TCEC: The Failure of Youth Ministry

Michael Spencer, when addressing the “why” element of the coming evangelical collapse, lists the following as reason #2:

Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people the evangelical Christian faith in an orthodox form that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. In what must be the most ironic of all possible factors, an evangelical culture that has spent billions of youth ministers, Christian music, Christian publishing and Christian media has produced an entire burgeoning culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it. Our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey scripture, the essentials of theology or the experience of spiritual discipline and community. Coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for culture-wide pressures that they will endure.

Do not be deceived by conferences or movements that are theological in nature. These are a tiny minority of evangelicalism. A strong core of evangelical beliefs is not present in most of our young people, and will be less present in the future. This loss of “the core” has been at work for some time, and the fruit of this vacancy is about to become obvious.

Let’s have a little thought experiment of sorts.  If you presently attend a local church on a semi-regular basis I want you to image that the church you attend burns to the ground this evening (don’t get to excited, this is only an experiment). Well, let’s say almost all of it burns to the ground, except the youth wing (or wherever it is that youth meet).  Now ask yourself whether or not the youth ministry could continue on without the functions of the rest of the church.  In many cases we would probably find that the youth would still have all the necessary means to carry on regular gatherings, worship, prayer, etc.  Why is this?  Because most youth ministry expressions in local evangelical churches run as silo churches within churches.  They have their own worship music, teaching, small groups, service projects, other events, etc.  In no way do they REALLY depend on the larger body of believers to intersect their weekly, monthly, or yearly rhythm of faith life.

Churches that intentionally have inter-generational connections among their community take a positive step toward a faith informed more by the larger body of Christ and less by their own individualistic emotionalism.



4 thoughts on “TCEC: The Failure of Youth Ministry

  1. I can sort of see why churches have youth ministries that are separate from the main services. Sermons tend to be geared toward adults (with topics like marriage and family), so teens often have trouble getting something out of them. Also, separate youth services (if arranged appropriately) encourage teens to talk about their personal struggles without fear of being judged by their parents. However, I know exactly what you mean with this post. Too many youth ministries are steeped in emotionalism; there’s very little discipleship to be found within them. It’s not only sad, it’s extremely harmful to young people and, by extension, the church.

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