My thoughts on youth ministry and Vacation Bible School.

Summertime means BBQ, swimming pools, fireworks, and lemonade. But it also means sweltering heat, mosquitoes, and Vacation Bible School.

For many Christians this is the time of the year when they’re all abuzz about the wildly popular week-long evangelical event known as Vacation Bible School (commonly referred to by its acronym, VBS).

In terms of the high level of anticipation, collective excitement, Madison-Avenue-style marketing, and pulpit-driven hype, this event has vaulted in importance within Christendom to rival that of Christmas and Easter. If there are only three events on the Christian calendar that get highlighted every year, VBS is certainly one of them.

Because of Vacation Bible School’s prominence in the church, I wanted to take this opportunity to make some observations about this annual cultural Christian phenomenon and (by extension) youth ministry as a whole.

Before we begin, allow me to be brutally honest.

First let me say that it is no secret to the readers of this blog (and those who know me personally) that I am a youth ministry abolitionist. I am passionate about this subject and I’ve pulled no punches in my conversations and my treatises about it, but at the same time I do recognize that many involved in these types of ministries are well-meaning and have the best of intentions. Unfortunately, pure motives and best intentions do not excuse or justify the wholly destructive nature of the extra-biblical model of youth ministry (and VBS).

I also want to make it abundantly clear that I do not believe those engaging in various forms of youth ministry are in danger of Hell-fire because of their involvement or participation (for salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone). I also have dear Christian brothers who are involved in youth ministry (in fact one of them leads such a God honoring and holy life that I feel like a heathen next to him and despair that I will never reach his level of love, grace, and sanctification) and although I adamantly disagree with them on this subject, I can still have meaningful fellowship with them.

But I would appreciate the reciprocal consideration from youth ministry proponents regarding their misrepresenting and making a caricature out of those who oppose youth ministry (and those who encourage others to return to the biblical and traditional church model of raising and teaching children) as is so often done.

In their efforts to preserve youth ministry, critics of family integrated worship and family integrated churches (FICs) often defend their position by warning that proponents of family integration run the risk of becoming overbearingly patriarchal, Pharisaical, legalists who erroneously believe that worshiping together as a family ensures their children’s salvation, who refuse to evangelize anyone outside of their immediate family, and who place their family in higher regard than the Bride of Christ.

These are unfair depictions that I keep hearing levied against those who reject youth ministry for family based worship, yet these critics have failed to cite one example of these extreme wayward families they keep warning about (or claimed to have even met one).

Ironically, even though they reject the FIC model because they believe it has potential to be taken to extremes, youth ministry proponents overlook, make excuses for, or simply dismiss the problems inherent with youth ministry. These are not rare exceptions, they are very common and almost the standard. The mountain of dysfunctionality seen in so many youth groups can be cited (and many have been featured on this very blog) as well as the mind-numbing statistics that have proven the utter failure of youth ministry.

I have yet to become or meet even one of these types of families that youth ministry proponents keep warning that we have a great potential to become. Is it likely that there are some families out there who do fit that caricature? I’m sure there are, but these are the exception, whereas it seems to be the norm to see utter foolishness exhibited in youth ministries; so many of which resemble a scene out of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.

I sincerely do not write this missive (some would call it a tome) with the intention to cause division or create animosity among my brothers and sisters in the Lord. I pray that this is not received as derision, but as a thoughtful critique; prompting us to examine why we do what we do. It is meant to shed light on a practice that many promulgate without ever examining or even considering what the results (or ramifications) are. I also hope that this will serve as a clarion call for readers to eventually abandon this practice and return to the biblical model of raising and teaching our children in the Lord. But to those who do not, I will still love you, still fellowship with you, and still consider you my brothers and sisters in the Lord.

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Watch “Divided” for free.

For those who read my recommendation of the documentary Divided but have not purchased the DVD yet, you can now watch it online for free. But hurry, it is only available for free till September.

Sermon of the week: “Evaluating Youth Ministry – An Abolitionist’s View ” by Voddie Baucham.

Are you a YMA (youth ministry abolitionist)? Perhaps after  listening to this sermon by Voddie Baucham, entitled  Evaluating Youth Ministry: An Abolitionist’s View, you too will join the growing ranks of those who are abandoning the train wreck known as youth ministry and return to a family integrated model of biblical worship.

In this message delivered at the 2009 Sufficiency of Scripture Conference, Voddie outlines his three main objections to youth ministry as:

1). Age-segregated youth ministry usurps legitimate authority and responsibility.

2). Age-segregated youth ministry has not accomplished its own stated goals.

3). There is no clear biblical mandate for the current model of age-segregated youth ministry; it simply doesn’t exist. We don’t have our current model of age-segregated youth ministry because we went to the Bible and the Bible showed us clearly that this is how discipleship ought to be accomplished.

If you’re looking for additional information on the utter failure of (and the lack of any biblical teaching, example or precedent for) youth ministry, then check out the following sampling:

My thoughts on youth ministry and Vacation Bible School

Who’s pastoring the youth pastors?

The state of the youth of the church.

Youth ministry: A “50-year failed experiment.”

