In the Old Testament, Scripture talks about the Sons of Issachar being men who understood their times and knew what to do. In general, it may be easy for a Christian parent to evaluate the overall state of our culture and conclude that it is corrupt. However, would that same parent be able to understand the state of their teen’s youth group?
In today’s culture; believe it or not, like it or not, youth groups can be more of a hinderance than a help to the spiritual well being of a teenager.
Many parents do not realize this; and, even fewer know how to address it. This is largely because of the following:
- A genuine lack of spiritual discernment on the part of so many of today’s parents.
- A lack of their knowledge of Scripture to help them discern.
- Their ignorance of exactly what goes on in their child’s youth group.
- The lack of knowledge concerning what their kids are actually being exposed to while in youth group.
- An overly trusting mindset concerning their kid’s responsible use of smart phones in the youth group setting.
- A lack of proper discernment and evaluation of the effectiveness of the youth leader himself.
Of course, I am speaking in generalities based on the statics and my experience. I am well aware that there are wonderful and anointed youth pastors leading and succeeding in advancing the kingdom of God. However, as a parent you cannot overlook the fact that there are youth groups that are not only ineffective in ministering to teens but, in extreme cases, are actually unsafe.
I have seen it time and time again. A youth leader that has good intentions, but does not understand the times; therefore, does not realize that his youth group of 5 minutes of Bible study and 55 minutes of bells and whistles may be more of a hindrance to his teens spiritual walk and maturity than a help. Again, even with all good intentions. I’m not questioning the youth workers motives.
Ken Ham has written a book called Already Gone; where he cites facts and figures from the Barna Group and others who seem to give indication that today’s youth groups are, for the most part, doing it wrong! From my experience, I couldn’t agree with him more! Why do the average new converts to Christianity in the teen population stay in church only 8-11 weeks? Could it be that teens are a lot more discerning than adults are in this area? I think so. This is why it is extremely important that you evaluate every aspect of the youth group your teen will be attending.
Here are three crucial questions you need to ask when evaluating your kids youth group.
Is there genuine discipleship training?
As the postmodern worldview permeates our culture, I am seeing youth groups compromise their understanding and training of a biblical worldview. There is not a lot of “true” bible teaching occurring. When evaluating a youth group, investigate their discipleship training program. Some additional questions to ask:
- Is what they are experiencing and being taught applicable to the real world; or, is it simply a routine of rote memorization exercises and Bible stories?
- Do they teach apologetics?
- Do the programs challenge teens how to live-out a biblical worldview?
- Are they making change-agents to the postmodern culture, or becoming more microcosms of the culture?
- Is there leadership training?
Is the youth group responsible with technology?
Today’s teens are captivated by technology. A common complaint I hear from youth leaders is that kids are texting while the youth leader is trying to talk. It may be a valid complaint, except that the very same youth leader complaining may also be guilty himself of over-indulging the kids in technology to “keep” the teens’ attention and “attract” new comers.
There is nothing wrong with using technology to keep youth attracted, interest, and motivated toward the things of God. However, when technology drives the focus toward self gratification instead of focusing on the goal of the group, which should be Jesus Christ Himself, carnality reigns and the group is more likely to become a mockery of which newcomers to the faith see right through. This is why teenage newcomers to the faith stay in church 8-11 weeks before being discouraged and moving on. They truly want something real and pertinent to the abundant life–not more MTV-style hype and drama.
Some youth leaders will fill their youth rooms with distracting techno-equipment including TVs, video game consoles, music, wifi, and other techno devices that could possibly bring a teen to Christ. Some additional questions are:
- Does the youth group use technology primarily as a ministering tool that fosters an atmosphere for spiritual renewal and a knowledge of Jesus Christ?
- Does it merely create an attractive environment for carnal gratification by means of the same fun and games for which most kids can routinely experience at any arcade or privacy of their own bedrooms?
- Is your teen primarily entertained at youth group?
- Will your teen have access to content that you may not even allow into your own home?
What is the quality of leadership?
One thing you should keep in mind is that some youth pastors see youth ministry as a stepping stone to bigger ambitions. By this I mean the youth leader may not be serving in youth ministry for the long haul; instead, youth ministry is too often looked at as a means to an ends. It’s an opportunity for many ministers to improve his portfolio–a temporary hold-over for his dream of being a senior pastor. When personal ambition becomes the focus in the youth leader, his focus on leading teens may suffer.
Another angle to consider is that some youth leaders are young and fresh out of college. This is not always a bad thing, but could result in a lack of experience and leadership ability. Consider finding a youth group with a youth pastor in the age of mid thirties to early forties. In addition, it is crucial that you intensely evaluate the leadership team responsible for the youth group–i.e., worship leader, mentors, youth pastor, etc. Do not naively think that because you are dropping your teen off at a youth group that he is safe. I am personally aware of leadership teams that compromise the safety of the teens they are leading. Some questions to consider:
- What is the spiritual maturity of the youth leader?
- Is the youth pastor fully committed to serving the youth?
- What is the integrity of the youth team?
- How old is the youth group’s youth pastor?
- Is the youth pastor married?
What are some tips that you can provide to help parents be more informed about choosing the right youth group?