What’s going on in youth ministry?
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? What we were told was a means of training our children in godliness has turned out to be anything but. Maybe we were blind. Perhaps we were just lied to and it hasn’t changed all that much; maybe what we are seeing is simply the natural outcome of a corrupt system.
Modern youth ministry is just so, well, modern. And not biblical. We, the parents, aren’t really expected to understand it. What these guys do to…uh, I mean with…our children…to teach our children…is the business of…no one, it would seem.
That’s why, in most churches, it either needs to change or be gotten rid of.
The purpose of youth ministry
Our teens supposedly go to youth ministry to learn more about God and His Word. Supposedly. Instead, they end up a whole lot more knowledgeable about culture, music, movies, fashion, and dating, or they socialize (Oh, come on, this part really is important; after all, we all know how very important proper socialization is to their souls, don’t we?; and by proper socialization we mean ignorant teens spending time with other ignorant teens, all of them hanging out together and learning absolutely nothing) or they…get this, you’re gonna love this part…play games!
Yes, you heard that right. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Just picture these lovely young ladies eating too much candy in too little time, or these big, strapping, nearly grown young men who should be in training to lead the church out there acting like little kids having ice cream eating contests.
I know what you are thinking, this sounds crazy, right? But you have to understand, some youth group minister guys really go overboard in this way. These games here are really kind of mild compared to some of them: anybody want to eat peanut butter off the sole of some guy’s bare foot? or eat live something-or-other’s just to see if you can? Yeah, well…. You’ve got to remember to thank the Youth Group Buddy Head Honcho for thinking up all these great things that will surely advance your teens in knowledge of the truth of God’s Holy Word.
What’s really going on?
When we get concerned (or, is it confused? frustrated? fed up?), and go to “Parent Involvement Meetings” with the Youth Minister Guy 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, drum rollllll…ta da! nothing happens!! We might even complain to the head Pastor and…guess what?…nothing happens. Again.
Nothing happens because nothing is meant to happen. It’s not any of them that are wrong, see? It’s us, the parents (at least those parents who still care). We’re old-fashioned and out of touch. 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.
Modern youth ministry
Today’s Youth Ministry (Can we really still call it that?) is all about fun, fitting into culture so the culture will want to be like the church (as if that’s going to happen), relevance (see fitting into culture), and social justice (which isn’t really justice at all). Youth ministers (ah, buddies? pals?) know this, you see. It’s just the parents who still harbor old-fashioned beliefs that Youth Ministry ought to be about Jesus 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), you might want to go get yourself a strong cup of coffee here. Or a beer, if you so indulge. With all that said, here goes absolutely nothing (and I really, really, mean that):
It isn’t about doctrine
1) Youth ministry isn’t about teaching doctrine, helping teens to grow spiritually, guiding them in how to pray, having anything even resembling a real Bible study, or preparing them to serve in the church one day. Youth ministry isn’t about God at all; it is all 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).
The Cross of Christ will seldom, if ever, be mentioned (but it will be worn around the neck and adorn their too-tight tee-shirts). The great doctrines of Scripture, eternal punishment in hell, sin and other “scary” things will never be mentioned lest someone is hurt, confused, triggered, embarrassed, or offended by the fact that God is offended by their sin.
Dumbed down doctrine
2) Youth ministers are expected to dumb down everything since they and most everyone else think that your kids are really, really dumb. That’s why Lifeway has put out a Gen Z Bible Devo that is utterly blasphemous but aimed straight at your youth. Your children aren’t expected to learn anything because then the folks selling all these kinda sorta but not really Christian wares and trinkets then wouldn’t have a market and neither would all the so-called Christian publishers who market spiritual junk. When they aren’t softening doctrine, they’re flat out spewing lies.
See, the modern youth minister fella cannot tell your child the truth that they are depraved and in need of a Savior because then he would be out of a job. If he hurts your teen’s 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…at least to his paycheck…(like spending time on the phone…instead of in person at “church”…with their friends–talking about movies, music, fashion, food, school, 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?
The same goes for most pastors in general, if we’re gonna be honest about it.
And Christian speakers, pod-casters, authors, and so on. There’s so much money to be made selling discontentment, shoveling false doctrine, and dealing in racism, few want to endanger their pocketbook by standing for truth.
After all, God is love and surely He’ll understand.
It isn’t about spiritual maturity
3) The Youth Buddy Fellow has absolutely no expectations whatsoever that your child will actually learn or apply God’s Word. If your child doesn’t know anything about the great Bible stories such as Noah parting the Red Sea, Jonah and the Great Flood, King Paul, David and his fight with that bully…oh, come on, give me a minute…oh, yes, GimBob? Golutha? never mind, or any of the other really great, but not very applicable (unless we’re talking about social justice issues) 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). So stressful that he himself doesn’t even do it.
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).
If this worries you it shouldn’t, since absolutely no one really knows what the Sermon on the Mount means anyway (it is, however, a great story… picturing Jesus there on the side of the mountain with His 10 disciplines, their girlfriends, a few others, and the 14 baskets of fish…teaching them how to make their lives happier…better…and more successful). Mary Magdalene was probably there, too. She was Jesus’s girlfriend, right? Or, was she the woman caught in adultery? It’s all so confusing. These days.
Since no one is actually expected to read the Bible.
Smile and be happy
4) The Y.B.F. is there to keep your kids off the street, off of drugs, and away from bad influences. For instance, they keep them away from bad influences like the Apostle Paul who was a misogynist, or from pastors like R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Charles Spurgeon, or John Calvin. You know–those old folks, mostly dead, who were probably legalists anyway. I mean do your teens really need to hear that God is holy and demands that they, too, be holy? Or that God meant it when He said that He created the world in six days, or that God not only created men and women but defined their roles? That’s just asking too much, don’t you think? And does God really care what they do as long as they are happy?
The Youth Buddy Guy might, if he can get your permission and your money, load up the church bus and head off to somewhere to see this really holy, super cool, new Christian group who has some new song about being in love with Jesus. Just think, your kid could buy their new…everything…while at the concert. This supports the group, the Youth Minister is happy, your teen is happy, and you’re broke.
Then comes Wednesday
5) That’s for Saturday’s; this is Wednesday night we’re talking about. The Y.B.F. will talk with the kids about their needs all night (or, the 45 minutes that the class lasts, anyway) if the kids want to (their needs being movies, music, fashion, and dating…oh! and the absolute necessity of owning their own car. Or their own cell phones…that is, brand new expensive cell phones. With unlimited minutes. Or about going to another Christian concert; except one that’s louder and even more culturally saturated.) But, if that’s all talked out, there’s always games (ice cream, anyone? Gold fish? Worms?).
All of this works especially well 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?; that makes Jesus happy) and of course as long as he (or she…remember, no sexism) understands our kids have to be the center of everything and own everything everyone else owns (which they have to own because someone else does..and so on).
The church of tomorrow?
6) 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. Tomorrow is a long time away so we can’t really expect our youth to grow up or do anything useful or actually be interested in spiritual things. Why should we expect them to be to be interested in in-depth Bible study (five minutes a day is more than fine), when we aren’t? How can they be expected to memorize Scripture (except “God is love”; they know that one really well; oh, and “Judge not”), pray correctly, or learn to serve others, when we, their parents, are so involved in business that we never had time to raise them, or have family worship, or to even take them to church?
How can we expect our youth to 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) when we treat them as if they are the center of the universe?
What do we think is going to happen if we never say “No” to our children?
But does all that really matter? I mean, seriously, life is about fun, making your bucket list, and achieving success. 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?
It’s not about God
So, there it is. Today’s 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