Youth Ministry Hijinks

I read this over on Marie’s blog and thought I would share it here.

Anyway, it made me remember one night when we were having a “fun night” when the college group met in the high school room and I was overcome with physical disgust at the grotesque injustice of a church using tithing funds to purchase what is probably well over $50,000 of video games and electronic devices. I dont have the energy to type right now what it looked like and how I felt, but I will probably write the story soon because it really affected me (i walked out of the church that night never to go back again). But anyway, it made me realize what an injustice it is that some faithful people struggle to give 10% or more or less to their churches and make big sacrifices fearing God’s holy wrath, and the church spends it on useless, worldly, mind-numbing stuff to attract kids and play on their love of video games.

What also disgusts me about this is that I am SURE the less sporty, less “cool” kids get left WAY behind in this group–not to mention the girls who arent as mesmorized with video games and skateboarding…

Having been in youth ministry for years, I agree that some of what I did was outright manipulation at best and a subtle form of child abuse at worst.

I have written how the church needs to trust young adults to lead it if it wants to remain relevant… however, I no longer think that the training ground for this should be youth ministry. We have it all backwards. We let the young lead the young and this is where young pastors develop this sense of ego and entitlement that they bring with them into “big church”. It’s a psycho-social phenomenon that needs to be studied. I think it’s both harmful to the students and to those young leaders that lead them.

People complain that I am long on observations and short on suggestions. So here’s one: If your church has a youth pastor under the age of 30, promote them immediately into either adult ministry or children’s ministry. Then, go out and hire a 30-something youth pastor (preferably a woman), and be prepared to pay them well so they will stick around.

And if all of that sounds too hard, just disband your youth ministry all together. Chances are, the one you have right now is pretty ineffective anyway.

36 thoughts on “Youth Ministry Hijinks”

  1. It’s seems that Paul writing to Timothy about not allowing people to look down on him in ministry is thrown out by this comment altogether. The reason youth pastors in their thirties are good at what they do is because they were youth pastors in their twenties. What I am reading here is that attracting teens is wrong and there is somehow a biblical formula for what the church is to spend money on. . . newsflash! There is not. Again I refer to Paul “be all things to all people so that by all means we may win some” If the video games are sinful i.e. grand theft auto by all means complain, other wise why don’t you consider donating a new wii to the church.

  2. What you are talking about is something that every power position struggles with. That fact that you connect this with the church is simply theatrics.You are using the same system of argument that proponents of this approach use. They only express the good, and since you disagree you only express the bad. My youth pastor was in his early twenties, and he was one of the most influential people in my life. As a matter of fact the same would be said for probably hundreds of kids he pastored. Just because you were a manipulative child abuser doesn’t mean every of person in a certain demographic is.A pric will be a pric no matter how long he walks the planet. This whole thing just sounds like another “Fight the church for the sake of the fight” crusades. To make such large demands I would expect more convincing evidence than “this is what happened to me”.

  3. hey zecryphon,I don’t have hard evidence that the video games were definitely purchased with tithes..however, I am 100% convinced that the stuff in there was worth over $50,000 and it was all brand new and not old/used. If you go to my blog, I have a link to the church’s website with their own description of how awesome their games are. Even so–even if it wasn’t used from tithes, I personally wouldn’t want to be a part of any church that thinks that is the way to reach kids. Different strokes, I guess.I just saw a disconnect between people struggling to pay their tithe, and a church dishing out their hard earned cash for something seemingly unrelated to Christianity. Like your oreos and milk thing–that is so crazy! I can’t believe they did that.

  4. I’m addressing one more thing that doesn’t seem to have been addressed: I am a woman in my 30’s who is a children’s pastor, and I think it is a slam to say that if a youth pastor is ineffective, sending him to the children’s ministry is a viable option. To throw another Barna study out there, kids begin developing their worldview at AGE 9, and it is firmly set in place by AGE 13 – therefore, it is even MORE IMPORTANT to have effective ministry for kids than it is for youth. Don’t throw us your ineffective youth pastors – we don’t want them (unless children’s ministry really is their calling and they were simply misdirected into youth ministry, lol!).

  5. I totally agree, zechryphon and others…if anything, it seems like older leaders tend to be a little or a lot more secure in who they are–which is one thing that youth need to see positively…younger leaders dont really know who they are themselves, so how are they supposed to motivate their youth to do something they havent even done themselves?