Why evangelism is so difficult in the United States.

Peanut butter salvation and other stupid church tricks.

Why does everything have to be dumbed down for kids?

The Gospel is supposed to be the stumbling block and offense, not our behavior.

Another church sanctuary turned into a stage for a worldly dance exhibition.

American Christianity: “Cheerful platitudes and advice for successful living.”

The United Kingdom’s The Guardian has published a scathing indictment of the American mainstream church that Ingrid Schlueter described as:

Imagine finding the most incisive, succinct description of empty evangelicalism you’ve ever seen, and finding it in the UK’s left-wing Guardian newspaper.

The entire article, Crystal Cathedral Had It’s Day, can be read here. It’s certainly an article worth the read, but if you’re still reluctant I’ve provided the following quote to whet your whistle.

But there is nothing new under the sun. Saddleback and the Crystal Cathedral, Willow Creek and all the other evangelical megachurches that have had their time in the sun sell the same product: mind-power through talk-magic, which in secular packaging is just what all the innumerable therapies and self-help programmes on the market promise. In the US, where school psychologists are almost as common as school nurses, we are obsessed with talk therapies because they are in fact ecumenical and secularised versions of evangelical Christianity, our old time religion.

At what point would you walk out of this church, or would you?

In this snippet, at what point would you walk out?

During the rock concert “worship,” the Christless, it’s–all-about-you pep talk, or the offering of a free week gym membership?

Or would you sit through it all believing that this is somehow the same Christianity that 2,000 years of martyrs have shed their blood for?

Why does everything have to be dumbed down for kids?

While Jewish kids are memorizing the Torah and Muslim kids are memorizing the Koran, these kids are being entertained to death by singing hot dogs and hamburgers, and their parents, youth leaders, and church think all is well.

A family of families.

Here’s an excellent article from Voddie Baucham in response to those who inaccurately and unfairly misrepresent Family Integrated Churches.

Is the Church a Family of Families?

Part One:

Any church that does not look like the ‘norm’ is always trying to explain itself.   This is a fact we know all too well at Grace Family Baptist Church.  We explain ourselves to those who visit us, those who call us trying to determine if it is a good idea to visit, those who are interested in finding or starting a church like ours, and those who are sure that we are some kind of “Patriarchy” cult.  Sometimes we explain ourselves in painstaking detail.  At other times we use shorthand.  One example of that ‘shorthand’ is our ubiquitous and somewhat enigmatic statement, “The church is a family of families.”

For some people, this captures the essence of the distinction between the FIC, and the neo-traditional church.1  For others, their presuppositions, and/or misconceptions about the FIC (along with the lack of clarity inherent in the phrase) get in the way.  This last group ranges from people who simply wish we were clearer in our statement, to those who find in the ‘family of families’ terminology the theological ‘smoking gun’ for which they have searched in an effort to discredit this “extreme overreaction” to the current crisis in contemporary youth ministry.2

We recognize that this may be an unnecessary stumbling block for those with a genuine interest in the Family Integrated Church concept, as well as those attempting to explain it to others.  Therefore, allow me to offer a bit of clarity as to what we mean when we use the term ‘family of families’ to describe the church.

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The state of the youth of the church.

When we decry the current condition of the youth in our churches (and the church as a whole) we are usually met with angry resistance. Now the condition of the youth (and the church) has gotten so bad that even secular news outlets are sitting up and taking notice.

The Wall Street Journal has recently reported on the sad state of the youth in American churches in an article aptly titled The Perils of ‘Wannabe Cool’ Christianity.

Increasingly, the “plan” has taken the form of a total image overhaul, where efforts are made to rebrand Christianity as hip, countercultural, relevant. As a result, in the early 2000s, we got something called “the emerging church”—a sort of postmodern stab at an evangelical reform movement. Perhaps because it was too “let’s rethink everything” radical, it fizzled quickly. But the impulse behind it—to rehabilitate Christianity’s image and make it “cool”—remains.

And what does “cool” look like?

There are various ways that churches attempt to be cool. For some, it means trying to seem more culturally savvy. The pastor quotes Stephen Colbert or references Lady Gaga during his sermon, or a church sponsors a screening of the R-rated “No Country For Old Men.” For others, the emphasis is on looking cool, perhaps by giving the pastor a metrosexual makeover, with skinny jeans and an $80 haircut, or by insisting on trendy eco-friendly paper and helvetica-only fonts on all printed materials. Then there is the option of holding a worship service in a bar or nightclub (as is the case for L.A.’s Mosaic church, whose downtown location meets at a nightspot called Club Mayan).

And then the article asks the million dollar question.

But are these gimmicks really going to bring young people back to church? Is this what people really come to church for? Maybe sex sermons and indie-rock worship music do help in getting people in the door, and maybe even in winning new converts. But what sort of Christianity are they being converted to?

Another secular news source giving attention to this problem is CNN. In their article More Teens Becoming Fake Christians, it begins with the following:

If you’re the parent of a Christian teenager, Kenda Creasy Dean has this warning: Your child is following a “mutant” form of Christianity, and you may be responsible.

