19 October, 2005

Youth Ministry....It Is Fishy Buisness

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Timothy, the early church minister of the gospel, he told him not let people despise him for his youth. Timothy must have been a very young minister which fell under criticism for being too young to lead the church of Christ.

In evangelical churches this verse is the battle cry of an ever youthful milieu of people called "youth ministers". These people are generally cooler, better looking, more energetic, and more "down to earth" than the rest of us Theologians and Pastors. The typical youth minister will, without purpose, divide the youth from the rest of the congregation based upon the notion that "Pastor Tom understands me!" Teens love these people.

Yesterday I got my copy of World magazine in the mail. I always go to the section called Quick Takes first. (I am a very large man...it's like eating dessert first!) Below you will find the Quick Take that once again proves my point that "youth ministry" is not something that ordained men should be doing, nor the to-be-ordained aspiring to.

Flee fear and fish-flinging youth pastors
First Assembly of God church in Florence, Ala., launched a Fear Factor--type ministry modeled after the hit television show in which contestants complete extreme tasks for cash prizes. In the first round, the voluntary participants—parental consent required—swallow between one and three live comet goldfish to help conquer fears and possibly win the $250 cash prize. "We need to be realistic about what the Bible says about fear and not be afraid to share our faith in school," youth minister Anthony Martin told the Florence TimesDaily. For the second round of elimination, Mr. Martin said students would race to get free from a coffin covered in chains. Good thing, too. Once the pet store owner found out how Mr. Martin used the goldfish, she declared it animal cruelty.

Discussion Points:
-What biblical basis is their for the office of youth minister?
-How should a minister of the Gospel reach out to teens?
-How can Pentecostals even take themselves seriously when they pull stunts like this?

A non-Discussion Point:
-I am not for "animal rights", but I am for this man being charged with cruelty to animals, child abuse, and good old stupidity!


Nate said...

For the record, before the comments begin..

The church needs to minister to the youth but there should not be a separate ministry. We are one body....not old, middle-aged, and the coveted youthful.

Droll Flood said...

No doubt this 'youth ministry' is an anti-covenantal community position. Y.M. only serves to split up the congregation, and its thinking seems to smack of parents leaving the youth minister to babysit and do parenting for them. This type of thinking also lends very nicely to the 'contemporary' vs. 'traditional' worship line of thought.

God's word has much to say to children, it's not as though they are 'left out' but are driven onto maturity, not childish nonsense. The pattern is older teaching the younger to obey and mature in the faith, not the older teaching the younger to be autonomous from the covenantal community to act like a immature meathead. It would be no wonder for youth to want to leave these congregations given these lines of y.m. thought ...they were being divided from the congregation, already why not be consistent?

A legally 'grave' mistake on AOG's part ...I'd be 'coffin' if I had to swallow a live fish. Catch my 'chain' of thought?

Mark said...

I wouldn't use one bad example to condemn the whole lot of youth pastors, many of whom are well-meaning chaps who just happen to have a position that usurps the family. The whole idea of "reaching out to the youth" has gotten overblown, one doesn't hear about reaching out to the seniors. Presumably because they generally aren't going anywhere but up anytime soon.

You're quite right reg. the church being one covenantal unit. Looking to ourselves, though, let's ask this - how do Sunday school teachers differ from youth ministers? In Reformedsvile, we're just as highly segmented as the Pentecostals. We have pre-K, 1-12 grades, high school, post-high, meat market, (er, make that young adults), young marrieds, young marrieds with kids, baby boomers, empty-nesters, and finally the waiting for God crowd. It's a smorgasboard.

If you want to "reach out" to the teens, simply integrate the whole church. It'll do wonders.

Notliberal said...

95% of the problem with these youth groups is that the "youth minister" spends more time focused on "understanding" children and pushing self-esteem then actually teaching about God and the Bible. Christ is an offhand sort of thing spoken about before we can prove we're strong by swollowing goldfish and other creatures. In the end, they do more harm than good because their failure to teach scripture properly taints these children for the rest of their lives. Who doesn't know someone that has been negatively affected by the rambling nonsense of their youth minister from a decade ago?

