What I didn’t learn in youth group

I was sent an email by a pastor that included an article from CNN. Here are the story highlights:

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • More teenagers embracing watered-down Christianity
  • Teenagers see God as “divine therapist”
  • Teenager: “They don’t want to make sacrifices”
  • Who’s responsible for inspiring teens? Parents and pastors are

These are my thoughts:

I can relate to this article when interacting with young people (teens and early twenties), seeing so many that are unable to really talk about who and where GOD is. I blame parent’s ignorance mostly, in that they were lulled to sleep by their parents. I blame the American Church as well for remaining a “safe place” for everyone to be. It’s a tough challenge to weigh grace against the call to “go and make disciples”.

As for youth groups, they grossly fail to resemble anything close to living by faith (as they follow closely behind the church model). Is the youth group a safe place for teens to talk freely about their faith and lay hard-to-handle issues on the table? Or is it rather that “fun” thing you do one evening each week? My own children push to go when they are going to serve in the community, yet  hem and haw when asked about attending a youth group function where they play games and have a “quick lesson”.

The other hilarity about youth groups is that a young person (usually a male) “leads” the group. Why? Is this man capable of truly understanding the inner workings of a teenager? Yes, he is probably not far from a teenager himself, but doesn’t that just help him relate to the problem better than understanding how to talk about it from the perspective of an adult who is raising/has raised Godly teens?

And then we can address the issues of relationships (dating, “how far can I go?”), which I personally believe that most leaders adopt from their ideas from public school because most youth groups are “public school” in church form anyway. How is it that we expect a near stranger to address issues of sexual tension, building healthy friendships, and other such relational matters when so little is openly discussed in the home?
NOTE: This isn’t a home school vs. public school point. I have been through the public school system and home schooled my children, as well as attended youth group my entire teenage life, even into adulthood as a counselor/leader; therefore, I know quite well what the “system” looks like as opposed to a “family-centered” function.

The young people today are disconnected by virtue of our society – it’s demands and subtle teachings. The idea that another person (i.e. youth leader) will provide our children true Biblical guidance apart from the family is absurd. Christian education and faith-building starts in the home – period. I believe that when parents fail, the church youth group will probably not succeed – at least not in the state the American Church is in today. Rather it offers a listening ear, much like a school counselor. How is this a help when the rest of the youth group functions focus on petty issues and fun? It only leaves an empty and shallow feeling.

Yes, yes – there are a number of testimonies from young people who have “had their lives changed” by attending a youth group. Where are those young people today? What about every other young person who hates God and the church because of washed up religion? Hiding behind a testimony or two isn’t ground enough to build an American Church Youth Group on today.

What I suggest instead is a gathering of parents and teens, a home group of sort, where teens can get honest answers in front of their parents, from their parents , even if the parent simply says, “I don’t know.” Facilitating true and wholesome, life-changing dialogue is the essential if teens today are going to discover Christ for themselves.