(No, I don’t support youth ministries. No apologies for that as I don’t believe it’s biblical. Oh…all misstated Bible facts are intentional.)
Matthew 15: 14, “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”
What’s going on in Youth Ministry? Things have changed and someone (meaning the parents…and, oh, yes, God!) has been left out in the cold. Modern youth ministry is just so, well, modern. We, the parents, aren’t really expected to understand it. What these guys do to…ah, I mean with…our children is the business of…no one, it would seem. Our children go to church supposedly to learn God’s Word and end up talking music, movies and dating or they socialize (we all know how important proper socialization is to their souls, don’t we?) or they…get this, you’re gonna love it…play games (that’s right…big, strapping nearly grown young men who should be in training to lead the church out their acting like some little kid having ice cream eating contests or some such thing that will surely advance them in knowledge of the truth of God’s holy Word). When we, the parents, get concerned (or, is it confused? frustrated? fed up?), and go to “Parent Involvement Meetings” with the Youth Minister (Pastor? Leader?) and offer our input, nothing happens; we talk to our children about what goes on in their “Bible Study” (oops, I don’t think we are really supposed to call it that, anymore) and nothing happens; we might even complain to the head Pastor and…guess what?…nothing happens.
Nothing happens because nothing is meant to happen. It’s not them that is wrong, see? It’s us, the parents (at least those parents who still care). We have lost sight of what Bible…sorry…youth group is supposed to be all about. It isn’t actually about God. No, that went the way of actually caring about doctrine. Todays Youth Ministry (Ministry? Can we really still call it that?) is all about fun and relevance and felt needs. Youth ministers (ah, leaders? buddies? pals?) know this, you see. It’s just the parents who still harbor old-fashioned beliefs that church ought to be about God who are out of the loop.
So with that in mind, I thought I’d help you poor confused parents to understand what is going on when your teens go to Wednesday night Bibl…ah, sorry…youth group…and come home knowing less than they did when they went (but with some great new fashion tips) so you can just relax and let them have their fun. So, (bear with me, please) here goes:
1) Youth ministry isn’t about teaching doctrine, helping teens to grow spiritually, guiding them in prayer or Bible study or preparing them to serve in the church. Youth ministry isn’t about God at all. Youth ministry is about your teens. Period. Plain and simple. Your teen is the center of the universe in that church (if we can still really call it that and be correct), and you need to learn it (because soon, he is going to be proclaiming that he is the center of the universe in your home, too). Youth ministry is there to provide fun, excitement, bonding time with buddies (including the biggest one, the youth leader–minister? guide? friend?–himself)…not to mention tips on movies, music and fashion (and, just perhaps, dating). The Cross of Christ will seldom, if ever, be mentioned (but it will be worn around the neck and adorn tee-shirts). Hell, sin and other “scary” things will never be mentioned (lest someone is hurt, confused or offended by the fact that God is offended by their sin).
2) Youth ministers are expected to dumb down everything since they and most everyone else think that your kids are really, really dumb. When they aren’t softening doctrine or explaining that Jesus came to die so that they could have a really great life then they are trying to find a way to tell your child that he is a sinner without hurting his feelings. I mean, if they hurt his feelings by letting him know that, in God’s eyes, he has transgressed every single law of God and, without His Son, is bound for hell, then your child probably won’t want to come back and will probably spend their Wednesday nights (and maybe even Sunday mornings) doing something that isn’t relevant at all (like spending time on the phone…instead of in person at “church”…with their friends–talking about movies, music, fashion and dating) and, well, to be honest, the Youth Person…Guy…whatever…just might lose his job…and we can’t have that now, can we?
3) The Youth Buddy Fellow has absolutely no expectations whatsoever of your child when it comes to God’s Word. If your child doesn’t know anything about Noah parting the Red Sea, Jonah and the Great Flood, King Paul or any of the other really great, but not relevant, Bible stories, that’s okay. The Y.B.F. knows that your teen is just a kid and shouldn’t be made to think like an adult (since that is stressful…very, very stressful). The Y.B.F. (along with other adults “in the know”) realize that kids must be kids even if they are in church. The fact that he (or she…let’s not be sexist, now) is nearly an adult ought not to bother us (much); after all, that are a lot of really immature grown-up’s out there who manage to make a living (like some Y. B. F.’s). Maturity isn’t necessary to make it in church, either; after all doctrine is no longer emphasized so that no one feels stressed. If this worries you it shouldn’t, since no one really knows what the Sermon on the Mount really means anyway (it is, however, a great story… picturing Jesus there on the side of the mountain with His 10 disciplines and the 14 baskets of fish…teaching them how to make their lives happier…better…and more successful).
4) The Y.B.F. is there to keep your kids off the street, off of drugs, and away from bad influences (like away from a Pastor who would insist that they know doctrine thereby ruining any self-esteem that they might have had by letting them know that indeed they are sinners in dire need of a holy Savior–Who will then insist that they be holy) and whatever it takes to do that is just fine with him (after all, he’s getting paid a nice amount for this). The Y.B.F. will talk with the kids about their felt needs all night (or, the 45 minutes that the class lasts, anyway) if the kids want to (their felt needs being movies, music, fashion and dating…oh! and the absolute necessity of owning their own cell phones and i-pods) and, if that’s all talked up, there’s always games (ice cream, anyone?). This works especially great when the Y.B.F. can throw in a few “Christian” sounding things to keep things legit (such as “Christian” bands, “Christian” novels, “Christian” clothing lines…and so on…after all, we must keep things “Christ-centered,” mustn’t we?) and of course as long as he (or she…remember, no sexism) understands their need to be the center of everything and own everything everyone else owns (which they have to own because someone else does..and so on).
5) The Y.B.F. must remember (and you, dear parent, must understand) that your children (no matter how old they are) are not the church of today…they are the church of tomorrow…so we can’t really expect them to be to be interested in in-depth Bible study (five minutes a day is more than fine), be expected to memorize Scripture (except “God is love”; they know that one really well), pray correctly, learn to serve others or be involved in anything that doesn’t position them as the center of the universe (because, we must remember, they are very stressed over living such stressful lives in such stressful times and they are very emotional about it). Your youth need time to relax and just enjoy themselves and they come to church to get that time (to have to come to church and work, study, pray, learn or serve would simply be too stressful for them). Maturity, knowledge and discernment will all come in due time (if your kids stick around to stay in church) and, if not, at least they’ve had a good time, haven’t they?
So, there it is. Youth ministry isn’t about God, it’s about your teens. Life, for your teens, isn’t about God, it’s about your teens (for any normal teens, that is; there are always the abnormal ones who love God and obey their parents). That’s the way it is. Everybody knows it and we, the confused and concerned parents, had better get used to it; after all, the Youth Ministry Fellow Guy did.
Soli Deo gloria