Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Youth Ministry: A Parody and Some Thoughts

You know, the thing that makes a parody a really good parody is when it looks so much like the thing it is satirizing that you almost cannot tell the difference and you feel like squirming a little (or even a lot) when you see it. That’s what this video is like if you’ve been paying attention at all to youth ministry in the evangelical subculture lately.

Ignatius from travis hawkins on Vimeo.

I have to say, though, that I am really thankful for certain youth pastors I had while growing up. They were often kind of crazy at times, but they also loved us and loved us enough to tell us the truth of God’s word and to teach us how to read it and study it for ourselves, too. My first encounter with learning how to read my Bible daily came from GA camp as an older elementary girl and then youth group at our church in junior high and high school. Sure there are things about my youth group experience that I wish had been different, but, overall, we were taught to respect God’s word. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t any nonsense, but it was nothing like the trends I see today. My youth workers would not be seen as “cool” by a lot of the people telling us what is “cool” for youth ministry today, but they did make youth group interesting and fun enough that we wanted to be there, and deep enough for those of us who had the yearning to dig deep. It wasn’t perfect, but I’m thankful for those who sacrificed to show me that they cared about me and that they loved Jesus enough to teach us His word, and even during the fun, truth was not sacrificed on the altar of entertainment, though, to be honest, I'm not sure the church where I grew up would still be able to say that, and I'm not sure the tendency wasn't beginning even then. But, for the most part, I was taught to love the truth and not to compromise God's word, and I am eternally grateful for that, and even more so, I am grateful that God opened my heart and eyes and ears to hear His word and respond in faith.

What the Lord allowed me learn in my teenage years prepared me for college and laid the groundwork for me knowing that I MUST find a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church while I was away from my home church and I am thankful that, only by God’s grace was the faith mine by the time I left home and entered the University of Florida (or ‘the brothel’, as one friend from youth group unkindly called it when voicing his unsought opinion that it wouldn’t be good for me to go there - I told him I was pretty sure the peer pressure to worldly living wouldn't be much more severe than what I'd already endured in high school). On graduation Sunday in 1989, my youth pastor asked me to be one of the graduates to share my testimony with our church. I don’t remember everything I said that morning (it was 20(!!) years ago, after all – we’ll bemoan that sad fact later), but I do remember that I read Jude 24-25, which I had marked in my Bible long before. Here’s what it says in the New American Standard version:

Jude 24-25
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”

As an 18-year-old girl, with all the uncertainty and hope and fear that lay ahead as I prepared for the great unknown of leaving home and going off to college, I stood on the promise of God’s word that my Savior, Jesus Christ, was able to keep me from stumbling and to make me stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy to the praise of His glory. And, by God’s amazing grace, through no goodness in me and in spite of my naiveté and sinfulness and mistakes along the way and in spite of so many things I wish I had known then that I know now, in spite of it all, I can say with gratitude that Jesus has always kept me and held me and been the anchor for my soul. He has filled me with a love for His word that has only grown deeper the more I read it and the more I learn how to apply it to my daily, moment by moment life. I can look back, and yes there are things I would do so differently today, but I can look back and say that my God is faithful, even when I am not. I knew it as an untested 18-year-old, and I know it even better today as a 37-year-old, and by God’s grace, I know I will know it even better when I reach the end of the days God grants me to live here on this earth.

So, I don’t post this parody to say that all youth ministries are off the rails. As I said, I am very thankful for the youth workers who helped shape me into the woman I am today, but I do post it as a warning.

Parents, do you know what is going on in your teenagers’ youth group? I don’t think we can assume that just because the kids are meeting together at church that it’s all okay. I’m very, very thankful that it was at my church growing up. Sadly, it isn’t everywhere. I’ve seen some things since leaving home. Check it out. Know what they are doing and what they are hearing and what they are learning, if you are at all interested that your faith become theirs, for that is the aim we must be shooting our arrows toward. (Psalm 127:3)

HT: Thanks to Jules at Everyday Mommy for posting this video. It got me thinking, and even back to blogging today!


Kay said...

I could love this video if I let go of the fact that this sort of thing is reality in many places. And it's not just in the youth group. Many whole churches are trying so hard to be hip and cool that 'the visitors' (which would have been my family on some occasions while we were looking for a church) were subjected to all manner of movie clips and logos and music louder than any concert I *ever* attended 'back in the day'.

*shudder* This video is great...and sad.

Mrs. H said...

As a youth pastor's wife, let me just say it's a battle that we fight daily, the battle against culture - only (surprisingly, sadly) it's manifested in the PARENTS who want this kind of junk for their kids. Parents who complain that youth group's not "fun enough"... that it's "too much" Bible study... sad, tragic really, but my hubby has heard these things said to him. My husband is a firm believer of keeping the main thing the main thing. That's his plan for youth ministry, not succumbing to culture's latest & greatest passing thing.
Good video though and good post. I've passed it on to my yp hubby. So glad to hear that you had a positive, Godly experience in your youth ministry growing up. :)

Rebekah said...

Mrs. H. - It is distressing that it's parents asking for this stuff and saying "too much Bible study", and I think that demonstrates, too, what Kay was saying that this stuff isn't just happening in youth ministry - it's all over the church, and that is very distressing. The parents asking for more of the 'junk' are my generation, and I guess it's symptomatic of the dumbing down of our whole culture. You see it everywhere - just look at all the stupid reality shows that people watch.

I appreciate people like you and your husband who have such an upstream battle to fight to keep the main thing foremost. And I don't think it's wrong for youth group to have a lot of fun elements, we just shouldn't sacrifice truth on the altar of hip and cool, and we shouldn't assume that kids can't handle serious Bible study. Thanks for what you and your husband do!

Tim said...

I love the video. Everyone's comments are pretty much on. I'm a youth pastor - and it's good to hear these comments.