And then there’s this quote:

Dean, a United Methodist Church minister who says parents are the most important influence on their children’s faith, places the ultimate blame for teens’ religious apathy on adults. Some adults don’t expect much from youth pastors. They simply want them to keep their children off drugs and away from premarital sex.

And this one:

Churches, not just parents, share some of the blame for teens’ religious apathy as well, says Corrie, the Emory professor. She says pastors often preach a safe message that can bring in the largest number of congregants. The result: more people and yawning in the pews.

And what I think is the best quote from the article:

“We think that they want cake, but they actually want steak and potatoes, and we keep giving them cake,” Corrie says.

Finally, USA Today chimes in with the article ‘Forget the Pizza Parties’ Teens Tell Churches.

Only about one in four teens now participate in church youth groups, considered the hallmark of involvement; numbers have been flat since 1999. Other measures of religiosity — prayer, Bible reading and going to church — lag as well, according to Barna Group, a Ventura, Calif., evangelical research company. This all has churches canceling their summer teen camps and youth pastors looking worriedly toward the fall, when school-year youth groups kick in.

You can’t help but read these articles and feel the irony that this problem is being reported by the non-believing secular world. Sadly that’s because those from within Christianity who point this stuff out are summarily dismissed as “legalists” and “Pharisees.”

It’s time for fathers to take charge of your families once again and stop abdicating the responsibility of your children and their spiritual upbringing to strangers.

What are most youth groups like? You get a real personable young leader who’s usually not married and a lot of mousse in his hair. And then he gets a lot of young people around him, and what do they become? According to Proverbs they become companions of fools. When you put young people with young people in this atmosphere of adolescence you have no growth to adulthood, you have no maturity, no elders are involved, no parents are involved. It can’t work because it’s not Biblical.   – Paul Washer

For those unaware of what these scathing indictments from secular news outlets are about, please review the following past DefCon posts for a sampling of the the train wreck known as “youth ministry.”

Peanut butter salvation and other stupid church tricks

Youth ministry: A “50-year failed experiment”

When the world’s your mistress

Who’s pastoring the youth pastors?

The problem with youth ministry today

Another church sanctuary turned into a stage for a worldly dance exhibition

A story of injured clowns and evil chickens

Praise music like you’ve never heard before.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say “I think I’m going to throw up?” If you said “kids praise music,” then you must have listened to the Crazy Praize Volume 3 CD. The back of this kids praise CD boasts:

I think I’m gonna throw up. (I know what you’re thinking . . . is this really a praise song?) Of course it is . . . It’s Crazy Praize! (I think I’m gonna throw up – my hands and praise the Lord.) The third volume in this very popular series of wacky praise songs for kids features ten new songs, with equally silly motions guaranteed to produce giggles and guffaws every time. Great for kids worship times, or anytime, these songs are not only fun, but they’re loaded with Scriptural truth to reinforce the message of God’s love and grace in the hearts of children – young and old.

Why “of course” it’s praise music. We’ve been redefining what Christianity is for years, why just stop at doctrine? Why not redefine what praising God means too?

Welcome to Western Christianity where we pull out all the stops to make false converts of kids and inoculate them from the true gospel for the rest of their lives. A world where black is now white, up is now down, hot is now cold, dry is now wet, and juvenile potty humor is now “praising God.” A world where this type of foolishness is quickly becoming the norm, and those who still try to hold to a reverence for God are quickly and summarily dismissed as legalists, judgmental, and Pharisees.  Woe unto us.

Here’s the video to the song (with lyrics). Oh, and even if you can’t make it through the whole three minutes of this song “loaded with Scriptural truth,” be sure to listen to the last ten seconds to really get the feel of “crazy praize.”

This trash is so bad that it makes Rick Pino’s music (see here and here) appear like actual praise and worship.

I’m interested to hear from anyone who has or is using this for their children.

When the world gets it but the “church” doesn’t.

I just saw this news piece in which a softball coach required eight of her players to drink soda out of a shoe. The matter is being called a mistake and the coach has apologized. Yet, when “Christian” youth groups in American churches participate in drinking foot bath water and licking peanut butter out of armpits and off toes, for some reason they view this as ministry.

Youth ministry: A “50-year failed experiment.”

Like placing a trampoline next to a spiked fence, sometimes you just have to admit when a bad idea is a bad idea (especially when it’s very harmful to children).

The Christian Post recently reported on a message from Scott T. Brown of the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches ( in which he bravely went where few church leaders will go and criticized the sacred golden calf of youth ministry calling it “indisputably unbiblical.”

Brown gave this speech at the Sufficiency of Scripture Conference in Kentucky earlier this month which also featured Paul Washer, Voddie Baucham, Ken Ham, Doug Phillips, and others. Brown was optimistic though, hoping that “we are now at the end of this 50-year failed experiment.”

Ingrid Schlueter also weighed in on Brown’s lecture in this post when she said the following:

Youth groups that follow the fun and foolishness model of ministry have been an outstanding success—if by success you mean creating at least two generations of biblically illiterate, immature, and conscience-free consumers of American pop culture. As for training up disciplined, mature soldiers of Jesus Christ who possess a comprehensive knowledge of the Scriptures, most evangelical youth groups get an F.

