>The Disaster of (typical) Youth "Ministry"

>The front page headline on yesterday’s USA Today read, “Young Adults Less Devoted to Faith” with the subtitle, “Survey shows steady drift from church life.” These statistics mirror countless surveys over the last couple years and should not come as a shock; but they diagnose the reality that something is drastically wrong with typical ministry (which can, at best, only produce typical “Christians”)…

As a three-decade-plus veteran of youth ministry I say, “duh.” Anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear is not shocked by this article, but yet it also is patent evidence that much of what the church and parachurch groups do is simply not working.

If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results; maybe a lot of our programs and activities can be liked to insane asylum tactics?

Thom Rainer, president of Lifeway Christian Resources that conducted the survey, states that of those surveyed who called themselves Christians, “many are either mushy Christians or Christians in name only…most are just indifferent. The more precisely you try to measure their Christianity, the fewer you find committed to the faith.

Here’s what we should find most disturbing in the study:

Even among those in the new survey who “believe they will go to heaven because they have accepted Jesus as savior”:

  • 65% did not mention faith, religion, or spirituality when asked what was “really important in life”
  • 50% do not attend church at least weekly
  • 36% rarely or never read the Bible. Only 17% read it daily.

Only 40% of professing Christians feel it is their duty to share their faith.

SO WHAT IS THE MAIN PROBLEM? 
Why are we losing youth? 
  • In many (most?) cases because we never “had” them. They may have raised a hand, gone forward, prayed “the prayer” (that is not found anywhere in scripture), filled out a decision form…but the reality is Matthew 7.21-23
  • Most of those who have genuinely been captured by the Spirit of God have been programmed to apathy, had their “felt” needs met without doctrine, been living from big event to big event, but have not been mentored, nurtured, challenged to live out their faith 24/7 rather than anticipating the next concert, missions trip, or camp.
  • The Biblical illiteracy of the church as a whole is deepend (shallowed?) in them. (Amos 8.11)
  • We have not lost most of this generation because we challenged them too little. We’ve lost them because we’ve not challenged (yes, even demanded) more!
  • And we continue to produce baptized pagans because we wimp out and refuse to be fruit inspectors
WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?
Do what Jesus did! When trying to reach people of all ages with the gospel make it easier to say “no” than to say “yes.” Can anyone really imagine Jesus turning to the crowd and saying “Every head bowed, every eye closed”? Why do we who want to see disciples rather than decisions all too often start them out in secret, “No one looking around…”
Please do not misunderstand or misquote me, I am not (totally) against the (very new to church history) invitation “system,” nor am I questioning the hearts of any who are proponents, but any “witnessing”, any “invitation” that does not stress lostness, repentance, surrender, and faith is not biblical and typically produce “decisions” that don’t stand the test of time. (yes, God can still use these to His glory in spite of ourselves…but rarely)
And never should anyone be told…even hinted at…that “now you are a Christian.” Or, in my mind, “based on what I heard you pray (or what you’ve said) you are now a child of God.” That is the job of the Holy Spirit. The book of FIRST JOHN has a MISSION STATEMENT, but this mission statement is not that isolated verse, but “these things” are everything in First John that comes before…Let the Spirit of God, through  the written Word, give “assurance” of salvation in the living Word – The Lord Jesus Christ.

This is already too long…I invite you yell at me, agree with me, call me a works-righteousness dude, or whatever. But, for God’s sake (literally) and for their sake, at least think about this ongoing disaster…

Author: Jack Hager

Jesus invaded my life shortly after my arrest at age 26. I spent the first few years of my new life incarcerated. Went to Bible school after parole; have served with Kansas City Youth For Christ, Headwaters Christian Youth (Rhinelander, Wi), Family Life Ministries (Bath, NY), and now with Midland Ministries (Saint Joseph, Mo). Married with four children, work with youth, adults, inmates. Heavily involved in Bible quizzing for four decades. Narrow minded about Jesus and the gospel; fairly open minded about most other things. Speak in churches, camps (both teen and family), civic groups, public schools, Christian schools and colleges...amazed I get to do what I get to do....favorite verse Romans 15.13 "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that you, by the power of the Holy Spirit, may overflow with hope."

2 thoughts on “>The Disaster of (typical) Youth "Ministry"”

  1. >What?!? That is SOOO seeker insensitive!How are we to get the people "churched" if we don't do what it takes to get 'em and keep 'em? Isn't Xianity infused by spiritual osmosis? Isn't all it takes is to offer them the entertainment that want and the "spirituality" that they need? Isn't Nooma® instructed focus groups the greatest thing since Sunday School? How can those youth not be sincere, don't you see them jumping up and down in praise and worship? Besides, what are you trying to do, drive away what few donors we have?Next thing we know, you'll be asking us to die to ourselves and surrender everything for Jesus' sake!

  2. >i like Bible quizzing (understatement of the year) and find that it's a great tool not only to get young people into God's Word, but also to keep myself plugged in. a phrase that jumped out at me in the fall and which i've been mulling over ever since comes from Titus 1:9 "he must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine" – i really believe that is where longterm depth and fruitfulness (ie. success) will be measured

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