  6. Your right Marc… a person’s spiritual life is no more important than whether or not my Big Mac order is correct. Oh and by the way, I did ask God, I guess you just don’t like what He had to say through me.HaKohen: <>You think that if churches hire a 30somthing female that you can then skip over the responsibility of close examination.<>Is that what I said? Really?And who mentioned mass firings? I certainly didn’t. And I didn’t say that young adults shouldn’t serve in ministry… I just agreed with you that what we do is the lazy things and turn our youth over to them carte blanche. From my experience… my senior pastors gave me very little direction. They wanted me to keep the kids happy so the parents wouldn’t complain, would stay at the church and keep giving their tithe.Look at the statistics… and I think Barna will back me up. Youth are leaving the church as they reach adulthood at record levels. The way we have been doing things isn’t working. I am throwing out a suggestion that is quite the opposite of the way many churches handle their business. They want youth ministry on the cheap… and in most cases they are getting exactly the results they are paying for… a revolving door youth pastor position filled with young men who, by and large, see the position as a stepping stone to bigger things and thus treat it as such.And I do think youth ministry is more important than that!And Jenny… what do you know anyway. You are a young woman in your 20’s… certainly you have nothing to offer to this conversation. :-> I see your emoticon and I raise you one. :p

  7. Brian,one of the reasons for disconnect in the church is the language barrier. So, in an effort to make it clear to all here what you are saying, could you please explain what a calling is or what it means to be called to any type of ministry? Thank you. 🙂Dorsey,never let it be said I didn’t look out for you. 😉

  8. FRAK!!! I had this big ‘ol comment and I lost it!!!Here’s my attempted redux:MikewithaY, you don’t make any sense (I know it’s not nice…but it’s true!)steve – I completely agree with you regarding youth pastors. These kids don’t need a peer to lead them, they need a role model.Though I totally understand and sympathize with Marie’s reaction, I don’t think we’re getting the whole picture. We don’t know what else that church is doing with it’s money.Example: Saddleback. Say what you will about them, they have done some pretty amazing stuff for the local as well as the global church community. Their youth facility puts Game Works to shame, but when you factor in their size, budget and ministry/missions output…They invest in their youth, who intern grow up to populate their church and in turn help enable them to do what few others can.All I’m saying is we must always check our perspective when viewing other church families business. “Let’s just give all of our money to the needy.” doesn’t always apply (I’m not saying anybody here is saying that, just making a point).We live in a complicated and spoiled society, but are still challenged with the same ancient commission.

  9. pastor I, if you are referring to the original post, he didn’t say anything about the youth pastor being ineffective; he just said if he was under 30 he should be working with younger kids rather than teens.

  10. <>I’ve just gotta know: who owns the trademark?<>I believe the trademark is held by Americhurch™. Don’t ask me who holds the trademark for Americhurch™, though, ’cause I don’t know! 🙂That would be interesting to find out….who first coined the term “Americhurch™?”

  11. Beware, Steve! Another twenty-something is about to weigh in. 😉During my seven years in youth group, I went through several youth ministers; and the couple who were doing this when I left are still in the position now. (They’re in their thirties…the husband is close to 40 now, though, I think.) The first two I had were both women in their thirties. (The first one was married with two kids–one teenager and one a bit younger. The second woman was single.)Ultimately, I’ve probably forgotten everything I may’ve learned. Heh.

