Equipping Your Reimagine Journey
This seems to be a both and situation. The flawed youth minister model is a continuing problem. Fatherlessness is a growing scourge eating away at the fiber of our nation. The church needs to be revived. Revival will not come if we remain in blatant disobedience to God's order for the home. The best place to win a child to Christ is in the home. The most effective place to disciple a child is in the home. Churches must align themselves with those purposes. That does not mean we stop youth evangelism but that we rethink what is the most effective method of getting that done. Certainly falling on our face in repentence and prayer is a good start. If we want God to send a revival the church should strive to get right first before we go out and get kids and innoculate them against godliness by locking them into models that don't reflect Biblical truth.
In Love and with great respect for those who have given their lives to youth ministry
As a career Campus Minister with over three decades experience on six different university campuses in four different states, and having raised three children who attended "successful" youth groups, I have a few opinions.
First: The problem is real. Barna's data mirrors our experience. I would add that we are not in a benign world. We have an enemy who is active and able to trap our children. Also these kids are free moral agents. No matter what, they must own their decisions.
Second: Entertainment youth ministry isn't helping. While I have seen spiritual truth communicated entertainingly and effectively, if the pressure is just to keep the audience (and our jobs) then entertainment is enough and we have not fed the deepest need of student's souls. What these kids need is Jesus.
Third: The problem is deeper than the youth group content or the strategy itself. Let me illustrate.
Each of our very human children began to read the bible sometime during their Jr Hi or HS years. We never talked to the kids about it, it was all on their own. I was intrigued at how this youth ministry could get 14 yr-olds to read the bible when it was so difficult with university students so I volunteered to watch it in action. My first observation: no one else was reading their bible! Why did our kids?
Every morning, when the children got up, they were liable to find one or two bibles laying around the house next to an empty coffee cup. This was my wife's and my habit. (I usually forgot to put the cup away.) When a God consciousness struck, and youth group was a big part of that, this was the paradigm our children knew to imitate. There is no substitute for an example.
Why do so many leave the church? Shallow youth ministry may not help but it isn't that fathers aren't teaching their children, it is what fathers (and the rest of us) are teaching them by example. The accusation from those former church kids is never, "my youth ministry was shallow" but "Hypocrisy", from the pulpit, from the pew, and at home.
Thank your youth worker, encourage him or her to go deep with God, and take an honest look in the mirror.
And pray your brains out!
A few months ago I spoke with a pastor who is in his 80's and he told me that when he graduated from high school he left the church but not Jesus. One thing I noticed is how those who have been to church for a long time pick up on the model they see which is mostly people going to church and doing things. One of the biggest troubles I have had with adults is their unwillingness to get out of their comfort zone and be challenged in reaching others. What this tells me is that they are self focused and cannot be discipled until they become others focused. If a church is led by those who lead with a self focus and encourage self focused people by programs they like with little or no personal accountability to take action for their spiritual growth then what we have is adults who are self focused and what youth wants to go to them for help or see them as examples.
So ... what would our "one prayer" be to see a reviving and revising of ministry and discipleship with youth?
It is not about a prayer. Jesus gave the command to make disciples. The leaders must be disciples who reproduce themselves. If the leaders do not have followers then they are not leaders. They are just taking a walk. When I see what Jesus did he met them where they were and dealt with them according to their needs.
A few months ago I met with some staff with a church that focuses on discipleship and all of their staff are required to be building teams and leading them. If they do not then they are asked to leave their position. The quality of discipleship depends on the quality of the disciple. If a church or organization is not willing to do what is necessary to stay focused on discipleship then it is willing to let the "cockroaches" of life take over and devour what is good.
Babies are born each day. It is the adults who must help them to be mature adults. That requires adults to live like mature adults.
Hi Gerald ~ thanks for keeping the conversation alive.
I agree with what you have said, except the first 6 words.
It seems to me one of our problems is that discipleship has become less and less about prayer. Or that prayer is spiritual and the expression of discipleship is practical. Somehow, we have divorced praying and discipling (Full disclosure: I manage both TheDiscipleshipNetwork.com and PrayNetwork.org) as if they are two separate functions.
If you read my comment as a statement that prayer is more important than the other components of discipleship, I apologize for not communicating clearly. In my understanding, prayer is not the most important thing in our development as a disciple of Jesus, but it is important to everything that is important to our development as a disciple of Jesus.
I agree with you that maturity is a clear mark of a growing-in-Christ disciple. I am convinced that is why "Epaphras...(was always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. (Colossians 4:12)
Maybe I misunderstand what you mean by "It is not about a prayer" ... eager for your reply,
My point was that it is not about one prayer such as "the secret to success", as if we can just give God a prayer from our lips. I definitely agree with you in that prayer is a must. One thing I noticed in scripture is that the disciples never prayed for opportunity but for boldness. We must teach disciples to be bold and that it is a spiritual battle and not a recreation room. In more recent years I have asked those I meet with to describe what they would do if they wanted to destroy something. Once we have discussed the matter then I tell them that is exactly what Satan does, so expect it. Expect trouble.