Sunday, October 07, 2007

Youth Ministry and the Dumbing Down of the Church

Katherine Coble:

When I was growing up, most of the youth ministers I encountered were guys who had some sort of arrested development thing going on. They got into youth ministry because they loved the feeling of someone looking up to them, thinking they were cool.


I’ll never forget one of my youth ministers coming to chapel at my Christian School. This was a school where we had in-depth theology classes and deep discussions about things like transubstantiation, abortion, euthanasia and other faith/ethics topics. My youth minister’s idea of addressing “kids” was to sing “Little Bunny Foo Foo”.

As I’ve grown older (and even more curmudgeonly) it seems like this problem was not solely at my home church. The dumbing down of church for the young is causing the modern institutional church to lose 20-somethings at a hemorragic rate.


The church needs to expect more from people between the ages of 14 and 30. The church needs to realise that this is when serious life choices are being made. Where shall we go to college? Can we go to college? Whom shall we marry? What will we do for the rest of our life? Instead of wooing “youth” with pizza party fun, the church ought to prepare growing people for the challenges of life.

Hat tip: Gavin Richardson


jim said...

There is a very true sentiment here.

This is, in essence, what you and I have talked about in the past.

Though I am more concerned with the "arrested development" thing, I am more concerned about spiritually, communally, missionally, and theologically ignorant youth ministries that forgo these things in the name of entertainment or "passion."

Dan Trabue said...

I reckon I've had or known a youth minister or two like that in my years, but the majority of youth ministers in the churches I've been a part were of two sorts:

1. Those who were testing the waters in youth work, but who were eventually going into preaching - these folk knew their bibles well and there was no dumbing down of the gospel
2. Those who were definitely called to work with youth - and these folk knew their Bible well and did not dumb down the gospel, either.

Our current youth minister is outstanding, and stands ready to take on the meatier matters of the faith. My 16 year old son just announced his intention to follow Christ and be baptized this sunday, by the way.

I will note that my personal experience includes
1. growing up in a Baptist church in a seminary town, where we had probably six-eight very deep youth ministers over my teen and young adult years,
2. my experience at my church now, with my kids,
3. and additionally, I traveled for ten years in a "CCM/Christian rock" band to many churches across many denominations and found most youth ministers (who were typically our contact points) to at least appear to be quite spiritually-minded.

But, perhaps my experience is the exception.

John Wilks said...

That pretty well sums it up.

Well, almost.

There is also the dirty little secret of youth ministry which Mike Yaconelli (sp?) pointed out- those who dare to work with students on a deep, meaningful, and transformational level can expect to be fired at least once in their careers.

Many churches want the guy or gal who sings "little bunny foo-foo." Sure they'd also like the occasional scary talk about the dangers of booze and sex and they'd like the kids to have a surface-level veneer of Christianity. But since so many churches are full of adults who have been poorly discipled themselves, it is no wonder that deep-thinking, question-asking, Spirit-seeking youth groups seem scary and weird to many a church board.

Sad but true.

MethoDeist said...

This is an article by the Barna group that is about 20 somethings and Christianity:

Have you all noticed any of these problems in your ministries regarding the young and Christianity?

At my wife's church, the youth tend to have good Christian education until they graduate high school (they have an excellent youth instructor)but upon graduation nothing is done until they reach 30 and have kids (as has been mentioned).


rocksalive777 said...

The speaker at my campus ministry's fall retreat touched on this subject. We spend so much time in youth groups trying to be the cool youth pastor with pizza, volleyball, rock-ish praise music (I love Relient K as much as the next guy, but High of 75 should never be thought of as praise), and what-have-you that by the time they get into the real world, they don't know what they believe (except that too much pepperoni pizza is a bad thing) and end up looking for a church like their youth group, aimed at an Attention Deficit culture. When they find that this church doesn't exist, they become disillusioned and fall away.