Thursday, June 23, 2011

What do teenagers need from youth ministry?

This is a subject near & dear to my heart. For the last 16 years Charlie & I have worked in the youth department of our organization. We started out working with fundraising for the youth but then our work progressed into something more. Charlie currently serves as Youth Pastor at the Claxton church of our organization. Working with young people can be very rewarding because you can see when you make a difference in their life. However, it can also be the most challenging. It’s very difficult to find that niche that will combat the entertainment that youth find in the world today. Our biggest challenge seems to be how do you get them to a church event when there is a football game at the school or some other exciting event on the same night? Do you offer video games & pizza, or go-karts & hamburgers just to attract them to a church event instead of an event the world offers then try to have a small devotional while you have their attention? We’ve done this in the past but we’ve always felt that it just wasn’t enough. What were we teaching these young people about the word of God?

As I said we’ve been working in youth ministry for 16 years and we’ve watched an entire generation become adults. The teenagers we started with are now parents and we have their children in our youth department. Looking back the youth that we had the most impact on are the ones we took to camp each summer. Camp Awanita, one week in the summer away from worldly distractions. No cell phones, no television, no radios, no video games, only each other and the Word of God. Yes, we would play games but they were always Faith building games. We watched these teenagers walk away knowing something they could build their life on. The challenge we had was only a few would come. If I remember correctly our highest number was 56. I think our last trip to Camp Awanita was in 2006. Our interested numbers have become so small that it isn’t cost effective. There are too many other offerings in the summer that the teenagers of today are pulled to like sports camps & band camps. I’ve heard many parents say we can’t afford both, and I’ve raised two teenagers so I understand that. I’ve also been told ‘If my child doesn’t go to this sports camp then they will have to sit the bench during the next season.’ They think this sports camp will make a drastic change in their child’s life; making them a better player. What they don’t realize is that a Christian Camp will make them a better Christian and could firmly plant their child on the Rock, Christ Jesus!

For years I’ve watched mega churches attract youth with things our small church just couldn’t afford; parties, pizza every Friday night, big trips, large youth centers, concerts, etc. We’ve had parents in our church want us to spend a large chunk of our budget to take their kids to amusement parks, beaches, etc., and we’ve really struggled with this because we keep coming back to where is the Word in all this foolishness. I’ve had people say ‘Well it’s good for those kids who might run with the bad crowd to be with the good crowd and it doesn’t matter what you are doing with them.’ ‘Keep them off the streets.’ I understand that to some extent; however what are you teaching them? Are you helping them lay the groundwork to become good adults or are you just teaching them life isn’t ‘fun’ without some kind of party?

I thought we were alone in this struggle then I received an email that led me to a discussion about youth ministry. I realized that we are not the only people that have seen our youth become young adults without a foundation in the church. They don’t know the Word. They are now just looking for the next party or event. I would like all my friends to read this article. It is very enlightening, and makes me to know we are not alone in feeling that our youth of today is being ‘amused to death’. Christianity Today

I think you’ll like it. Come back to my blog, comment and let me know what you think. Do you agree?

- Blessings

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