Youth Groups & Preaching

Just an undeveloped thought I’ve been turning over in my head recently, birthed from research on megachurches this past semester:

Could the lack of good preaching in evangelicalism be partially attributed to the youth group paradigm in evangelicalism? Many youth groups focus mainly on entertaining and engaging youth with activities and fun instead of immersing youths in the gospel and engaging them in what they believe and why they believe it. It’s the old bait and switch.

Is it possible that this youth-group-as-entertainment paradigm has spilled over into America’s pulpits as youths have graduated to adulthood and now expect similar entertainment from the pulpit?

I think part of the solution is to start with bringing up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, teaching them the gospel truths and catechizing them from a young age instead of treating them either like little pagans – hoping them make a choice for Jesus when they graduate college – or like lesser intellectual beings, unable to absorb anything longer than 10 minutes (Nooma videos, anyone?), let alone anything not close to entertaining.

Maybe if we stopped treating them like immature kids unable to understand anything of depth and actually gave them something spiritually meaty to chew on, they won’t act like kids when they are adults. It’s all about the foundation, especially considering that less than one percent of youths have a Christian worldview. I’m not saying that fun and games has no place in youth ministry. But when that’s all it is, youth “ministry” is just another extracurricular club.

7 thoughts on “Youth Groups & Preaching

  1. I like your undeveloped thoughts.One of mine is how a generation of kids spending spring break taking “Short Term Missions Trips” have affected the church (or vice versa). Is it any coincidence that so many of our generation (emergent and otherwise) believe that the church’s primary purpose is to feed the poor and fix roofs in West Virginia?

  2. I definitely have to agree with you. My eyes have been opened now that I am helping with VBS in the PCA and I see what we are teaching even young children, the focus of course being on scripture…

  3. Good thoughts Joel, many of which I have shared, as have others at CoC. It’s been an ongoing conversation (oo, how emergent..)Scott – what you point out is born out of the liberal theology of the 20’s and 30’s – it’s why the OPC and WTS were born ultimately. The ‘hand’ of Christ without the ‘word’ of Christ… it’s an easy trap to fall into. Now, of course, I’m curious of your thoughts on fixing roofs in WV… I wonder how much different it is from being a camp counselor? I wouldn’t know because I’ve never done the latter. 😉

  4. I’m not against fixing roofs in Wildwood, West Virginia, or Hackettstown. But I’ve never attended or financially supported such a trip. At best, I’m torn.The camp experience, in my opinion (Susque and French Creek my only two experiences as camper or staff), is much more discipleship/evangelism driven. In three weeks at Susque, a counselor will have shared his/her testimony in an intimate setting with 24 kids and lived it out in front of 225 more. My idea of Christian manhood has been shaped in no small part by dozens of counselors who served me at Susque and French Creek from ages 8-16. I remember nightly devotions and chapel messages from 19 years ago.As stated above, I don’t have anything against deaconal missions work–it actually excites me. But minute for minute, I think the camp experience has much more potential to produce fruit of eternal significance.

  5. I don’t think the experience is that far off what you are describing, Scott. The main difference on a MT I suppose is that you are not discipling strangers, but your own youth, and building relationship you get to take home with you and deepen even further in the context of the life of the church.Where the camp experience is perhaps geared toward making disciples, the missions trip is more geared toward equipping current disciples and instilling a taste of and desire for future missions work and a heart for service in the body of Christ. But the incidentals are fairly similar – we live together, worship together, have devotions – both in our own groups and as a whole camp, just like Susque. I also remember the teaching from Hebrews of my first summer in Fairmont – very powerful and still effecting my walk and my ministry. We all get to live out our faith by being an example to the body of Christ (our own teams and the others, encouraging and exhorting one another to good and better works for Christ) and to the world around us as we engage the neighbors, and the world sees the church fulfilling the great commandment to love one another. While some of the projects are pretty rural (like ours last year) many of them are right in the heart of Fairmont and there are tons of opportunities for evangelism. The Friday night service at the camp is filled with unbelievers who have been touched by the work of the teams and who want to know more about Christ.From a distance it can definitely look like all that gets done is the fixing of a few roofs – but at the end of the day, I would say the minute for minute eternal potential is probably about the same. I loved camp when I went, and its everything you say it is. And just like camp, what you get out of a missions trip will often have a lot to do with what is put into it, and the hearts of those that are involved.I wish you could come on one. You’d be a great asset, and I think you would change your mind.All my love!G

  6. I like this discussion. I am with Scott in that if missions trips are just about helping people out physically, what’s the point? Wouldn’t it be better to help the people in your own church, town, or neighborhood then? But the nuance Greg mentioned is also true – that short term mission trips are about mentoring, guiding, teaching, and counseling youths on your team just as much, if not more, than building a roof. Yes, there is the aspect of witnessing to and encouraging the homeowners – and hopefully that is happening as well.I learned a lot from the mission trips I went on, though it took me a while to realize that it wasn’t just about building the roof. I do think that trips are valid ways for building disciples of Christ, just as Christian summer camps.

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