Modern Youth Ministry: The blind leading the blind

(If this sounds like I am against Youth Ministry, I am; at least the way modern youth ministry is done. With that being said….)

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!) have been left out in the cold. Maybe it hasn’t changed all that much; maybe the way it is now is just the natural outcome of the way it was then. And it just got more so.

But you have to admit that 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.

Our teens supposedly go to youth ministry to learn more about God and His Word and, instead, 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. Ahem, yes, well, moving 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. Today’s Youth Ministry (Can we really still call it that?) is all about fun, fitting into culture so the culture wants to be like the church, relevance (see fitting into culture), and felt needs, or some such thing. Youth ministers (ah, leaders? buddies? pals?) know this, you see. It’s just the parents who still harbor old-fashioned beliefs that Youth Ministry (or even church itself, it seems) 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):

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. 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, food, school, and fashion (and, perhaps, dating). 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). 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).

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 here, today, in this very place (and thus why they really need that new...whatever it is that your teens are trying to convince you to buy for them) then they are thinking about maybe one day trying to tell a story in order to find a way to tell your child that he is a sinner without hurting his feelings and thus soften the news that he just might be hell bound without Jesus. 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…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?

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, 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 memorable, 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 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.

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 any church where they would have to learn doctrine thereby ruining any self-esteem that they might have; I mean do your teens they really need to know that they are sinners in dire need of a holy Savior–Who will then demands that they be holy? That’s just asking too much, don’t you think? And does God really care what they do as long as they are happy?). So whatever it takes to do that is just fine with him (after all, he’s getting paid a nice amount for this). He 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. Supports the group, the Youth Minister is happy, your child is happy, and you’re broke; it’s good all around. Almost. But it’s not all about being out and about. 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 up and out, there’s always games (ice cream, anyone? Gold fish? Worms?). 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?; 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).

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…which is a long time away…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; oh, and “Judge not”), 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 study, pray, worship, or be expected to really learn anything in any meaningful way 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

Photo by Kristina Paparo on Unsplash

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