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Posts Tagged ‘youth’

Just this past Sunday a couple visited our church.  They still go to our former church (spiritual formation/transformation church).  We were once in a small group together, and we really enjoyed time with this couple.  They have two children who are getting old enough to go to the youth group.  I commend these parents, they are involved with their children and followed them to the youth group.  This is where they have discovered enough problems to begin a church search just to see what else is out there.  The complaints I have heard are that the message and all the activities don’t always make any sense.  Things are disjointed, and the gospel is not clearly being taught through the activities and fluff.   There are so many distractions.  Apparently, one Sunday, the youth minister was speaking and there was a video playing in the background.  It was people falling, crashing into things, and getting hurt.  The mother could see no reason for this, and thought it wasn’t funny at all.  The parents have also complained that the youth room is often littered with trash because these teens will not use proper manners and clean up after themselves.  I recall the youth didn’t go to their church time with bibles and the girls often wore inappropriate clothing.  Rarely, were teens ever in “big church” with the adults.  We are so happy we are no longer there, it sounds like it is as bad as I thought.

 

I am so giddy, and I have high hopes.  I love to see people leave that environment.  I spoke to my pastor when I saw them at church, and let him know our past with this couple.  He knows many people have left that church including our family.  He’s always seeing people visit from my former church.  He commented something like this, “you’d think they’d try to figure out what they are doing is wrong since they are bleeding out.”   Yeah, you’d think.

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My former church had a week long camp for kids with training for soccer, basketball, art, cooking, skateboarding, and dance/cheer. It was fun. It was also in place of vacation bible school.

I am not sure why this thing couldn’t have been called VBS, why they couldn’t do the same kind of thing and yet still had the focus on Christ and the bible. Yet, the church decided they would team up with a Fellowship of Christian Athletes and make it a camp-like week. The thinking is that it would be a draw for kids who had no exposure to church.

I cannot remember, but I think the cost for the week was something like $40 (I could be wrong, it might have been $25, cannot remember). Anyway, there was a cost because kids were getting instruction.

My kids did get something out of that week. My daughter still can make pizza from scratch, and rolls. She loves to cut up fruit, even pineapple and she’s a 10 year old. It was great for her to learn these things and I’m not opposed to a church teaching them.

However, when I ask what the bible lessons were for that week they cannot recall. I taught the bible section (which was a copied lesson with questions with very little scripture). I don’t recall what they taught. I know they had themes each day with a word for the day starting with D. Discipline was one word, but I cannot remember them all.

There was very little presentation of the gospel. The one time it was presented wholly, it was a variation of the bridge illustration on stage. Kids got up, said a prayer with the pastor, and that was that.

There were mini lessons that had something to do with the activity and the theme of the day, I recall a bible reading at that point. I was a group shepherd who took a small group out for a little lesson every day. I recall going through the lessons ahead of time and adapting greatly to inject the gospel back in. Sometimes the D word for the day was hard to make fit.

Fast forward a year, and my kids attended vacation bible school in our new (to us) church. They had a craft every day that had something to do with the gospel. They had verses to memorize every day. They had a story every day acted out on stage, the basis for the fun little story time was to bring the kids back round to the point that they should share the gospel. It seemed simplistic, but it wasn’t wrapped in glitz and glitter.

My kids learned their verses pretty well, and by the end of the week each one could tell me the basics. They used colors to represent the different aspects of the gospel with a verse.

All have sinned which means we all are sinner and need salvation. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son for whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. The children were taught that they sin, but the Holy Spirit can draw them to God for repentance.

They were also taught that Jesus had to die in our place for sin, that His blood (nothing but the blood of Jesus) makes the believer’s heart white as snow, cleanses the sin. They learned in this life once we are saved we grow and we learn more about God. When we die, if we are believers who have trusted in Christ by His grace and mercy, we will go to heaven.

Simple gospel message. My six year old can recite it. My three year old is starting to get some of the main points.

I asked my older kids which they liked better, the cool camp with the instruction in different skills including prizes, slick songs, and all that youth…or the simple traditional VBS. They said it was VBS. Why? Because they learned more about the gospel.