Laodicean parents are concerned that their children will turn out badly. Turning out badly to Christians now means things like doing drugs, getting drunk or holding up the local QuickTrip. In terms of encouraging teens to avoid sex, drugs, booze and armed robbery, youth groups at evangelical churches probably get a few points. But when did avoiding procreation and police contact become the measure of success among Christian youth? Shouldn’t we be aiming a little higher than that? A working knowledge of sound Christian doctrine, knowledge of the Scriptures and the history of Christianity are now considered the arcane specialties of theologians, not tweens and teens.

The real issue is that evangelical parents are too busy servicing their debt providing iPhones and iPods and laptops for their offspring to worry about the biblical training of their children. Fathers are too involved watching the NFL on their large television screens to lead family worship. Mothers are too busy working out to achieve age-defying abs to teach children Scriptures when they rise up and when they lie down. That’s what youth group is for, they think. Except youth groups aren’t doing these things either. Youth pastors, even those well into middle-age, are bent on proving their coolness to the students in their care. They got krunk, see? They like dance-offs and air guitar competitions and having food items lobbed at their heads for entertainment purposes. Biblical training? Catechesis? Ha Ha Ha. Right.

Scott Brown is right. The neglect of biblical training of young people by their own fathers, in their own homes, is seen everywhere. Most frighteningly, we are seeing the increasing acceptance of things God clearly condemns in His Word. Kids today don’t know the Word. That’s why homosexuality is now seen as just another lifestyle option in a growing number of evangelical churches and colleges. Young people don’t know the Word because their fathers have failed them. Next, their “youth leaders” have failed them by perpetuating foolishness and buffoonery in the name of ministry.

Fathers, mothers, take back your roles as the primary disciplers of your children. Stop delegating the job to fools who are leading your children off a cliff spiritually. The times are dark and getting darker all the time, but the evangelicals party on, seemingly oblivious. The enemy is walking boldly into the church and subverting entire congregations with error of every description, not the least of which is an endemic spirit of frivolity and fun at the expense of teaching Biblical truth. But if evangelicals would look up from their revels, they would see the finger of God writing clearly on the walls of their churches.

“You have been tried in the balances and found wanting.”


See related:

– Peanut butter salvation and other stupid church tricks

– Whos’ pastoring the youth pastors?

– The problem with youth ministry today.

– A story of injured clowns and evil chickens.

– Another church sanctuary turned into a stage for a worldly dance exhibition.

Why evangelism is so difficult in the United States.

Anyone who has spent any time doing street evangelism knows how discouraging it can be at times. A book I’m reading by Ken Ham and Brit Beemer entitled Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit Church And What You Can Do To Stop It helps us to better understand just why evangelism in America is like pushing water up a hill.

For this book 1,000 people in their twenties who used to regularly attend church–as kids and teens (including Sunday school and youth groups) but who no longer darken the door of a church–were polled on the various reasons they no longer attend. Those polled were asked 78 questions in all but one of the more revealing responses came from this question:

Do you believe you are saved and will go to heaven upon death?

Of the group who never attends church: 58.7% said yes.

Of the group who attends church on Christmas and Easter only: 72.2% said yes.

Perhaps this sheds a little light on why it is so difficult to reach the “churched” and “unchurched” with the true gospel of Jesus Christ. You can’t convince a sick man to have an operation if he fails to recognize his illness.

Peanut butter salvation and other stupid church tricks.

What you are about to read is disturbing and shocking, especially if you have children who attend a church youth group. Please be aware that what is detailed below is happening in many churches in America, and may be coming to yours very soon. Prepare to be outraged.

Those churches who rely on their slick marketing schemes to “draw a crowd” have sunk to new lows as of late. This is especially evident in the area of the foreign-to-Scripture concept of the church youth group led by the ever-so-popular (and equally absent from Scripture) youth pastors.

For those who have no idea what kind of shenanigans have been going on in the name of “youth ministry,” here are a few samplings that DefCon’s addressed in the past:

– Whos’ pastoring the youth pastors?

– The problem with youth ministry today.

– A story of injured clowns and evil chickens.

– Another church sanctuary turned into a stage for a worldly dance exhibition.

But these past examples are mild compared to what’s taking place now. Countless churches are going out of their way to pander to the youth culture by means of the basest of juvenile humor (the very humor formed, cultivated, and driven by the world).

Because these so-called churches are constantly chasing after the hem of the garment of their elusive mistress of cultural relevance, they must constantly come up with something new, something more radical, something more shocking, something more like the world in order to attract and keep their “customers.”

But as with all fads, what was hip, cool, and relevant yesterday loses it’s impact tomorrow, so something even more vile, shocking, and wicked (yes, wicked) must take the place of yesterday’s flavor of the month.

To see this spiral into depravity I submit two articles for your consideration. One was written by a Christian journalist for a Christian news source from August 2002, the other was written by a secular journalist for a secular news source in September 2009.