  12. “hey zecryphon,I don’t have hard evidence that the video games were definitely purchased with tithes..however, I am 100% convinced that the stuff in there was worth over $50,000 and it was all brand new and not old/used.”Okay. Is it at all possible that this stuff was donated? Bought by people in the church, with their own money, for the youth group to use? You can donate brand new stuff too.“If you go to my blog, I have a link to the church’s website with their own description of how awesome their games are. Even so–even if it wasn’t used from tithes, I personally wouldn’t want to be a part of any church that thinks that is the way to reach kids.”It’s the cost of being relevant. Gotta bring the kids in with Tony Hawk and Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero. But the problem with this is, that whatever you bring them in with, you have to keep them with. The games will have to be updated and current, it’s a nightmare. It also sends the message that these things are better than God! Whatever happened to teaching them the Bible? Who Christ is? What He did for us and why He had to come in the first palce? Sin has become a four-letter word in the church. So many churches opt not to talk about it and therefore fail in their jobs. Backsliders don’t just happen by accident, they are made.“Different strokes, I guess.”Not really. I left my church too when I started looking at what they taught and didn’t teach. I knew it wasn’t the church for me. The Oreo Communion was just the icing on the cake at that point.“I just saw a disconnect between people struggling to pay their tithe, and a church dishing out their hard earned cash for something seemingly unrelated to Christianity. Like your oreos and milk thing–that is so crazy!”By the time that had happened I was attending a Lutheran church and had really left that church altogether. The ony reason I was still attending the youth group is that I had made a commitment for one school year. My tongue was bleeding from the amount of biting I was doing to hold it.“I can’t believe they did that.”To this day, the youth pastors are convinced they did nothing wrong and I was the one that took it out of context and the kids understood what was being said. One question I was given to think about was “Does God care what you use for elements or what’s in your heart?” I guess that’s alot like Oprah’s question “Does God care about what’s in your heart, or whether you call His Son Jesus?” My advice to you and me is to just file things like this in the folder of: Things That Make You Go Huh?

  13. You could also just not have a church building, formal pastoral positions, or waste money on any programming that could be accomplished with old-fashioned community……I’m just saying…Good post.

  14. ***If your church has a youth pastor under the age of 30, promote them immediately into either adult ministry or children’s ministry. Then, go out and hire a 30-something youth pastor (preferably a woman), and be prepared to pay them well so they will stick around.***That’s exactly what we did. Our Director of Youth and Family is a woman in her mid-30s and doing an amazing job. kgp

  15. I speak as a youth minister, and I think this post is right on in many respects, but I do think the main question here is not the age of the person but whether or not they truly feel “called” or have a passion for working with young people. In many churches, the youth minister is someone who is waiting to move up the ladder. Since youth ministry is often seen as a lesser ministry in the church, as pastors get olderit is harder and harder to stay in youth ministry and be taken seriously. That said, I think you can be an excellent youth minister at 25 or 35 or 45 or 65, as long as it is what you truly are called to do.

  16. I came here expecting to be offended (and I may well be, if I read some of you other posts), but I actually pretty much agree with you on this one (except the woman youth leader part). I think most churches would be better off getting rid of their youth group. It’s not really a biblical concept anyway.

  17. You are going to have to qualify what “something so important” is. Student councils, interships, fast food restaurants, summer camps, Boy Scouts, 4-H, ect.These are all situations where young adults are put in a position of power. This dynamic can be paralled to any power structure. It’s not about age, it’s about being put in an unfair situation and being manipulated.Are you seriously suggesting a mass restructuring of the modern american church with, “If your church has a youth pastor under the age of 30, promote them immediately into either adult ministry or children’s ministry. Then, go out and hire a 30-something youth pastor (preferably a woman), and be prepared to pay them well so they will stick around.”I always enjoy the perspective you give to things, but this is rhetoric at best.The problem in your statements about youth ministry is that you see as wed night service and a yearly retreat. Great idea you all have come up with. Maybe, before you start disbanding all youth groups that aren’t doing it the “right way”, people could start asking God what to do. You know, ask God. God, the reason this is even a conversation. He is kinda the point of all of the stuff that is “so important”. Maybe we oughta let Him in on it.I guess I just have no idea what I am talking about, though.

  18. <>That would be interesting to find out….who first coined the term “Americhurch™?”<>I think I first saw it on, but can’t say for sure.

  19. Meh. Youth ministries are just microcosms of high school, only the bullies shun you or insult you instead of beating your ass. You still get the cliques, though in my day it boiled down to the skaters vs the rappers.For me, it wasn’t the youth pastor but the counselors, or whatever you call the (mostly) volunteer helpers, who had an effect (incidentally, I found myself drawn to the ones who kept leaving). The youth pastor wasn’t very accessible, tending to 100 some odd punk teens and organizing events like spelling Jesus with banana peels or milk-chugging contests (for which I won $25, one year). This is probably more of an issue in larger churches with subsequently larger mid/high school ministries. …all this droning brings up another issue, though: what of the volunteer staff? Given that they’re volunteers, what level of scrutiny should they be subjected to? What level of permanence should be expected of them?Just a few random thoughts. Feel free to ignore them.

