May 10th 2013 No comments yet
Out of the young adults polled in the Barna Group study, 31 percent expressed the opinion that church is boring. In a microwave-ready, instant download society, this perception is likely with anyone under the age of 30. It’s simply how most of us have grown up. What is more disturbing is that 23 percent of those polled felt “the Bible is not taught clearly or often enough,” while 20 percent said God seems missing from their experience of church.
A youngin’s perspective:
While trying to adapt to reaching young people, some youth programs seem to have, wittingly or not, given up on teaching out of the Bible. Whether it’s because they don’t think kids can grasp it, or they fear it will drive kids already hesitant about the faith away, it’s a colossal disservice to one’s development in the faith.
I was very lucky to attend a youth group here at Stonebriar that had some lessons more comparable to Dallas Theological Seminary classes. Did I understand them completely all the time? No. Did I enjoy them all the time? Honestly, no. Am I thankful for the biblical base they gave me? Absolutely.
We, as a generation, have an aversion to taking on difficult tasks or ones that don’t pay immediate dividends. Anything that requires work is often automatically seen as inferior or not worth our time. Very few of us seemed to have grasped the value of things that don’t come easily. I would challenge churches not to take the easiest path with their young people and, instead, encourage their youth to stretch themselves in understanding their faith. It may take awhile, but I promise we can grasp difficult biblical concepts; it just takes time and someone willing to dive into it with us. If could get it, any kid can, that I promise you.
For the 20 percent that felt God was missing from church, not teaching out of the Bible is a surefire way for churches to propagate that kind of thinking. I also wonder how many of those polled were a part of larger than normal youth groups.
Not to say large youth groups can’t be effective ministering, but you have to think more students would get lost in the shuffle. Each student is different, each need is different, and those who need more one-on-one ministering to be reached may simply get overlooked.
It’s not an indictment on supersized youth groups, but it’s easier for the more introverted among us to go unnoticed in bigger settings. For a shy student that doesn’t want to be there in the first place, going unnoticed is exactly what they want. Do these youth groups have enough personnel to reach those kinds of kids? If not, there is a very real danger of them missing out.
On the other hand, some kids just don’t want to hear it. It’s an unfortunate reality, but not every kid that shows up to youth group meetings is interested in the Bible or anything a youth pastor has to say. It’s not realistic to think otherwise.
Even with kids that do want to learn, they’re still kids. Did I go to youth group every week because of my burning desire to delve into complex theological topics? No, I went because it was fun, as youth events should be. Looking back and evaluating my own motivations, I went because I had fun with my friends more than my craving to learn (by my reasoning, learning ended at the last school bell). Despite my primary motivation, there was a part of me needing to hear truth in the middle of the week. I didn’t fully realize it at the time because I was young, but it was there.
Young singles face their own challenges in getting sound teaching. They can get lost in a transitional time where they don’t belong in youth group anymore, but certainly don’t want to dive right in to joining their parents’ peers in fellowship groups. Many churches have recently put programs in place for this age group, but it’s still a critical time in a Christian’s development that can be lost in the shuffle. Much like youth groups, these singles programs must also guard against devolving into simply “social time” and maintain a biblical, learning base.
I hope that all churches, from giants in the suburbs to small country churches, realize that many youth have a real hunger to learn about God. It may not be obvious, it may not be our favorite thing in the world right away, and we may fight you on it. Don’t give up on making the word of God the focus of your ministry to youth. It’s worth the work you put in.
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