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It’s clear to me why those who want to change church focus on youth so hard to the exclusion of other groups really…because they really want to win over the future.  The trend in churches is to have seperate youth ministry, and to pull kids away from their parents.  This way, the pretrained youth workers can present whatever they want and change the kids first.  This is why so much training happens at Youth Front.  If you can get the youth ministers at churches to change, then you can change those churches.  Waiting out the old people who will leave or die means your philosophy of church wins.

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I have been concerned about some youth camps and their influence on churches through youth ministries in churches.  One such organization is Youth Front.  At one point the web site actually had prayer “exercises” called the “Sacred Gateway.”  This can still be found via google cache on the Youthfront web site.  Here is a link to the Sacred Gateway page itself: http://www.sacredgateway.org/

Despite taking this off their site, Youthfront clearly is teaching breathing exercises and prayer along with the “silence.”  Youthfront lists Youth Specialties on one page as a partner. 

It’s one thing for Youthfront to be a camp kids can attend, but it’s more than that.  It has history (used to be Circle C and L bar C).  I may have attended Circle C as I can remember it from somewhere, and did go to a few church camps as a kid.  These camps not only are a stop for kids in the summer, but there is training for youth ministers and also overseas missions.  Churches are filled with staff and connections to Youth Front, and it helps push spiritual formation/emergent themes into churches. 

 reveal-devo-packetweb1 is just a sample of what high school students are asked to do at Youthfront. (still learning how to do this, so click the link here, then click the icon on page you are taken to…)

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The church is the Body of Christ.  So, how does this concept that “we’re focusing on the youth” or “we are trying to reach young families with children” fit in?  What about if someone is not on board with the changes and comments about it, should they be shown the door?  Somehow, this feels like a clique or club.  Church is where people in the Body belong.  So, if a church where someone who is a believer, saved by faith in Christ through His grace and mercy, no longer feels welcome and is told, “you can just go down the street” I argue the church they are attending is possibly no longer part of the body of Christ.  Shouldn’t people in the body feel welcome with other members of their own body?

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I ran into a man who used to attend our former church at a basketball sign up for my children.  He and his family left maybe two or three years ago.  They used to help immensely with children’s ministry.  His wife is now very ill, so I feel for him in his new battle.  I did get to talking with him about church and asked him where he attends.  His first comment, after naming the church, was that they left because they felt the children’s ministry at our former church was way to entertainment oriented.  I know another couple that left about the time this one did, and that was the complaint.  I personally felt at the time that my kids were still getting Biblical learning in their classes.  I helped in classes, and at Awana.  With all combined, my kids were really learning a lot.  However, I do see the point about the entertainment focus.  It’s gotten worse.  I still felt that the leaders on the children’s side of things were trying hard to keep the gospel in there.  It really was slipping though, with videos and games filling time that had nothing really to do with anything.  There was a core story, and I did like it and the hands on teaching (like eating real food in class that they would have eaten in the region of the Biblical account…goat cheeses and whole olives with pits, figs, nuts, and the like…flat breads).  Some things were good, but it was evident that entertainment was the focus often.

This old member also mentioned that when they finally began going to another church, they realized how much the Bible teaching was lacking in the old church.  He mentioned the problem with small/life/house groups was that they were not being led by people with any true theological training.  If the pastor wasn’t preaching the true word (but was following some sort of schedule rotating topics/books/and themes) and was expecting learning to be going on in groups, it wasn’t that the seminarians were teaching.  Especially if small group/life group/home groups were actually also studying themes or books other than the Bible.  He mentioned that his “traditional” church now had traditional music and expository preaching word for word.  He said they spend months on a small section of the Bible.  Also, the kids have Sunday school in the first hour (everyone has this option including adults,  and older children stay with parents in church.  The people have family time in church rather than segregating children and youth out so heavily.  This is refreshing to him.  He said the former church was “too seeker friendly.”

Themes repeat when speaking to people who left or are considering leaving our former church.

1.  The Bible is not preached as much as people desire. 

2.  Dissatisfied with children’s ministry or youth ministry.  Mostly, the idea is that the kids are being bombarded with much entertainment and not with enough Biblical teaching.  One elder even complained that the youth don’t carry Bibles at all. 

3.  Desire for family to be able to be together rather than segregated in the church time.

4.  An identification that the church is following some sort of trend or plan, either seeker friendly,

     emergent, or just a direction change.