The following is the 2002 article from World Magazine’s Gene Edward Veith:

Stupid Church Tricks

by Gene Edward Veith

Four sets of parents are suing a church in Indiana for what happened at a New Year’s Eve lock-in. A youth leader chewed up a mixture of dog food, sardines, potted meat, sauerkraut, cottage cheese, and salsa, topped off with holiday eggnog. As if this spectacle were not disgusting enough (let the reader beware), he then spit out the mixture into a glass and encouraged the members of the youth group to drink it!

Some of those who did, of course, became sick, whereupon their parents sued the church. According to the Associated Press account, the youth pastor said that the “gross-out” game, called the Human Vegematic, was just for fun and that the church forced no one to participate. The lawsuit accused the adults in charge of pressuring the 13- and 14-year-olds into activities that caused them physical and mental harm.

Such “gross-out” games have become a fad in youth ministry. Since adolescents are amused by bodily functions, crude behavior, and tastelessness ­following the church-growth principle of giving people what they like as a way to entice them into the kingdom ­many evangelical youth leaders think this is a way to reach young people.

The Source for Youth Ministry, a popular and widely used resource center, posts scores of games on its website, many of which were contributed by youth group leaders in the field. There is Sanctuary Softball, which involves whacking a Nerf ball in church, with home plate being the area of the altar, and running through the pews, as the fielders then try to hit the batter with the ball to make an out. Another fun activity is Seafood Catch, which involves putting minnows in the baptistery, then catching them by hand. (“Extra points for eating them after it is done.”)

Then there are games designed to appeal to adolescents’ hormones. These include kissing games like “Kiss the Wench.” “Leg Line Up” has girls feel boys’ legs to identify who is who. Some of them have odd homosexual subtexts, like “Pull Apart,” in which guys cling to each other, while girls try to pull them apart. Another has girls putting make-up on guys, leading to a drag beauty show. Then there is the embarrassingly Freudian “Baby Bottle Burp,” in which girls put a diaper (a towel) on a boy, then feed him a bottle of soda, and cradle him until he burps!

These are presented as just ordinary games, good ways to break the ice at youth group. But there is another category of “Sick and Twisted Games.” Many of these involve eating and drinking gross things, like at the Indiana church. (“Toothbrush Buffet” has youth group leaders brushing their teeth and spitting into a cup. Each then passes it along to the next in line, who uses what is in the cup to brush his teeth. The last one drinks down everyone’s spit.) Others are scatological, and are too repellent to describe.

What do teenagers learn from these youth group activities? Nothing of the Bible. Nothing of theology. Nothing of the cost of discipleship. But they do learn some lessons that they can carry with them the rest of their lives.

*Lose your inhibitions. Young people usually have inhibitions against doing anything too embarrassing or shameful. These exercises are designed to free people from such hang-ups. For some reason, post-Freudian psychologists­ whose “sensitivity groups” are the model for these kinds of exercises­ maintain that such inhibitions are bad. Christians, though, have always insisted that we need to feel inhibited about indulging in things for which we should feel ashamed. This is part of what we mean by developing a conscience.

Though being “gross” may not be sinful in itself, overcoming natural revulsions can only train a child to become uninhibited about more important things.

*Give in to peer pressure. Defenders of these kinds of activities maintain that they help create group unity. The way they work, though, is to overcome a teenager’s inhibitions with the greater desire to go along with the group. In other words, these exercises teach the teenager to give in to peer pressure. Instead, youth groups need to teach Christian teenagers not to go along with the crowd and to stand up against what their friends want them to do.

*Christianity is stupid. Status-conscious teenagers know that those who are so desperate to be liked that they will do anything to curry favor are impossible to respect. Young people may come to off-the-wall youth group meetings, but when they grow up, they will likely associate the church with other immature, juvenile phases of their lives, and Christianity will be something they will grow out of.

Teenagers get enough entertainment, psychology, and hedonism from their culture. They don’t need it from their church. What they need­ and often yearn for ­is God’s Word, catechesis, and spiritual formation.

Reprinted from FCF World Ministries.

Good Intentions

And since 2002, the pied pipers of pragmatism have taken yet one more steep step down the rung in their worldly, Christ-less social gatherings.

The Berean Wife alerted me to an article from Folio Weekly (in PDF format) detailing the atrocious behaviors of a “church” youth group. This unbelievable article is entitled Peanut Butter Salvation: Why a Southside MegaChurch Thinks That Goldfish Swallowing and Toe-Licking Will Lead the Next Generation to God.

Here are some quotes from this article along with my commentary interjected in red.

As the youth leader held his arms aloft, the teenagers gaped at the hair, furred into a strip matted by sweat and deodorant. They watched as Pastor Turner dug into a jar of peanut butter and smeared gobs of it onto the exposed underarms, then turned to the audience. Did anyone, he asked, have the guts to lick it clean and swallow it down without puking? He got two volunteers. As the audience roared with excitement and disgust, the two male teenagers approached the youth leader and began to lick his armpits, burrowing their faces in the peanut butter and eating it. Neither puked. Their only prize was bragging rights. [This one needs no comment.]

