30 December, 2005

Youth Ministry For Adults

As a student of divinity, I have opinions on almost all topics that deal with religion and theology. As any good theologian and aspiring theologian- the study of God and His Word is taken very seriously in my home.

If you are a veteran of this weblog, you know that the issue of youth ministry comes up often. Youth ministry is something that I take with a grain of salt and feel strongly that it does little lasting good to those that are involved. For the most part I see many of these programs doing nothing more than producing immature Christian adults (which is often evidenced by the number of Christian college students who use the NIV Student Bible.) I am also under the impression that "youth ministers" are often annoying 20 year olds with their roots bleached blond(e) and their noses pierced. I find this to be of little use in the kingdom of God, even though this is the norm for those doing ministry.

(Harsh? Maybe...True? Definitely.)

I have often thought that youth ministry needed to be reformed so that it could be done in the context of the covenant of grace. We know that the promise of the covenant is for us as well as for our children; and in some way genuine ministry to the youth of the church needs to be a reflection of that fact. Mark DeVries, who is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, has written a fantastic book that made me say out loud (on numerous occasions) "that is exactly what I have been trying to say!"

Pastor DeVries uses his 25 years of experience with youth and explains the "crisis" that this discipline is currently in, as well as gives his analysis of what it is going to take to reverse the damage that we are doing to our covenant children through current youth ministry. This book is worth the time for anyone that is interested in what could become the new model for youth ministry. He challenges those that are in the church to reach out to the youth and to build the relationships that are needed to aid in the maintaining of a living and active faith in Jesus Christ.

"Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church consecrated to Christ, and wholly influenced and governed by his rule. And family education and order are some of the chief means of grace. If these fail, all other means are likely to prove ineffectual. If these are duly maintained, all the means of grace will be likely to prosper and be successful."
-Jonathan Edwards


thank God For Youth Group said...

I guess you were not involved with youth group as a teenager. It was benefical for me as a youth. My various youth leaders were often there to give me Bibical guidance and wisdom. I grew the most when I was actively involved in a youth group. My youth leaders pointed me to Christ when I faced various challenges and temptations as a youth. Some issues that I did not want to discuss with my parents because as you are aware from your own teenage years, they don't often discuss things with their parents. I attended public school and had several unsaved friends. God used me as a witness in ways that I may never know. Youth group gave me solid Christians friends from both my school and other schools in the area.

Notliberal said...

You know something Nate, you just don't know what it's like to be a teenager these days. It's so much more difficult than it was in the innocent 90's. You just don't know what it's like what with the drugs, sex and internet chat rooms. Teens have it so tough, why they need their own youth group just to cope. You're just so ignorant, why don't you just let go and let God?

Nate said...


I did attend youth group as a teen. Some aspects helped me to develop my Christian life....other aspects (most aspects) added to the confusion that youth culture brings and perpetuates.

If you read the post...I am not opposed to YM, just to the way that it is generally done.

edwardseanist said...

So what is the main emphasis of the book? Youth ministry belongs in the home?

Safe sex doesn't work said...

NL You are correct that the 90's were more innocent than today. We were still waiting for our first kiss at 12 and today the average age of sexual activity is 10. We were just learning about the birds and the bees at this age. Most of my friends looked down upon girls who slept around. Now, girls brag about how many partners they have. The church including Reformed churches is not immune to this problem. Of course we grew up on the "just say no" message of the 80s. Today, kids get told if it feels good do it. Safe sex is the most ridculous message to tell kids. First of all, the stastics do not support it. AIDS and HIV is on the rise among 18-25 year olds. They do not protect themselves because they think they are invinsible. I've seen the effects of this first hand. I did some volunteer time at a public health clinic in the inner city. It's heart breaking to see 13 year olds with an STD find out they are pregnant. The suburbs are not immune to this problem either. The church must address this. I remember Josh McDowell's Why Wait campaign. It was excellent. It addressed premarital sex as sin and presented the gospel to teenagers and college students.

Jess said...

I agree with what Nate is saying, YM has it's benefits, I know that my youth leaders were a huge positive influence in my life, but there were also many things that disturbed me about the youth group at my church. I was on the student leadership team for two years and helped plan and lead the meetings/events. My senior year, however, I told my youth leaders I couldn't lead anymore, because I didn't like where the rest of the group was trying to take it. We had a large youth group, 30 was a small night. We had a lot of kids from the community who were not involved in church otherwise, which was great, but I don't think we were really helping them much. I went to the first meeting my senior year and they had a band that played songs like "Lean on me" and other very secular songs, because they "didn't want to scare anyone away." They didn't even pray until the very end, somebody said a two minute prayer and there was NO scripture read. I ended up changing youth groups to a smaller church that emphasized the study of the Bible and prayer.
I still think YM is very important, but there definately needs to be some changes.

Nate said...


The book talks about a model of YM that builds lasting relationships based on families in the church and takes a covenantal approach where YM is the job of a whole range of people and not just a cool 20 something.

Doug E. said...

Interesting post! As a youth director for 10 years I know exactly what you are talking about. I been reform mode in our youth group for some time. I'll have to check out the book. Thanks for the heads up.


Dan Boles said...

As a young, 20-something Presbyterian youth minister en route to Seminary in the near future... I must say your words hit home, and pretty deeply. I haven't picked up DeVries' book yet, but having read your post you can bet I will within the next month. It's now on my must-read list.

I think Youth Ministries should strive to work towards a specific purpose. I also think there is a fine balance between the "typical" youth ministry of today and a family-centered, relationship driven youth ministry (that you and I grew up with). For starters... we didn't really have the distraction of iPods, the internet, PS2s, XBOX 360s, etc. The multimedia of our (as in you and I, not them) youth, though fascinating at the time to me, is all but fascinating to today's teens. Nor did we have near the level of pressure and distractions that come with today's Pop/Teen Culture (eg: Sex, Drugs, etc.). That's not to say that we didn't have distractions. We did. I remember all too well my high school town had little to do but tip cows and drink 20/20 Mad Dog. But I would much rather face those pressures than the ones of todays youth.

As a man who likes to see words become actions, and who understands there is no "silver bullet" to YM - I would love to see a more explainatory, tangible communication on just what you think is wrong with YM today, and the alternives you feel are better suited for today's youth. Perhaps we could even use that as a guiding document for a more open dialogue among Youth Ministers/Pastors throughout the reformed church? Of course, the forum should provide opportunity for all sides to share their insights and ideology. Food for thought...

God Bless,

Joe Schelling said...

It is not an issue of YM but rather how it is carried out. In many of the Dutch churches it has been reduced to playing games in the name of "fellowship" and giving the students a chance to unwind from there hectic school activites. In an effort to do this most efficently many churches hold youth groups during the evening services.

I have read the DeVries book and appreciated it greatly. As a former "Director of Youth Ministries" I found it most disturbing that I was told on more than one occasion that we are not to make youth group too educational or serious for they get enough of that at the local Christian High School.

I beleive the issue is the chruch herself. Care for youth in general is often forgotten and in turn youth are oftne viewed as the church of the future rather than the curch of the present.

I do not pretent to say that I have all the answeres, if any for that matter. However, I think the church has forgotten how to teach to families adn parents. I feel that pastors need to adress this area more. Sunday School materials need to reflect this. Small groups need to think adn pray about this.

When a YM is based on fun adn entertainment Scriptural teaching is at risk of being left out. This is not to say that YM cannot have a fun time or games, but the danger is having all of one or the other.