  20. Steve, you can not honestly say that I was implying that. It is surprising to me how immature you can be. Well, I should say that this is the reason I have stayed away recently. I am sure that disappoints you greatly. Anyway, thanks for at least responding this time I enjoyed it.By the way, how is your buddy with the crooked back and the flat feet doin? Still waitin on the Lord, huh. Tell him I said be warmed and filled.

  21. I’d go along with a lot of your comments. But if you think that youth ministers have the power to abuse their position and manipulate impressionable people, the last place to put them is in children’s ministry, where the power is 10 times greater.Interestingly(?), 30 was the age you had to be before serving in the temple, and the age Jesus was before starting His full-time ministry (or so accepted scholarship would say). However, some of the worlds greatest preachers/teachers/evangelists etc started their ministries much younger … so I can’t decide. Thanks for getting me thinking.$50k seems a lot, but out of a total budget of what? When people argue about wasted money I always think of the “wasted” $30k-$50k that some woman poured on Jesus feet [probably her dowry]. When large sums of money are spent, the bottom line is the heart, and unfortunately we aren’t privy to that information. As far as I’m concerned, it’s up to the youth pastor to justify it to (a) God (b) the congregation, and no-one else. There are no absolutes about what any church’s budget should be.

  22. I have to say my first youth pastor was 18 when he first began. He sayed 10 or so years and our youth group was awesome. He made a huge impact on my life. made me what i am today. now im twenty two and i’m a children’s pastor and i believe God put him and his wife in my life a a young person to train me and i am thankful! So Young preachers can do youth if that is their true calling as brain said.

  23. hey Steve! sorry to post a comment off-topic, but i need your email address in order to invite you to be an author on the other blog. you can send it to me at carter.marie@comcast.netanother great post!In my experience in church, I always liked having older leaders as well. When the leaders were younger, I found them getting caught up in the same “trying to be cool” thing as the kids. They competed for the cool-kids’ attention. In my experience, when the leader was older, he seemed to care more for all the kids and was not afraid to be real, even if that wasn’t cool. I am not a christian, but if I had to choose to agree or disagree with you, I agree most def.

  24. The youth group I attending in high school changed youth pastors when I was in grade 12. The new pastor was fresh out of Bible college (I think he was 21). One memory I have is that he formed an ‘exec’/leadership committee with some of the youth. Me and my friends wanted to be on this committee, but were not chosen. We asked why, b/c we saw the ones who were chosen as being the pastor’s ‘favorites’ and didn’t think this was fair. I don’t remember what we were told, but we didn’t buy it. Looking back, I see that the students that were chosen all played volleyball and the pastor was a big volleyball freak. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions….

  25. I actually see nothing wrong with video games and such as long as the church is still fullfilling it commitment to its community.and why all of a sudden is this push for women to be youth pastors? I believe its the euniching of the american male. I’m not saying women cant or shoudnt be pastors but no one has ever given me a reason why for this sudden push for female pastors.I use to think youth groups didnt work. Maybe some dont but the ones I have been involved in have and still do. Maybe we just need to let God be God and let us sinners do what he tells us to do.

  26. I personally would like to know the OP’s source for her claim that the video games were purchased with the money raised from the tithes. The rec room in my church had video games too, and a ping pong table, and some arcade games. Everything was donated by people in the church, no church funds were used.If video games are what caused Marie to leave this church never to go back, I now know I was justified when I quit the youth group I was a volunteer in because when they taught Communion they said “we’re not old like those people down there, we’re hip! We don’t need bread and wine, we need oreos and milk.” Oreos and milk as representatives of the body and blood of Christ? To me, the cost of being “relevant” is just too high. Here’s an idea for the church. Stop trying to be relevant by finding God in Pirates of the Caribbean and Spider-Man 3 and Shrek the Third. You wanna be relevant? How about dealing with the problem that everyone on the face of the planet suffers from? Sin. You remember that, right? That minor, piffling problem Jesus came to fix. You do remember Jesus right?