It may seem hard to believe, but the genesis of the “Fearless” program was a marketing impulse.[No, it’s not really that hard to believe. It’s what we’ve come to expect from those who think they can “do church” better than God.] Pastor Turner and his creative team say they wanted to do something that would shock and astound their teenage audience. [If you really want to “shock and astound” the teens, try preaching the Word!] They hoped to get students talking about Celebration Church and about the Wednesday night service. [Because talking about Jesus and His finished work on the cross just isn’t as cool.] They wanted a buzz that would go viral, that teens would text and Twitter about. They wanted the kids to share their cell phone pictures and videos. Ultimately, they wanted hordes of kids to show up the following Wednesday to see what crazy things the youth ministry would think up next. [Makes the church leadership feel good seeing all those kids show up to see what crazy world-mimicking things the youth ministry would think up next. What about the novel idea that kids should be showing up to church to learn more about God and to fellowship with the brethren? Oh, and don’t forget, what you attract them with is ultimately what you have to keep them with. And here’s the paradox: Take away the contrived entertainment and you lose the kids, “They’re not doing what attracted me, dude, so I’m outta here.” Keep the same level and you lose the kids, “They’re not cutting edge, they’re like so 5 minutes ago, I’m outta here.” So the only solution is to push the envelope more and more.]

The program isn’t confined to the church’s Deerfield Boulevard campus. [Why not just say church? What is so offensive to all these megachurches that they hide behind the name “campus?”] Across town, at the Orange Park campus, another youth minister was hosting his own “Fearless” event. . . . Instead of an armpit, [22 year-old Pastor Shawn] Kelley smeared peanut butter on a youth leader’s feet and challenged two teens to lick it off. It was pretty gross, the pastor assures. “This leader’s feet are pretty bad.” . . . Still, Kelley says he did not, as Folio Weekly heard from a concerned parent, spread the peanut butter on his own feet, or between the youth leader’s toes. “We didn’t want to put it in between his toes,” he says. “That would be pushing it.” [Oh, so now we’re taking a lesson on morality and what is and is not “pushing it” from Mr. Kelley. We’d love to know by what standard you rely on to define what’s “pushing it” and what’s not.]

Pastor Turner wants to send kids home from church thinking, “I don’t believe what just happened here tonight.” [Not thinking about their utter sinfulness before a holy God and the only propitiation for their transgressions being the spotless Lamb of God nailed to a cross because without the shedding of blood their is no remission of sins.] That’s a fair approximation of what one area mother felt when her son came home from the Orange Park service with video footage of the toe-licking. . . . She was so upset that the next morning she contacted Pastor John Wyatt, the head youth pastor for all six Celebration locations. She was stunned when he didn’t agree that having a child lick anything off an adult’s feet was inappropriate. . . . [She may have been stunned, but we’re not. In fact, just wait till you see the comments start pouring in on this post defending this foolishness.] The mother suggests that the act between a minor and an adult in a private home would seem not only inappropriate, but perverse — and possibly illegal. [Wow, she hit the nail on the head!] But she says Pastor Wyatt, 37, and other church leaders didn’t concede there was anything wrong with what they’d done. [And they never will.] The woman decided not to allow her son to attend the church again. . . . [Although I question why she let him attend in the first place, this decision is wise.] “When you send a kid to church, you aren’t expecting they are going to be exposed to something like that. It just does not really make sense how Bible study turns into fish eating and eating peanut butter off a grown man’s toes.” [We’ve been trying to make sense of this foolishness too, but in the end, it’s just silly men who have never grown up, getting paid to play silly games with kids who will eventually be inoculated against true Biblical Christianity.]

“The idea is to get students here to meet our Savior. They are getting all this crazy stuff out there in the world all the time. We are trying to show them that God is cooler.” [1. No, no, no. The “church” was never meant to be the place for people to “meet our Savior.” The church is for the Believers, not the unbelievers. If an unbeliever attends a church service and he “meets our Savior” then great, but this was not the purpose of the assembly of the brethren. Actually reading your Bible would clarify the confusion.

2. So you’re essentially using the old “bait and switch” tactic to sucker teens into your church? I guess if you’re offering a fuzzy, non-offensive, feel-good Jesus then you can get away with it.

3. You’re “crazy stuff” is somehow better than the “crazy stuff” in the world, how? Because you’ve “Christianized” it?

4. God is not “cool.” For crying out loud, if you can’t comprehend or even remotely understand the nature of God you have no business being a pastor. Have you forgotten that “cool” is defined by the world? Your god is an idol formed in the imaginations of your “creative team.” You can keep your god. I’ll stick to the true God revealed in Scripture who is not hip, cool, or what’s happening now, but who is holy, holy, holy.]