Children should not be seperated from their families at church in any way. The entire family should worship together. I have a serious problem with all the various "ministries" these evangelicals have. It's one thing to have a Bible study, it's another thing to have an office of "youth" or "old" or "women" within the church. We're not meant to be seperated, we're meant to be together.

Rachel said...

Since this isn't a post about Sunday school, I will only comment on "youth ministries." I agree that the youth are an integral part of the church and should not be treated as some "special group" that needs to be separated from the rest of the church. Give them responsibility! There are things that the church does that do not require one to be an ordained officer.

E.g., in my church we have a lunch every Sabbath after the morning service. The ladies of the church plan and execute it ever week, and who is to say that a young person cannot help with that? I did, and recently passed it on to a younger person. It made me feel like an important part of the whole body.

Basically, my opinion is that the church should be encouraging and giving young people opportunities to minister to the church, rather than the other way around. I do think that the elders should make themselves available to answer the many questions of the young people, but they should always be careful to steer their hearts toward their parents.

shawn said...



Dude... took me back to Otterbein days.

In our Church we have an afternoon Society meeting on Sabbath days (which is a more interactive time of worship - but in no way less reverential)

Because it is a Society meeting it incorporates all ages and is to include both young and old.

It has a Sunday school flavor, but does not segregate the Church.

It has been defended by the Reformed PResbytery of Scotland by fulfilling the "one to another" duties found in Scripture (Eph 5, Col 3, etc)

Anyway, great post as usual. I love the whole, show your faith by being the most zealous person to prove your own stupidity.

Emily said...

wow, that totally reminded me of my days with "Young Life." I swallowed more than my share of goldfish "for the Lord." Can still feel the scales on the back of my throat....

Nate said...


I agree that the church should not be divided for worship. There are times when it is appropriate to have separation for the sake of teaching.

Of course, it should be overseen by the office bearers of the church...even for little things like swallowing goldfish.

Notliberal said...

I'll remember that next time Ray declares that it's time to swollow goldfish for Jesus.

Jeff said...

Actually, pentecostals take themselves more seriously when they pull stunts like this. They see themselves as being relevant, teaching important lessons, getting publicity, and truly reaching out to the youth in the way that traditional church culture doesn't. Unfortunately, they don't see the intergenerational divide this creates, or they assume that the existing divide is only natural. They don't realize that school systems, as they operate today helped to create this divide which did not previously exist.

Cruelty to animals. heh... How 'bout the poor fish stuck in a bowl with no TV, no reading materials, no friends of like kind, no church on Sundays, no prey, no waves, no cable internet... now THAT's cruelty!

Droll Flood said...

"I am not for "animal rights", but I am for this man being charged with cruelty to animals..."

"Of course, it should be overseen by the office bearers of the church ...even for little things like swallowing goldfish..."

-How does one reconcile these two passages? There's something fishy going on here...

Eva Lemmon..? said...

I encourage the regular pastor to minister to the young folks, as he is bound to have a better vocabulary and more expirience in the real world.

teens, like rotten eggs, should not be kept in separate baskets. It only encourages immatureaty and prevents them from becomming responsable adults earlier in life. Raise 'em with the old people, and they become mentally older, thus able to deal with life in a rational manor. Surely you guys have seen 48yr old teenagers.....
I stooged around with my mom, thus people get the impression that I'm older than Loretta, or that I'm the teacher sheperding students around at KCTC. (It also might be because I don't run about with ducky scrubs and mardigras beads....)
for the gold fish can carry nasty internal parasites that might get through the old hydrochloric acid.
And they might be pooping in your gut! Isn't that awful?

Jeff said...

Not only is the pastor bound to have a better vocabulary, but better spelling as well, Miss Lemmon...

Me said...

Goldfish!! What a panzy pastor... I'd have purchased a few Steel-Head Salmon... Now that's a test of FEAR! Needless to say, I'm not a 'youth minister'. heh.