Does Your Youth Group Need a Rabies Shot?

The fatal sin is building our churches and youth ministries around the appetites, desires and wishes of our congregations.

At my “Why Young Adults Don’t Attend Church” workshop, a person threw out a concept I’d pondered but hadn’t put such eloquent words to. As of late Iíve been recognizing that my high school church experience was segregated: my friends and I were quarantined to our safe youth-group experience where we were entertained, occasionally we gave back ěif we had to,î and we created a community of folks who were pretty Wonder bread (bland, palatable, nutritious . . .to a degree). I had some awesome experiences, events and folks who helped shape me into the person that I am today, but it was a pretty self-centered, demanding, consuming experience. The image I got was that of a rabid dog: theyíre foaming at the mouth to consume, consume, consume: just to bite down on something – but nothing ever satisfies that mad craving.

The person at my workshop talked about how youth ministry as we know it is dying. Youth leaders are recognizing that theyíre creating ěfalseî communities – communities that last only as long as the kids are in school, and then they dissipate, causing the individuals to flounder as they are community-less. They look to the larger church, but are so used to their self-centered experience that they donít know how to participate. And they mourn for the loss of their community, not knowing how to experience that again.

My mother-in-law sent me this article, talking about all this stuff – again, much more eloquently than I ever could.

For years now we have watched as study after study and survey after survey tell us what we already know- those students who graduate out of our professionally led youth ministries struggle to maintain their church ěconnectednessî during their college years. For me it tends to be one of two things: either my graduates end up being ěcling-onsî- graduates who find ways to still hang around the youth ministry – or they simply disappear a few months into their college careers, and I end up hearing about them after theyíve moved to another church or out of the church altogether.

What happens is that we feed the beast when we leave our teens with the impression that, like everywhere else in the world, they are ěconsumersî who by their consumeristic nature drive the shaping and programming of the church. When we are consumers, then we have the impression that we are or should be in control. We, the consumers; we tell the church how we need it to be. Is it any wonder then, that our little consumers shun the authority of the Church? How much authority can the Church have if the Church does whatever I tell it to do?

Oooh, good stuff. So, what are your thoughts? Do you see this type of rabid-attitude in your youth? Have you succumbed to it as well? How did you become free – to turn and focus on Christ rather than your self?

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