5.  A fear for their children’s future if they stay in our former church.

6.  Some who are not young families with children have noted a problem with their needs not being met.  Singles and older adults have actually asked and have been told the church is focusing on youth and young families.

 

We’re considering trying this family’s church.  If we can get organized, we may go next Sunday.  Many former members of our church go there.  I feel we need a support group for “former XYZ church members.”  Too bad we couldn’t have broken off all at once, and then we wouldn’t be scattered all over the churches within a 20 mile radius!

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A national conference for youthworkers is holding special sessions to “connect with God.”  These include the following:

  • Liturgical Prayer Services
  • Prayer of Examen (I believe this is Ignatius Prayer…again with the breathing)
  • Stations of the Cross
  • Centering Prayer (also called contemplative prayer which involves breathing exercises)
  • Icons
  • Lectio Divina (which includes repeating a word or phrase over and over again

Youth workers all over the country are promised a great deal at this conference.

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I spent a few weeks on the letter to my pastors.  It was one of the most difficult things I have written in that I wanted so much to convey my thoughts and my concerns.  I wanted it to be a warning, and to be specific enough to get the point across.  I wanted the letter to express our family’s love for our church.  My rough draft had too much wishy washyness, I believe.  I filtered the letter through a few people, one was a man who helped by making it less female but he kept the word “feelings” in there and I had to get that out.  This was not a matter of feelings, it was a matter of conviction or truth.  What I feel about something on chruch doctrine doesn’t matter.  What I see that was happening and if it matches up with the truth of scripture does.  In the end, I used the quote from lighthousetrails.com on the last post.  I added a few more.  I pretty much drew a line from my pastor, to Donald Miller, to the New Age movement.  I also added a quote on the definition of missional by Michael Frost from a youtube speech he gave at a conference.  I shared our concerns from this definition that takes the focus of the church off of Christ and puts all energy, and centrality on mission.  I then shared a few confusing things my pastors have said in sermons.  Phrases like “god consciousness” and “wholly other” and “christ coursing through your veins” just don’t come from normal Christian jargon nor from the Bible itself.  It only takes a short Google search to discover them in New Age or other religions.

I also took the advice of one pastor I had spoken to and showed what our church was missing, the Bible.  I used many quotes, and also looked up “preach” on .  It was VERY helpful.  Acs is full of references to preaching.    The early church “preached the word,” “preached the good news of the kingdom” “preached in the synogogues that Jesus is the Son of God” and on and on.  They preached about Jesus, and the kingdom of God and guess what?  Church grew.  That’s the model.  Later, when they had a community built up, they assigned some to be deacons and to serve in the churches to meet the needs of the widows and orphans.  So that is legitimate, the church should have it’s people who preach, it’s people who meet the needs within itself.  As Christians we’re called to do good to our neighbors, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and those in prison.  This is good too….but now I’m rambling on.  I didn’t include all that in the letter.  I did though list a few Acts references to preach as I feel our pastors spend time on topics/books of men rather than the Bible, the good news of Jesus, etc. 

I also shared my concern with the church being involved in the youth camps/missions in our area.  It’s probably going to be the first time anyone complained about the youth camps.  I did not give references except to say we researched and the leadership of the camps is into meditation in the eastern form.  I think I said enough that the pastors themselves could investigate.  I heard a sermon by the leader himself by podcast, and he outlined several ways to medidate and lectio divina, also using a prayer rope, and praying the Jesus prayer (Christ have mercy) over and over again.  He says he teaches this at his camps, and at one point mentions the numbers of youth I think 25,000 affected by his camps plus 5,000 camp leaders.  I didn’t go into detail, but if I get a call or something I’ll share the link with the pastors so they can know what this man is about.  I do not think anyone will though. 

I feel for my pastor I’ve been talking to.  He is hoping we get some sort of response.  He may not like the response.  This job is his livelyhood, his wife doesn’t work that I know of except maybe for lessons.  He is in a tight spot for sure.  Of course, maybe someone will see it…at any rate I let the pastors know they each had the letter (four of them total…we have many more on staff).  This was calculated.  I want them to be able to openly discuss the letter, and to discuss us as they please.  I want to free them from the worry of gossip and let them share their thoughts.  I also stated in the letter I hoped that it edified the whole body of our church.  If people want to openly talk about this issue, I have no problems.  Our church usually keeps things confidential.  I do not think it’s unhealthy to do this.  But in this instance, so much is so quiet.  We decided to leave, so it’s not harming us…they cannot kick us out for our observations.  We cannot be disciplined.  If we do decide to go back, things will have had to change anyway. 

