How does a mother build biblical truth into her daughter’s life, nurture her, guard her, and encourage her toward the application of that truth, then send her into an environment that will oftentimes by its very nature be hostile or at least ambivalent toward that truth? How does a father raise his son to respect young women and protect their purity only to send them off to the youth building with exposed midriffs, low-cut tops, and skin-tight jeans?
– Voddie Baucham
Paul Washer pulls no punches as he exhorts the church to evangelize youth the biblical way. Some of the things Washer says in this sermon, Reforming Modern Youth Evangelism and Discipleship, may surprise you.
I encourage all youth evangelists, preachers, and pastors to listen to this message with an open mind; leaving your preconceived notions about youth ministry (and youth ministry abolitionists) at the door.
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.
Sunday School and VBS curriculum which trivializes and moralizes the Bible.
Children’s Church which substitutes for Church.
Sending the kids out right before the sermon.
Read the entire post here.
Also be sure to listen to Borgman’s fantastic sermon Children in Worship found here.
Adolescence is now accepted by most Americans as a strange and difficult period marked by wild swings of mood, outbursts of temper, rudeness, rebelliousness, and personality changes — all involuntary. They would be surprised to learn that this period was unknown, unrecognized, and unseen in every previous civilization, culture, and society throughout the immensely long history of humanity. It is, even today, unknown in large areas of the inhabited world.
Read the entire article here.
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:
A proper response to How to make a false convert.
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.”
I had posted the following on my own blog about a year and a half ago. When you stop to think about it, it is more sad than it is humorous. And that because it is just as relevant now as it was then.
So here, then, is some satire, originally posted by the guys at Sacred Sandwich:
BUSY FAMILY HIRES PERSONAL CHURCH SHOPPER
DECEMBER 2006 — Growing bored with the outdated programs at their present church, the Henman family of Peoria, IL, recently hired Lucy Ditmer, a personal shopper, to find them a new church home to meet their spiritual needs. “Between my boy’s hockey games and my girl’s dance classes, I really don’t have the time to go church shopping,” said Helen Henman. “It’s a great relief to know that Lucy can take care of all that. The last thing Phil and I want to do right now is spend every Sunday morning going to strange churches just to see if they have cushioned seating and a proper food court.”
Ditmer, who has over five years experience as a personal shopper at Macy’s, began advertising her church shopping services when she saw a need for busy families who find it difficult to squeeze a religious life into their hectic schedules. “Most churches nowadays have sermons that last from ten minutes to an excruciating half hour,” Lucy explained. “My clients just don’t want to put themselves through that kind of ordeal when all they really want to know is whether the youth program has a Playstation 3. With my service, the clients just give me a checklist of all their felt needs and I do all the dirty work while they’re sleeping in on Sunday morning.”
One of Ditmer’s recent success stories comes from Judith and Bob Nickerson, a pair of sports enthusiasts who were looking for a church that provided for their physical needs as well as their spiritual ones. “Coming from a Methodist background, we were really surprised when Lucy recommended the Beth Israel Synagogue on Fifth Street,“ Judith said. “But we had to admit that it had the state-of-the-art exercise facility we were looking for. After a couple visits, we knew it was the place for us. In fact, we like it so much, Bob is getting circumcised next Thursday.”
As for the Henman family, they are anxious to see what Lucy finds for them. “Being without a church home these past few weeks has really taken a toll on our family,” Mrs. Henman admitted. “Just the other day Phil was dealing with a lot of stress at work and he needed a pastor to show him how Jesus dealt with project deadlines. If Lucy doesn’t hurry up and find us a church soon, we may be forced to open a Bible and look for the answer ourselves.”
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.