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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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