Monday, November 13, 2006

What to do with Youth Ministry?

I have long had concerns about Youth Ministry but could not quite put my finger on it. I thought it may have been that we did not teach enough doctrine or maybe we did not connect with kids on their level or some combination of things. But, the bottom line was that I saw an issue in that we would take kids and get them all excited about God, or that is what we thought they were excited about, and then watch as they grew in to latter teen-hood and then adults and simply disappear from the scene.

Having been a youth leader for a few years I can say I did see a few kids truly changed and remain on course but the large majority simply strayed and were seen no longer no matter how much I tried. I could read the latest youth ministry book and see so much success, based on numbers, and not be able to reproduce those results. I could try and be as entertaining as I felt comfortable with but that was not enough. The issue with being entertaining is that we need to follow what I would call the “Madonna Principle.” I read an interview once where they asked Madonna why she kept doing what she did and continued to push the envelope, even stepping outside the envelope. Her answer was that she had to do things that were more and more out there because what she had done simply became the norm or not exciting enough. This is how Youth Ministry goes as Youth leaders continually seek ways to not only excite the youth but compete with the world.

Well, I think today we are seeing the results of the last twenty years plus of Youth Ministry and one of those results is called the Emergent church. The other thing that I think all of the focus on youth ministry has created is a segregated church. By raising children, and parents for that matter, to see that everything has to be done by age this has progressed into the church as a whole. We now have generation this and generation that churches, unlike what we see in scripture, that are less and less age integrated. While the church is intent on trying to make multicultural churches we are ignoring multigenerational churches.

Over the last year or so I have been more convinced that Youth Ministry needs to change and that change needs to revolve around households so that they care for the youth. We have taken the job of discipling children away from the parents and institutionalized it in the church and made it the job of the church. How we get back to where we need to be is difficult but it needs to be done. To simply put up our hands and say it is too late is not the answer.

If one stands up and says we need to dismantle the Youth Ministry and start again with an entirely, yet biblical, model will for sure get people up in arms. Children’s and Youth Ministry are two aspects of the local church that have become so ingrained that to think of changing them drastically is frowned upon. But we need to do something before it is too late and so we need to start now.

Voddie Baucham wrote an article, Answering Objections on the YM Issue, on his Blog that speaks to some of the common objections to stopping Youth Ministry as it is presently done. Those objections are things like:

1) We need youth ministry for parents who do not disciple their children

2) We need youth ministry for kids who don’t have Christian parents.

3) Why not let children be leaders in the youth group and disciple other Kids?

4) What about youth evangelism?

Mr. Baucham does a good job of showing that it is not a matter of continuing down the same road we have been on, because we are afraid to leave it for fear we will look different, but we need to get back to seeking God’s word for how to disciple and raise our children. If we care for our Youth we should be willing to do what is best for them and not best for our numbers. We should seek to do what is best for them from God’s perspective even if it is not popular. To simply seek to have a large youth group is not the answer as it is not the answer for the church in general but we are to seek to have spiritually healthy youth and the present method of Youth Ministry is not the way.

While the Family, or Household, Integrated Church flies in the face of how things are done today I am more convinced than ever that it is the correct path to head down. Not every church can head down it at the same speed and the same way but the goal at the end should be the same; Churches that worship together both corporately and in their everyday lives. The first step will be difficult and probably met with resistance but that should not deter one from the path.

Other articles on Youth Ministry by Voddie:

Youth Ministry Part 1
Youth Ministry Part 2
Youth Ministry Part 3

1 comment:

Caleb Michael said...

Wow, thank you for you insight. I could not agree with you more! I am homeschooled and have always gone to curch WITH my parents. Youth Ministry in my oppinion is just another place for teens to be crazy. The church should be seperate from the world "in the world but not of the world" as Paul says. There is no reason that youth should go to church seperately from their parents. In Bible times a boy became a man at age 12! Thanks again for your article. Check out my blog.