Wednesday, September 06, 2006

youth groups

Here's an interesting blogpost about why one United Methodist teenager gave up on her youth group. Here's a snippet from it:
I've always been frustrated with my youth group and youth groups in general. Am I completely knocking the youth group model of ministry? No. But, I do believe that it too often and too easily becomes a place to entertain. Youth group morphs into a social club disguised verbally as "fellowship time", exclusive cliques form, and God ceases to be the obvious focus. Once this happens, it's terribly difficult for the people deeply invested in the group to acknowledge.
I feel bad for the girl in her dilemma. As a former youth director, I have tried the discipleship model, the entertainment model, and everything else under the sun. I have found nothing that works for keeping teenagers interested. Either its not fun enough or its not spiritual enough. I can't figure out how to do it. Sorry mam!

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jason,

This is one of those times I miss Shane's input.

"Come back Shane".

I see the frustration in youth ministry. I don't have the answer either.

Have you heard about hip hop services?

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13989904/site/newsweek/


Here is the hip hop version of the 23rd Psalm. I am not sure I understand all the theological implications of the words and wheter it can be considered "an orthodox translation".

The Lord is all that, I need for nothing. / He allows me to chill. /He keeps me from being heated /and allows me to breathe easy. /He guides my life so that I can /represent and give shout outs in His name. / And even though I walk through the hood of death, /I don't back down, for You have my back. / The fact that He has me /covered allows me to chill. / He provides me with back-up/In front of player-haters, / and I know that I am a baller and life will be phat. / I fall back in the Lord's crib for the rest of my life.


Jason,
I'm not sure some of the words are appropriate.

Are you for or against "player haters"?

Or do you follow, "don't hate the player, hate the game"?

Pray for our youth,

John Flores
Frisco, Texas

Anonymous said...

Jason,

This Espiscopal Priest revised the Book of Common Prayer and this what he came up with.

http://www.churchpublishing.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Product&Productid=426

If Jesus walked the earth today, he would be a rapper."--The Rt. Rev. Catherine Roskam.

Early American Methodist weren't taken with Wesley's revision of the Book of Common Prayer. I'd like to see a copy, I have not found an online copy. I haven't checked the SMU Library yet.


Jason,
We can't give up on our youth. I see too may wanna be gansta rappers, agnostics, atheists, Wiccas, pagans, cults members and others that just gave up on Jesus and the church because of feeling disenfranchised with organized religion ie (Christianity).

Pray for our youth,

John Flores
Friso, Texas

Jason Woolever said...

you're right john. we can't give up on them.

John said...

My church's youth group was one of the main reasons I walked away from the Christian faith as a teenager.

Jason Woolever said...

I know what you mean John. As a pastor, I have no remedy other than to invite the young people into the larger life of the congregation. The most success I've had at connecting 11th and 12th graders is getting them into the adult praise band, where they feel they contribute and connect.

Anonymous said...

John,

Could you tell us a bit on what were some of the reasons the youth group aided in you walking away from the Lord for a time?

You need not tell too much as I see you are a minister.

John Flores
Frisco, Texas

John said...

Well, I was a dork and socially isolated. I couldn't even get into the geek clique at school. I was bullied a lot, and the bullies at school were in my youth group. And those that didn't bully me still regarded me as unworthy of their friendship. Or even just attention.

I briefly spent time with the Christian group at college, and they were no different. Well, no ostensible bullying, at least. But in both settings, the Christian groups existed for only for social reasons. They were very elitist and unwelcoming.

I remember one of my roomates from college was a merciless jerk. I watched him as he mocked each of his "friends" (with a tremendous gift for impersonation and brutal humor) as soon as their backs were turned. One Wednesday evening, I saw him at the Christian group. "You're a Christian?!" I asked incredulously. He was rather surprised at my question. "Well, yeah. Of course I am," he replied.

Mark Winter said...

I was a youth minister for four years. I enjoyed most of it, though it was very frustrating at times because I could see the cliquishness. I fought against it, but it kept rearing its ugly head. I built in all sorts of Christian mission and service work, which went over better in some churches than others. At one of my first fulltime appointments, the kids just played cards at UMYF. No devotional, not even a prayer. When I asked them the purpose of a church youth group, most of them said, "Fun." It took me about three years to get them involved in a mission project. I partnered with another small UM church, brought their youth pastor on board, and we scraped & painted two churches in a poor section of town. The kids loved it and the project even brought some of the town out to help.

Still to this day, I will have youth from the "old days" (now young adults) call me to do a wedding, or say something positive about our time together. Often you can't see the seeds you planted come out until much later. Still, we gotta cast those seeds.

Mark Winter said...

I floated the hip-hop version of Psalm 23 in front of my college-aged son, who listens to a lot of rap. His response: "Wow, that is so incredibly corny. That looks like some white guy just looked
up some words on urbandictionary.com and cut-and-pasted. Lame."

