Youth Misery (Part Two)

I prided myself for all of the years of my youth ministry that what I was doing was NOT built on entertainment. We were a serious youth ministry by golly, determined to see young people turned into committed followers of Christ.

I think I was wrong.

If I was going to take my kids to church again, I would want them to experience a group built on relationships primarily and focusing on the spiritual aspect of their lives secondly.

What’s wrong with a youth group built on fun and games? Why did I fear being labeled that way?

If I was looking for a youth ministry for my kids I would be more

If I Had One Song…

I have watched “Walk the Line” a few times as I flip around the dial, and each time I seem to catch a different scene. The one I caught this weekend was one that was pretty defining to Johnny Cash’s style and I thought was pretty appropriate for the type of person, writer and communicator that I want to become.

The question asked and answered here in this clip from the movie is a definitive one for each of us. I grew tired of my own bullshit as a “pastor” and as one that spoke often to a crowd of people on Sunday mornings. I wanted to speak the things that were real and were representative of the things that I truly felt. I did that to some degree but was guarded and so afraid of the backlash if I admitted my true doubts, and my fears.

The subculture of the church doesn’t allow for this type of honesty by-and-large since the variety of church I grew up in (evangelical Christianity) presents a “Jesus is the Answer” philosophy – regardless of the questions raised. I wonder if people from “non-belief” stages of life might feel more inclined to hang around if churches actually raised more questions than they tried to answer.

So now I have a better framework from which to write and share my stories. As honest as I think I have become it might be necessary to be even moreso. In fact, I think I must.

Youth Misery

My years as a pastor were mainly spent in youth ministry. That was my “specialty” and I believe I did it well for the most part. Especially as I became older.

I think we do an injustice by putting young adults (especially post adolescent males) in charge of our young people. I know that this opinion goes a bit against what I have posted before about young adults leading the way in the church, but I do not think a young man in his early twenties has any business being in charge of the youth ministry in any church. There are a few reasons I feel this way, but as I have reached my 40’s and have a pre-teen coming up, I especially feel this way.

Funny how time changes things.

For one, now I can look back on my own adolescence and see so much of what I was going through for what it was… a phase. Everything is a phase when you are young. Well, I guess you can argue everything is a phase in your 40’s, but I hope you understand what I mean when it comes to teenagers.

Bart Ehrman, professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, says it well in one of his recent books:

Things changed drastically for me when I was a sophomore in high school. It was then that I had a “born-again” experience, in a setting quite different from that of my home church. I was a typical “fringe” kid–a good student, interested and active in school sports but not great at any of them, interested and active in social life but not in the upper echelon of the school’s popular elite. I recall feeling a kind of emptiness inside that nothing seemed to fill–not running around with friends, dating, school, work, church. There was a kind of loneliness associateed with being a young teenager; but, of course, I didn’t realize that it was part of being a teenager–I thought there must be something missing.

That’s when I started attending meetings of a Campus Life Youth for Christ club; they took place at kids’ houses–the first I went to was a yard party at the home of a kid who was pretty popular, and that made me think the group must be okay. The leader of the group was a twenty-something-year-old named Bruce who did this sort of thing for a living–organized Youth for Christ clubs locally, tried to convert high school kids to be “born again” and then get them involved in serious Bible studies, prayer meetings, and the like. Bruce was a completely winsome personality–younger than our parents but older and more experienced than we–with a powerful message, that the void we felt inside (We were TEENAGERS! All of us felt a void!) was from not having Christ in our hearts. If we would only ask Christ in, he would enter and fill us with the joy and happiness that only the “saved” could know.

As a youth pastor in my early 20’s, I tended to take advantage of the general “misery” youth felt and equate that with a spiritual need rather than just a typical developmental need. In my opinion, this develops a warped sense of spirituality in teens, and for many of them, these warped ideas continue well into adulthood. You know, in thinking a bit more about it, there are plenty of youth pastors in there 30’s and even 40’s that manipulate the developmental needs of teens to create these feelings of “spiritual voids” within them. To me, that’s a shame.

I am beginning to think that NOT taking my 12-year-old to church on a regular basis might be a really good thing. He might have the chance to actually be normal.

Chastain Blog

This is my SCP blog, but I use to have a personal blog but stopped maintaining it awhile ago.

Well, I am back. I decided I wanted a place to throw off some other random thoughts going on in my brain that don’t necessarily relate to the church or anything else for that matter.

We’ll see how it goes this time around. You can check it out, and for those that have blogs that used to link to my old site, here’s the new URL:

http://chastain.typepad.com

Thanks.

Podcasters Block

My apologies (for those who care) to each and every SCP podcast subscribers (if there are any left) for the lack of podcasts over the past quarter of this year. In addition, I would like to express to Josh publicly my apologies for not collaborating with you on the several occasions you have attempted to put together a time for us to podcast recently.

There are really no excuses, just my own reasons. And frankly, I am not sure exactly what all of them are… except one big one. There’s always something to distract me or something else I would rather be doing at the moment.

Last night I was watching Kevin Smith (director of “Clerks”) and he was talking about “writer’s block”. He said that it isn’t so much a block as it is a preference to do anything other than be creative at that given moment. The podcast requires Josh and I getting together (which we do often) and coming up with things to talk about and then sharing it with you fine people. Sounds easy! However, when I think about the “record” button firing up, I just sense that nothing worthwhile will be recorded… so why do it? Plus, I would rather watch football, or re-runs of “Everybody Loves Raymond”, or anything else that may be on the 700 channels of cable I have… rather than being creative.

Josh and I have said that we really need to find a way to record our cell-phone conversations that we have to and from work. Now that’s some good shit! It’s spontaneous, it’s give and take, it ‘s highly entertaining and it’s Josh and I at our “unplugged” best. Until that happens… well, I will just be sitting here flipping channels, looking for someone else to entertain me.

But Kevin Smith did say something interesting. He said he responds best to deadlines when they are given…. that it motivates him to get off his ass and finish the project. And I agree with this… so…. in that spirit, let me declare publicly that Josh and I will do a podcast prior to December 25.

This will be our Christmas gift to you. And as a teaser, Josh and I have talked about the SCP awards that have yet to be handed out this year. So, you can pretty much count on this next show including the coveted SCP Person of the Year.

Any nominees?