youth ministry 101

I recently took a youth ministry position at a small church in Waynesville, NC. At this point, there are only about six or eight youth that are consistently involved. They’re all middle schoolers, 6th-7th graders. They’re all pretty good kids, with the exception of one or two that just want to cause problems. But they don’t want to hear God’s word or read it or think about it. They just want to play dodgeball. Maybe its their age, I don’t know. But its frustrating–really frustrating.

I don’t know what to do. I know that they won’t care unless the Spirit changes their hearts. But I also know that God uses his word to change people’s hearts–but what do I do if they won’t listen to his word being preached?? Some would have me get rid of any sort of fellowship or fun and only preach the word at them. But they have trouble paying attention for ten minutes, much less any more than that. Some would have me get rid of any sort of preaching or teaching of the word and only have fun and build relationships with them. But if they don’t have a preacher, how will they hear?? Maybe there is some middle ground, where you build relationships with the youth and encourage them to build relationships with each other and to have fun in a (mostly) safe, wholesome environment. But I haven’t found it yet. And by the looks of it, I don’t think many youth pastors have.

As far as I can tell, the youth already are starting to think that Christianity is just a show. When they’re at church, they’re supposed to be “good, little Christians.” They’re supposed to bring they’re Bibles, or else they don’t get donuts; but they leave them in the car for the rest of the week. They’re supposed to answer all the questions with answers like: “jesus” or “being holy” or “witnessing” or something “Christian” like that. You’re not supposed to lie or say bad words when you’re at church. You’re not supposed to give any hint of how much your family life sucks when you’re at church. You’re supposed to pretend that you’re perfect and your life is perfect and everything is perfect when you’re at church. You don’t have any problems, other than the fact that you’re too bored to listen to anything that is said.

I don’t know how to fix that, other than with God’s word. I have a lot of respect for people who put their life on the line in foreign countries who are hostile to Christians. But, in most of those countries, once someone comes to know Christ, they can’t get enough of his word. They can’t hear it enough, they can’t read it enough, they can’t talk about it enough. Youth would rather make bible flowers (if you’re a guy who grew up in church, you know exactly what a bible flower is, whether you know it or not) or take pens apart or talk to their neighbors than to even think about the word of God, much less talk about it or hear someone talk about it. I just want them to hear and understand… maybe they will one day. Maybe they won’t. But I know that I can’t go wrong with preaching God’s word, no matter what the outcome.