I thought it sounded cool, but then again, I'm not exactly in the urban youth scene, either.

bandlady said...

This is such a challenge. Being a teacher of teenagers, it's difficult to keep their interest in school as well as extra curriculars AND spiritual issues. It's part of their character and the teen genetic code. Interests change and bounce at the speed of light. Boundaries are pushed and shoved.

I don't know how the people at Eagle Lake Camp do it, but maybe you should check out their programs and staff. They may be able to help you out:

http://eaglelake.navigators.gospelcom.net/

Jason Woolever said...

I did youth ministry for 5 years. I found that although the kids wanted the program to grow, when we had visitors, they treated them exactly the way the would at school. If they were their friends they were friendly toward them. If they were different, they ignored them at best, made fun of them at worst. You wonder if youth groups don't do more harm than good.

I know that some folks have really good experiences with youth groups as well though. My wife did. I did when my friends went. When I became a senior and there were freshmen, I quit going because of the huge gap.

How do you have a "youth group" that is made up of unconverted hormonal freshman and seniors who want to grow in Christ?

Jason Woolever said...

John,
I can relate to your college story. I went to a few different college groups for awhile.
1) the Wesley Foundation. I remember hearing the pastor of this group doing a panel discussion with a Jew and a Muslim and he kept laughing and saying, "See, we really all believe the same thing!" This group was made up of about 12 folks who sat in a circle, while two of them played guitar very poorly. I wonder how they justified two full time staff members?
2) InterVarsity. This was like the preppy club. I had long hair at the time. They did some mixer and then played volleyball. I felt very out of place. I think I only went there once.
3) The Catholic Newman Center. I used to go there on Sunday nights, sometimes I would go stoned. I didn't know when to sit down or stand up, but they always had free beer nuggets afterward! That was my idea of church!

Anonymous said...

So are you going to hand out free beer nuggets at your current church?

Jason Woolever said...

It would be a good idea. We hand out donut holes, decaf coffee and orange juice between every service. Isn't that the Sunday morning version of beer nuggets?

Matt said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Matt said...

The idea that the dilemma presented is limited to youth ministry is to miss a greater point for all areas of ministry. People hop from church to church or in and out of churches because the churches are too¬¬¬¬¬¬ fluffy, spiritual, Pentecostal, boring, ________________ (fill in the blank for different situations). I have found the way to reach people is to reach people using the gifts the Spirit has given you to do ministry. I am gifted in evangelism and preaching. It is unhealthy for me to try to use a model of ministry that does not use these gifts. I am wired to evangelize and work with “fringe” students. On the other hand, I have people on my ministry team who are great with working with “Church students” and have trouble stomaching some of the actions of the “fringe” students. Also, I work better in situations where I stand before a large group of students and “preach.” On the other hand, I have volunteers who have not desire of standing in front of a large group of people and speaking, but will meet with a small group of students weekly for times of discipleship. I guess part of the key to the whole picture is the Body of Christ imagery of bringing other people alongside to do ministry within the building, in the community, and wherever the people are.

Jason Woolever said...

You said a lot of good stuff Matt. Thanks for your healthy big picture perspective. Self-knowledge is very important. I think that frustration I have with youth ministry comes from the fact that I was doing it while not gifted for it.

di dooley said...

my daughter stopped attending church after her experience in confirmation and youth group. she was constantly harrassed by another youth and nothing was done about it. a restraining order was served on the youth but nothing done at church. what is upsetting is the fact that if any adult were harrassed by another church member, it would not be tolerated. my daughter felt the same support should have been give her.

Dana said...

"How do you have a 'youth group' that is made up of unconverted hormonal freshman and seniors who want to grow in Christ?"

*blink* Why would unconverted people of ANY age want to grow in Christ? What, you mean we don't get to do any FUN stuff??!

*grin* I think I know what you mean, though. In the song "God Knows Why" (I think that's the title) Kid Rock says "somehow, I know there's more to life than this." And that's what a lot of teens are looking for - there HAS to be something more than just the day-to-day BLAH that goes on, right? Well, yeah!

That sort of deeper meaning is what people of all ages desperately need. It takes work to get there, though, and people need to be reminded that the reward is worth the payout.

And as far as rap - I've heard very few that don't come out of anger. I don't think you can just "parallel" a text. Will Smith does a great job of evoking warm fuzzies with "Summertime," but that's the only one that comes to mind; I'd call it hip-hop, but not rap.

Jason Woolever said...

yo di doo. i feel your pain. your daughter is a great person. i'm sorry the church didn't go to bat for her. (i actually posted this comment a few days ago, but on the 'pets in heaven' post on accident)

dana. congratulations. you're the first person that's ever quoted kid rock on my blog. that's significant!