Youth Ministry

The Dumbing Down of Youth Ministry

Causes and Cures

by Dan Burrell

For too many churches, the youth pastor has become little more than the spiritual equivalent of an activities director on a cruise ship. He plans “events” and activities, hangs out with the kids, entertains, and provides some semblance of oversight in order to keep the kids reasonably safe and occupied. Many churches have designed “youth programs” that burrell_teens.jpgallow their teens to grow up with a sense of “entitlement” wherein they expect to be amused, indulged, and isolated from the adults with most every whim of appetite and interest being met by the church. They have separate services—sometimes to the point that they never even have an opportunity to go to the adult service, which is often described as “dry” and/or “irrelevant” to what they need. (Think about this: Many children are growing up in a church culture where they never sit under the pastor’s teaching or with their parents and family in a church service from infancy through adolescence because of nurseries, children’s programs, and youth programs.)

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The Role of the Church in Youth Discipleship

by Matthew Hoskinson

Note: See his other articles on youth ministry: The Primacy of Parents in Youth Discipleship and The Centrality of God in Youth Discipleship.

That trampled mass of red, white, and blue underneath King James (the basketball player, not the 1611) is what remains of the Detroit Pistons. As a lifelong fan of the team, I watched in stunned amazement as the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled off a six-game sweep. Nothing left but the crying. And the fingerpointing.

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The Primacy of Parents in Youth Discipleship

Moving from Michigan to South Carolina demanded adjustments on many levels for me. Kroger and Farmer Jack were replaced with Bi-Lo and Publix. City names like Troy and Sterling Heights gave way to towns like Pickens and Pumpkintown. feet.jpgWhen people asked, “How are you?” they actually expected an answer. And it took me quite some time to figure out why these South Carolinians kept talking about USC and the Tigers. Why would sportswriters be so concerned about Southern Cal and my beloved baseball team?

One of the more unexpected adjustments was learning about the political process on the state level. In Michigan, the governor’s relationship with the state house and senate more or less corresponds to the federal system. Not so in South Carolina. While both states have a governor, a house, and a senate, the power is much more centralized in the governor’s chair in Michigan. As one might expect from the first state to secede from the Union during the Civil War, South Carolina has traditionally decentralized the power so that, in many ways, the state house and senate have more power distributed among their members than the governor himself has. Our current governor, Mark Sanford, ran on a platform to continue the work of a previous governor, Carroll Campbell, who made great strides in wresting certain powers from the state house and senate and centralizing them in his office. Now in his second term, Sanford is realizing just how difficult this task is.

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The Centrality of God in Youth Discipleship

The recent New York Times article, “Evangelicals Fear the Loss of Their Teenagers,” has stirred up a great deal of conversation among fundamentalists and evangelicals alike. While the article focused on broader Evangelicalism, many fundamentalists are wrestling with the same phenomenon. Upon graduation from high school, far too many teenagers follow the call of the wild, drift away from the church, and (in some cases) repudiate their faith in Christ.
teens1.jpgThere is a sense in which this development should not be surprising at all. Since World War II, youth ministry in the United States has taken on a life of its own. Parachurch organizations were founded to focus on evangelizing and serving teenagers. Pastoral positions were created for the sole purpose of meeting the needs of high school students. And the Christian school movement has deluded some parents into thinking that their children’s academic environment will inevitably produce a disciple of Christ.

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Broken Boughs and Falling Cradles

Note: This article was originally posted November 21, 2005.

by Pastor David Deets

Most all of us know the lyrics to the well-known nursery rhyme of “Rock a Bye Baby.” However, most of us probably do not know its origin or meaning. It is commonly held that this lullaby actually came from a young pilgrim boy. He had spent much time observing the Native American practice of suspending children from tree branches in cloth and basket cradles. This practice enabled the baby to be rocked while freeing the mother to attend to other matters. While this lullaby is an observation, it also gives us a warning! Be careful what kind of tree branch you hang your child from. As can be seen from this lullaby, there are drastic consequences for hanging your baby from the wrong bough. In modern America today, we have a lot of broken boughs (homes), and we have lots of falling cradles (casualties among children and teens). The problem is that the child does not get to decide which bough he is hung from. He has no choice as to which home he is given to or which parents he has. He simply has to do the best he can with where he is. So the great problem faced by a lot of teens and children today is, “How will I respond to my home situation?”

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