Monday, June 3, 2013

Amusing Our Youth to Spiritual Death?

I've spent considerable time thinking about the church's responsibility to teenagers in the last couple of years. As I look over the youth ministry landscape, the view is disheartening: a myriad of events meant to entertain rather than educate. Ravi Zacharias, speaking of youth in Tabletalk, said it well, "Building their faith is not a prime strength in our churches today. We seem to think that we need to entertain them into the church. But what you win them with is often what you win them to."

Today's active youth group seems more focused on fellowship and service than discipleship. Instead of breeding future theologians (even of the ordinary type), we are producing young adults who are prone to leave the church when it's no longer a source of entertainment. Today's youth ministry culture could be a chapter straight out of Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death. I've already pontificated about how detrimental busyness can be to a family, which is why I'm saddened to see that youth ministry in many churches follows the trend of quantity rather than quality. It's a mentality that seeks to keep us so busy that we don't notice what we - and, more importantly, our children - are missing.

At the beginning of this year, my family began looking for a new church home. As we visited other churches, youth education was one of the criteria we considered in our search. My husband and I understand that parents cannot rely on the youth group as the sole source of our teen's spiritual nourishment; we must be actively involved in - no, in charge of - our daughter's theological education. Within that purview, we wanted to make certain that she will be discipled in church, as well as at home.

The church we have decided upon has a strong youth ministry built upon strong parental involvement. We didn't choose this church based on its youth ministry, but we've learned that solid, expository preaching from the pulpit affects every ministry in a church. The youth minister adamantly believes that his role is to disciple - not parent - the students. There isn't a balance between Bible study and activities; Bible study outweighs the "fun" (though there is fun!) As a parent and a prospective church member I'm delighted to be part of a church that realizes its responsibilities to believers (see Ephesians 4:11-16 and Matthew 28:19-20) are not contingent upon age.

Teenagers are perfectly capable of learning doctrine. If our schools can teach our children chemistry and biology, physics and geology, algebra and geometry, political science and economics, then we can certainly teach them theology and apologetics, Christian ethics and philosophy.1 Why should we be satisfied with placating them with pseudo-theological drivel? It's time for us to realize that youth ministries centered around activities instead of the Word are worse they ineffective; they are amusing our kids to their spiritual death.

1Daniel Akin, Source

Confession: portions of this post were taken from an earlier installment of the Fight Like a Girl series


  1. Yes, Melissa! We expect so much of our kids academically, regardless of the mode of education, and yet we think that theology is too much for them. It reveals to them where our own hearts lie if we have that philosophy. Is it any wonder why many kids get disillusioned and leave the church once they become adults?

    1. Persis, I believe the statistic is that 7 out of 10 leave the church when they become young adults. Only about 1/2 of those make their way back to church.

  2. To this...I say a loud AMEN! Thank you for sharing this today. I agree. I homeschooled our children and was actively involved in teaching them God's Word. We came to our church because they cared about young people and discipled them...not just entertained them. May we all be discerning and involved with our teens and small children. Blessings!

  3. Studies have shown that most kids who leave the church after they leave the youth group were already on their way out even before they leave high school. It is so important to start the training early. Even education is done in an environment of entertainment, so it's doubly hard! Great post, Melissa!