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.