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Monday, July 18, 2005

Higher Things Youth Ministry

On my way to the Higher Things Lutheran youth conference in St. Louis, MO where I'll be preaching and delivering some sectionals.

It seems to me that youth ministry, at its best, does three things well:

- Worship
- Teaching
- Fun

We do all three, but we know how to keep them separate.

In a time when entertainment is seen by many as the highest good, much that passes for youth ministry actually does little to hand on the Christian faith. The new book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers points out that the average American teenager, even those that regularly attend "conservative" churches, actually knows very little of the substance of Christian doctrine. The authors describe the typical teen as a Moralistic Therapeutic Deist.

I had a parishoner one time ask me, "Why do we feel like we have to 'fun-ize' everything?" Good question. It seems to me that we should be able to have a good time in youth ministry, to enjoy ourselves, but also know the difference between a rock concert and a worship service, between a video game and a Bible study.

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The Cubicle Reverend said...

Just found your blog. Good stuff. I've worked in Youth Ministry off and on for over a decade so I understand the frustration of trying to keep things fun as well as relevant. In fact, it is invading almost every aspect of church as well. I feel in church there is a time and place for everything (well, within reason). We should be a center of scholarship and culture as well as a place of family, worship, and spiritual growth. Keep up the good work. I look forward to checking out your sight more frequently.


The Cubicle Reverend said...

By the way, good call on the music and movies.

cwv warrior said...

It is not just the teens not getting "meat" for their spiritual growth. Here's how I see it, which could be considered weird...I have always hoped my guys could find fun in shouldn't be a drag for them to go there.
Could it be that fun, worship, and learning should not be separate at all? In the Spirit, can't all of the above blend into a passionate, awesome, meaningful experience.

My sons love heavy metal music...and I think it's the excitement, emotional impact. I see no reason for Christian music to be it with those drums and bass! Newsboys came close with John James.
Well, this was risky, since you hardly know me...but there you have it! : D

Lisa said...

I think there is a time for fun and a time for other things. Our society seems to tell us that if we're not having fun we're not really living. We're wasting our time. But there is another side of life. There is a reverence that is required when one stands before the living God. Moses was told to remove his shoes.

I'm not sure why we balk at this. Perhaps in this day of looking out for #1 we're afraid of giving up our rights or of taking the focus off ourselves.

Then again, David danced before God. Maybe I'm just a reformed dinosaur who can't separate reverence and stoicism.

I suppose I see worship as the reaction to the awe that God inspires. One doesn't normally think of a sunrise or sunset, the birth of a newborn or any miraculous event as one that brings a chaotic reaction in the first moments. There is a quiet sinking in as we realize what we've witnessed.

I hear worship compared to football games sometimes. The shouting, the conviction, the fun. I think, though, that all the stuff that goes with watching football is part of the game. The eating, the drinking, the yelling. If we sat quietly and watched the entire game it would be boring. The game, in itself, is not usually enough to hold one's attention.

God is enough. If we continue to hide him with fun distractions during worship I worry that worship will become just another event in the life of the church. It should be holy. Separate. Set apart.

Ok, didn't mean to take over your comment section. I enjoy your blog alot.

The Cubicle Reverend said...

Church needn't be boring, we should be compelled to seek Him, to be able to question, to seek, to create. Church should be educational, cultural, family, as well as spiritual. But we have to worry about becoming trivial.

But that is a double edged sword. Like you CWW I always felt the heart of the music was more important than the form. Something my more fundamentalist brothers disagreed on, but whatever. The problem arises when we try too hard to make it fun and relevant because then we become trite. I saw this happen at a church I visited a few times that was a seeker friendly church. It was entertaining, very slick, and some of the most trivial and meaningless teaching and worship I had ever heard. There were skits, and special songs, and the message was about how to be successful now, etc. Church should be all the things I mentioned above. If you want to reach kids, you just have to spend time with them and be real.

cwv warrior said...

I think we agree, Cubicle Rev., cause I truly hate the trivial, "worship music" Christianity. I actually meant worship in the purer sense...We like traditional church even. Tacking on fun is kinda uh, tacky? Separating worship and learning from the fun might not be what God would want for us. I should think we would enjoy our time with Him if we had it right. It seems maybe in our solemness, we are doing somethng wrong? There are kids being dragged to church all over the US but in Africa, they have a blast for hours! It's not is joy in the Lord!

Rob said...

Do you know about Pittsburgh Webloggers?

Thought that might help.

The Cubicle Reverend said...

Well, I think that church is all encompassing for our lives. It is a place of learning, worship, prayer, family etc, as well as a place for fun. but services themselves are a time, as a community, where we can get together to worship God and learn (for a lack of a better word) general belief in the faith. so if I feel like a more rocked out worship that is what other activities are meant for, a supplement, not a replacement of the church.

Becca said...

I completely agree with what you have written here ... with teenagers of my own (and their friends) who have all grown up in excellent churches with strong student ministries programs, I have grown more and more concerned that they lean way too close to the moralistic therapeutic deist.

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