Leah and I have been rethinking our ideas about youth ministry here in the past few weeks. Its not so much that we are realizing new things, but that we are trying to implement things that we’ve known all along. I have about 47 books on youth ministry. I haven’t read all of most of them, but I’ve read at least a little of all of them… and they all talk about the same thing: building attractional programming and building positive relationships.
The relationship stuff can be helpful.
However, most of them are filled with statistics and psychological stuff. All of that can be helpful, but rarely do these guys actually talk about teaching kids the word of God.
When youth ministry becomes primarily about programming, the goal is no longer to see kids know and treasure Christ, but for them to be assimilated into the programs: teenagers start leading the worship band or take charge of the children’s sunday school classes, and the youth pastor is convinced that they are “saved.”
When youth ministry becomes primarily about relationships, the goal can move from knowing and treasuring Christ to making positive decisions and doing good. A teenager volunteers at the soup kitchen or collects canned food for needy families and we think they’re “saved.”
Pause for a second. Those are great things. I wish every teenager in my youth group would be a leader in church life or volunteer their own time to helping others. I’m not opposed to that at all. But it needs to be the result of their knowledge of and love for God.
The goal is to see them know and treasure Christ above all else. Period.
How are they going to do that if I water down his word?
How are they going to do that if I talk about funny stuff or “relevant” stuff more than I teach them about who Christ is and how worthy of treasuring He is?
Their math teachers don’t water down Trigonometry for them. Their English teachers don’t make them read the abridged version of Hamlet. Why should I water down God’s word? If they can understand Calculus and Chaucer, then they can understand justification.
We’re still building relationships with them. We’re still having fun with them. But we’re through watering Truth down. Period.
On a lighter note, Leah and I were trying to write a real song and this is what came out:
Over at Internetmonk.com, there is a really cool thing call the Liturgical Gangstas. He asks a question and has someone from a number of different denominations answer it. Check it out if you haven’t already. The second one is about the meanings of Sacramental, Attractional, and Missional. Interesting stuff. Be sure to read the first one about Spiritual Growth, as well.