Asked whether there was a religious lesson behind the grotesquerie, Wyatt offers, “It’s all about what it means to be fearless and know God is with you.” Pastor Kelley describes the “Fearless” stunts as metaphors for the courage it takes to be young and openly Christian. “It’s about being fearless, by allowing them to do something that took boldness, that they might possibly get made fun of for doing,” he says. “Standing up for Christ in the world requires you to be fearless.” [So let me get this straight. Standing up for Jesus requires boldness and fearlessness, but instead of instilling that in the youth by having them actually stand up for Jesus, or even showing them by example, instead you have them perform sick, twisted, and erotic games and this will somehow help them stand up for Jesus? And if they need to perform these juvenile games to stand up for Jesus then does that not mean that you’re suggesting to them that their source of strength comes not from God but from them and their willingness to act like fools? Here’s a novel idea: Try having them become “fearless” by actually proclaiming Jesus Christ, and start with you by boldly preaching Jesus Christ. Then encourage the one’s that are really sincere to take missions trips to countries where standing up for Jesus will get you imprisoned, tortured and/or killed. Somehow I don’t think the countless martyrs throughout church history and today needed to lick peanut butter off someone’s toes in order to stand up for Jesus.]

Wyatt also points out that it’s much easier for a kid to talk about church with other teens when the conversation is about chugging a Happy Meal or bobbing for chicken feet. “They experience God here on Wednesday nights,” says Pastor Wyatt, “and they can’t always articulate that to their friends. This gives them something to say. ‘Wow, you’ve got to come to church, you’ve got to check this out. This is amazing! ’” [Of course it’s easier to talk about Happy Meal chugging or bobbing for chicken feet if you’re unregenerated. Preach the pure, unadulterated, hard truth of the gospel then sit back an watch the kids talk to other kids. A word of caution though, if any of them do get truly converted, they’ll probably be telling other kids about Jesus Christ and his sacrifice instead of your church, and they probably won’t remain in your church for very long either.]

“Unfortunately, somebody was offended, and we apologized right away,” says Pastor Wyatt. “But the other side of that is, there was a whole bunch of kids who gave their life to Christ that night. Ultimately, our goal is to get people into church and into a relationship with Jesus.” [Ah, the old “someone gave their life to Christ” card. Always employed when someone questions the worldly, Chirst-less, and wholly unbiblical marketing tactics of today’s cool, hip, and relevant social clubs. Somehow, we’re told not to judge them, but they are quick to judge others, claiming to know the hearts of these kids and pronounce that they’re saved. Here’s an experiment I suggest trying. Take these kids who you claim to have “given their life to Jesus,” separate them from the toe-licking and armpit licking shenanigans, and teach them the hard things. Teach them the whole counsel of God. Teach them doctrine. Teach them that they are expected to lay down their life daily, that they’re to die to self, that they’re to take up their crosses daily and follow Christ. Teach them that those who choose to live holy lives will be persecuted. Teach them that friendship with the world is enmity to God and that those who love the things of this world are enemies of God. Then we’ll check back in with you in six months and see where those kids who “gave their life to Christ” are. If they were truly converted they will be right there desiring more of the meat of the Word. If they were false converts they’ll have left for the other megachurch down the street who has bowling/pizza nights, whip cream fights, rock concerts, gross-out games, and the weekly “rededicate your life to Christ” alter call.]

This article also interviews Karen McKinney, a director of youth ministries and associate professor at Bethel University who opposes the foolishness of what you’ve just read above. But just when you think there’s a voice of reason, we read this:

McKinney finds programs copying “Fear Factor” and other puke-inducing events to be a contradiction to the church’s message of stewardship. “What did we just teach?” she wonders rhetorically when told about the youth program. “What value is it when we know there are kids starving? … There are ways to teaching young people to be bold without wasting food.” [McKinney is about to offer an example of how she taught teens valuable lessons by means of a much better technique. Brace yourselves.] As an example, McKinney remembers how she was invited to speak about sexual boundaries to a teen group at a church in downtown St. Paul. After brief introductions, she broke the 12 students into two groups and told them they were going to play strip Pictionary. For every round lost, the losing group would have to take off an item of clothing. Before they even started, she says she could hear a 13-year-old girl say under her breath, “This is wrong.” But she said the group went through three rounds before the 13-year-old stood up and said, “I thought the topic was boundaries. We should not be playing this game.”McKinney then asked the other students if they also thought the game was wrong and why they didn’t voice those concerns. “They got the message loud and clear what it means to stand up when it comes to crossing these kinds of boundaries,” she says. Licking peanut butter off somebody’s armpit, she observes, crosses those boundaries without drawing valuable lessons for the Celebration students. “It’s just totally inappropriate,” she says. [So it’s all right to “cross boundaries” as long as a lesson is learned? And encouraging 13-year-olds to play strip Pictionary is an acceptable ends-justifies-the-means lesson? Good grief, the inmates are running the asylum!]

Welcome to the American Christianity where worldly wisdom reigns from the pulpit and rules the day. Those who lower Christianity to such base levels are showing that they do not believe that the Gospel is enough to save as the Apostle Paul believed it was when under inspiration of the Holy Spirit he penned Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes . . .”

Faith comes by hearing the Gospel, not by quaint little stories about how to be bold like Daniel while having kids perform gross and even erotic acts before their peers.

The defense commonly used by proponents of this worldly behavior in church is usually that they’re trying to reach a certain group, and in order to do that, they say, “you must first relate to that group and become like that group.” But I have to ask: If you have to reach people where they’re at, tell me, how do you reach the abortionist? How do you reach the homosexual? How do you reach the intravenous drug user? How do you reach the pedophile? I’ll stop there as I do not want to give these youth leaders any new ideas for their next big thing.

