has been happening throughout the week.

If I invite youth/children all around our area for a Bible study they might come. If I invite them to the same with pizza and Luis Pulau pulling out of the stops with his circus church routine then every kid in the area will come out. But what is the goal? To deceive them with a scaled down fun version of carnival christianity so that I can witness to them so they can be saved?

What we have is a fun loving, entertainment driven church that is amusing itself to death.

I urge you to watch/listen to Paul Washer's sermon at
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuabITeO4l8

Believe it or not, I am enjoying the dialog also.

DT

Larry said...

I am reformed in my soteriology. I doubt that is our difference.

I guess the question is, Do you believe the Holy Spirit’s role in illumination pertains to things like the meanings of words, and the logic of illustrations? I don’t. I think it deals with spiritual matters and spiritual understanding, at the level of significance, not meaning. Otherwise, we would have no need to learn a new language going to a foreign country. We could just preach in English and expect the Holy Spirit to open their minds. I realize that is a far fetched illustration, but that seems to be the principle you are using.

We have to preach and teach in a manner that takes into account our audience.

I too share the goal of preaching Christ and him crucified, but the Bible seems clear that we give application of that in ways that are understandable to the people we are talking to. So again, I wonder if it is not a false dichotomy to set preaching Christ against preaching so that people understand. I think we can do both.

Lastly, I am totally opposed to carnival Christianity. I think we should be straightforward with the claims of the gospel and not couch it is worldliness or deceitful methods (2 Cor 4:1-6).

Dead Theologians said...

Larry,

I suppose that you and I will have to agree to disagree. I do not think you have gotten my point but there is no point in "beating a dead horse."

You have a youth ministry with a minister and have seen the success in it. I think that you are using the "ends justify the means" whereas I say that it is pragmatism. Call it what you will, these ministries have scaled down the gospel for the little ones and they have to fun-it-up for the youth most of the time.

I have no problem with considering your audience. I do it all the time. But I can still teach the same thing but with a little more elaboration.

Please read this quote from Ray Baumann- a former youth minister

"You see, the church offers program after program and ministry after ministry directed at our kids. The church believes they can effectively disciple children without their parents, i.e., youth ministry. After 10 years of youth ministry I wish I could go back and spend more time discipling and resourcing parents. The church is failing in youth ministry because it has segregated the family.

If Mom and Dad are looking for the “just add water” approach to discipling their children, the church has a program to do it for you (aka, cheap labor), but it has an extreme failure rate. There is no sacrifice too big, no cost too high, in exchange for shepherding your own children. The church sees discipleship as a 12 week program, and that has never worked. No wonder the church can only retain minimal students when they graduate high school.

It seems everyone has an answer for reaching today’s kids. Some say it’s a certain curriculum, some say buy your kids good Christian music, take them to a conference or music festival, send them to a Christian college, but it is not working. I don’t believe any of those things are bad, but they are not the answer.

Youth ministry has become big business because parents would rather put kids in a program then have to do it themselves. Youth ministries would be unnecessary if the believers took their biblical mandate to parent seriously. There would be prayer and study going on at home. Imagine that--having church with just your family."

Blessings to you Larry.
DT

Larry said...

DT,

I will close with this (I think). I don't think I am missing your point. I simply disagree with some of it, at least as I understand it. I mostly agree with the quote you offer. But the great commission does not mean that we can only reach families. The truth is that a lot of kids and teens get saved without godly parents, and if we have a "family only" view of youth discipleship, these kids get left out, even if you assign them "church parents" to sit with them in church.

When you say that you teach the same thing with a little more elaboration, that is exactly my point. I think we should teach the same thing to kids, teens, and adults, differing only in the way that we teach it. We don't change the content. We might change the illustrations and the way that we communicate it based on who is in the audience.

I think I share all of your objections (at least if I understand them) to youth ministry. My point in the original comments and in this one is that the problem is not with youth ministry per se; it is with certain kinds of youth ministries. I am not for "funning up" the gospel or dumbing it down. I am for calling all ages to serious discipleship based on their age. What discipleship looks like for a middle aged couple is not what it looks like for a teenager or a first grader. I think we should take that into account and I think you agree.

As a youth pastor in a former life, we averaged about 30-35 teens, and only one or two of them had two parents regularly attending church. Less than half had one parent attending church. The majority were the only believers (or at least the only church attenders) in the home. That's the kind of world I was ministering in.

Were I to do it over, I would do a lot of things differently. But I didn't have the option of discipling parents. I tried as much as possible to evangelize them, but in the end, I had to take teens and try to get them to take the next spiritual step.

I would say this and perhaps you will disagree (which is fine): I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with youth activities where kids have fun (whether pizza or putt putt or whatever) and enjoy being together. I think it is wrong when that becomes a bait and switch, or when the fact of what we are about in the gospel is hidden. We don't invite people to a pizza party and then surprise them with a gospel message. But we can be upfront about it.

To me, the danger is when we hide the gospel or hide our intentions. It is not when we have fun as believers together.

Thanks again for the interaction. Blessing to you and your ministry as well.

Anonymous said...

After hearing Paul Washer's messages (parts 1-4) on "To Love the Word of God", it really got me thinking about some things I had not considered - found here:
http://www.sermonindex.net/modules/mydownloads/viewcat.php?cid=442&min=80&orderby=titleA&show=20

In fact, I never learned much of anything in Sunday school or youth group that led to my salvation. I became one of the most rebellious teens from my youth group. By God's grace, He did save me.

I also have distinct memories of sitting in "adult" church and hearing the sermons. I still have a bible that I wrote in at around 8-10 yrs of age that the pastor said during those sermons. I may not have understood all that he said, but I guarantee you there were things I could wrap my little mind around.

I am glad to go to a small church that allows children to sit with the adults. These children are some of the most well-behaved children I know. And yes, the primary responsibility falls directly on the parents to train up their children as Paul Washer clearly demonstrates in the series I mentioned.

How on earth did they ever do church way back when???

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