I feel relief and a bit of anticipation as the pastors will be discussing this soon, I am sure. 

in tags, I’m not sure using the term emergent is off, but I think our church had been growing into one.  I think that’s what Warrenite churches grow into when they grow up a bit (maybe early teen years)…emergent.  Later, they just probably become something else as everything is still in shift.

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Metanarrative, God’s Story, Your Story, emergent, emerging, missional (and I REALLY like missions but recognize this phrase now as used too often to mean something else), our faith journey, bible police, authenticity, plugged in (okay, this can be used anywhere to mean getting involved, but I’m sick of it), small group (whatever happened to bible study people?), tranformational, spiritual formation, we’re so excited (every change is so exciting), we’ll explain it later when it gets up and rolling, you’ll look at this in a whole new way, I highly recommend this book (and it’s not ever the bible)…

There are so many over used phrases, I cannot list them all.  I am also finding there are many over used tactics.  An idea is pre-presented weeks before,  but only in little bits.  Later, it’s advertised with flashy posters or mail out cards.  Usually, whether it’s a sermon or a children’s ministry idea, you don’t really know what it’s about until you are in the middle of the event.  This makes me frustrated.  I’ve been asking our children’s pastor for months what is going to be replacing AWANA this fall and we’re just now getting that there will be some sort of skit night once a month to involve the evidently dumb and lazy family members that have the audacity to just drop their kids off for a program.  I have to decide if I want my family involved, but all I get is a vague, “we’ll tell you later.”  Why can’t they be UP FRONT as to what they are teaching to our children?  Why does it all have to be a big unveiling?  It’s irresponsible to send your kids to do something and not know what it is about at least generally.  I only know the intent is to present the PEACE plan to the parents and children on skit night, and then there will be teaching for the whole month somehow from this.  I know this because someone I spoke with may be planning some of it and shared it with me, not the pastor who is in charge, but the friend who has no idea what the whole program is about either. 

I feel I’m being yanked along, and the plan is to get my children following along first so I cannot be free…

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Whew.  So my children, three of them, heard the teacher say “be still and sit very quietly and think of all the good things God has given you.”  They all claim they were asked to shut their eyes, that this was read off a paper.  They also said it went on for five minutes at the time when they give offering.  I told this to a friend who took charge and talked with the teacher who said she did not read it off the paper, and she did this on her own accord.  She says she asked the children to pray silently and not to “keep thinking” while being still.  So, now my friend thinks I’ve focused on this issue too much and my kids are hyper sensitive.  My kids, by the way, all three of them, warned those who were around them that this seemed a lot like meditation and they didn’t like it.  Soon, I’m sure, we may be hearing from parents of these kids. 

So, did it happen the way my three little children ages 11, 9, and 8 describe, or did it happen the way the teacher said it did to my friend?  I don’t know.  I love this teacher by the way, we’ve had discussions, and I’ve witnessed her teach many times as I’ve been right there.  She’s always right on as far as I remember.  Maybe this was an honest mistake??? Not sure.  All I know is that if my boys came to me with this story I might think they could have missed a detail.  My daughter on the other hand is usually very careful to try to tell things as accurately as possible.  No, she’s not perfect, but she is one I trust.  They assure me prayer was not mentioned, there was no “amen” outloud.  The kids may have been asked to pray silently, but my three children all missed that command.  They brought the subject up to me because I had asked them to tell me what happened if they were ever told to sit quietly or “be still.”  I know my children were paying attention. 

Onto other fronts, my husband brought up some issues with an elder (he considers this man to be a mentor). This elder is a giver, a big teddy bear of a guy.  My husband was told today the same kinds of lines we’ve heard from the other elder.  He didn’t perceive the “bible police” statement to mean anything but to be loving when confronting others.  He says the P.E.A.C.E. plan of Warren’s is a method our church is using to make efforts more effective.  We are to “give hope” also and to serve the needy physically not just spiritually.  He then said to my husband that he would be recommending him for elder as “if you want change, you can do it most effectively in this church as an elder.”  Not sure what to make of that.

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