In seven years we went from teen girls feeling teen boys’ legs in youth group, to teens licking peanut butter off an adult’s feet and playing strip Pictionary. I can only imagine what the next seven years will bring.

I conclude with a quote from Gene Edward Veith who summed up the whole problem in his article posted above:

Status-conscious teenagers know that those who are so desperate to be liked that they will do anything to curry favor are impossible to respect. Young people may come to off-the-wall youth group meetings, but when they grow up, they will likely associate the church with other immature, juvenile phases of their lives, and Christianity will be something they will grow out of.



Who’s pastoring the youth pastors?


Christian Lady published an eye-opening piece on Youth Specialties: Free Resources, Tips and Ideas.

Although there’s much wrong with these tips and ideas, it’s what’s missing that’s most disturbing.  Allow me to quote the original poster’s thoughts on this as she stated her concerns more eloquently than I could have:

I read through the 100 ideas for Youth Workers on the Youth Specialties web page and noticed words/terms/names not used at all in the list.

Missing are:  God, Bible, Christ, Salvation, Sin, Faith, Death, Hell, Devotion(s), Jesus, Holy Spirit, Believe, Repent, Prayer

Not Missing:  Church, Adult, MTV, Rolling Stone, Frisbee, Football, Surveys, Space, Phone Chain, Goals, Worship, Retreats

I’ve posted fifteen of their one hundred tips and ideas below for your examination. Visit their website to view them all.

Tip #2

Subscribe to a popular magazine like Rolling Stone or Teen that will help keep you on top of the current youth culture.

Tip #4

Use surveys and questionnaires to their best advantage. Find out what your young people are thinking on a regular basis.

Tip #10

Don’t meet in a room that is too big for your youth group. If your group is small, meet in a small room. This gives kids the feeling of being “packed” in. Always make sure your meeting place is casual and comfortable.

Tip #11

Have the young people in your group put together a “youth group yearbook” at the end of the year. It should include photos and articles about the past year’s activities. It will be a positive reminder of the good times shared by the group.

Tip #22

Develop programs that reflect the needs, interests and energy level of the young people in your group, not the adults who work with them.

Tip #25

Plan some early morning or late night activities. There will be few conflicts and the kids will enjoy the adventure.

Tip #39

Familiarize yourself with the music your students listen to. MTV’s weekly top videos countdown and some weekly radio programs will help you stay current. Periodically discuss the music with your kids in a positive way.

Tip #44

Put together a “skit closet” full of costumes, old clothes, and props for your drama productions or even last-minute illustrations. Ask people in the church to donate ridiculous looking clothing and other items. Your local thrift shop is a great resource, too.

Tip #59

Never use religious jargon and worn-out cliches. Say what you mean in words today’s youth can understand.

Tip #60

Build self-esteem in your students by affirming them both when they are alone and when they are with their peers. Over time make it a point to say something positive to each one.

Tip #73

Keep a supply of games and recreational items in the trunk of your car at all times. You never can tell when you’ll need a football, a Frisbee, or a few water balloons.

Tip #75

Always serve refreshments at meetings and activities. It’s a relatively easy thing to do and kids love it. It also keeps them around a little longer for personal contact.

Tip #84

Videotape the “big game” this year at your local high school and show it after the game on a wide-screen TV. Invite the whole school.

Tip #93

Use TV to your advantage. Tape and discuss good programs. Discuss and evaluate the programs that are most popular with your youth.

Tip #97

Put on a drama once a year. It gives more kids a chance to use their talents and be in the limelight.

Besides the idea and concept of a “youth pastor” being completely absent from the Scriptures, and besides the fact that too often the “youth pastor” has never raised kids of his own, knows too little about theology and too much about MTV, and in spite of the incredible failure rate of “youth pastors” (the false conversions abound), it still seems that “youth pastors” are all the rage in Laodicea. I wonder why that is . . .

To quote Paul Washer on the subject:

“What are most youth groups like? You get a real personable young leader who’s usually not married and a lot of mousse in his hair. And then he gets a lot of young people around him, and what do they become? According to Proverbs they become companions of fools. When you put young people with young people in this atmosphere of adolescence you have no growth to adulthood, you have no maturity, no elders are involved, no parents are involved. It can’t work because it’s not Biblical.”

For a related sermon on the problem with “youth pastors/leaders” see Voddie Baucham’s The Centrality of the Home.

Hope in San Mateo and encouragement for pastors.

Loretta Heiden posted this encouraging piece on her blog. Her brief story shows that there are still some youth pastors out there (albeit very few) who know that their job is to feed the sheep and not entertain the goats.

I also wanted to take this time to thank and encourage all pastors who are faithful to the Word and to the flock and haven’t sold-out. I know that at times it may seem that you’re alone as you face the daunting task of preaching the whole counsel of God (unaltered and undiluted) to a mass of people who would rather just be entertained, but don’t give up. There are some of us out here that are grateful for your commitment and hard work and we salute your faithfulness in the Lord. Never give up, never give in, never compromise and never forget, your reward will be great!