  27. Experience is a funny thing. Some people are young and have none and though they have great potential they will never realize it because people who think like this will never allow them to fulfill their calling. On the other hand, you have people out there with a lot of experience. Everyone wants to hire these people. No one cares that most of these people have 10-20 years experience in doing the wrong thing and that they will probably never change. Is you date of birth really the issue here Steve? The Apostle Paul didn’t think like this. He didn’t tell Timothy that he wasn’t old enough. He said “Do not let them look down on you for your youth”. Did Jesus tell the apostles that they didn’t have enough experience? They were “unschooled and ordinary men”. For someone who normally seems to be leading a fight against the commercialization of the faith you seem to have pulled a bit of a 180 on us here. Here is the simple reality – This is about laziness. You think that if churches hire a 30somthing female that you can then skip over the responsibility of close examination. But you can’t. The solution to the problem of manipulation is not mass firing (that is what big business would do). The solution is that seminaries need to do a better job training shepherds. Churches need to wake up and hire them instead of CEO’s. Search Committees need to do their job and kids need to show up for the sake of their spiritual lives and not because the church just hired a new Activities Director (whatever the gender or age might be).

  28. People are forced into stepping their way up the ladder simply because churches make them. (Sadly churches could solve this problem quite easily just by only hiring people who feel called specifically into youth ministry and then poof no more revolving door and no more ladder.) Again the problem is not minister – it is the way some people do church. Now as for “mass firings”… I know that is not what you said. You said, “promote them immediately to either adult ministry or children’s ministry”. But aside from the fact that they may not see this as a promotion and aside from the fact that this completely ignores what a ministers particular gifting might be or even how they see their calling, the simple fact is that you are assuming that churches have these positions to “promote” these youth ministers into. Most churches are small churches of under 200 people. (If I’m not mistaken I believe the George Barna Institute says that these make up about 90% of churches in fact.) These churches do not have these positions and so if they are no longer the youth minister then they have only been promoted to the unemployment line. Steve, I think the topic is great. I think we need more people thinking about the problems and you have diagnosed it correctly. But you suggestion is not the cure.

  29. Yeah, its been my experience that any youth group is probably just as bad as any of the schools that each of the youth belongs too… In my opinion, youth group is just another way in which people appeal to parents and put yet another group of people in to a very stereotypical situation in which, no one has to be more mature or ever grow up… And you’re right… we need older people… for some reason people have adapted this concept of “youth are the only ones who can relate to youth”… No one seems to consider the fact not only have older people once been ‘a youth’. It’s a been there done that sorta deal for the 30 and up crowd… having people who have just turned 20 leading a bunch of 18 year olds… its like the blind leading the blind, really.

  30. <>I believe its the euniching of the american male. I’m not saying women cant or shoudnt be pastors but no one has ever given me a reason why for this sudden push for female pastors.<>The “euniching” [sic] of the American male? What the fuck does that even mean? How does women in leadership in any way castrate men? And why is your identity so tied up in your reproductive organs?There’s a sudden push for female pastors because women are half of the human race, and it makes sense that 1 out of every 2 pastors is a woman as such.Also probably broader-ranging gender equity would prevent certain assholes from being obsessed with their penises. But that’s just a guess.<>Our Director of Youth and Family is a woman in her mid-30s and doing an amazing job.<>Congratulations for having a woman pastor. Too bad women in the “children/family” leadership role is one of the few acceptable pastoral ones in the mainstream. After all, youth/family/children have traditionally been the purview of women throughout history. Interpreting the word of God for adult males? Not so much. Tell me that your senior pastor is a woman and I’ll be impressed.Also Steve, I had youth leaders who were in their 20s and they were super influential and awesome and therefore you are wrong. SO THERE. 😉(Please congratulate me for using an emoticon to indicate sarcastic tone.)

  31. I guess the main problem I would have with this is the tax-exempt status of churches for stuff like this. Whether it was paid for by tithes, or donated by someone, it’s all the same in the eyes of the U.S. Government. That church is getting a donation, and using it to promote their “ministry.” Which, let’s be honest, most youth group ministries are all about making themselves seem as cool and hip as possible to seduce young people to come to their church (with the ultimate goal of them accepting Jesus as their Personal Lord and Savior™). That’s all well and good from a church standpoint, but from the standpoint of congress making no law respecting the establishment of religion, gets muddy. I don’t mind a church, synagogue, temple, or coven having tax-exempt status for helping those in need (even if it’s creating a safe place for underprivileged kids to play with cool games they wouldn’t otherwise have access to), but it’s another thing when that church, synagogue, temple, or coven is using their tax-exempt status mostly for self-promotion of their own religion, and the main people benefiting from their “charity” are people who frequent or are members of their group. Imagine a coven of witches gaining tax-exempt status for being a “religious institution”, but only using the money they raise/acquire/get donated to them/etc. to promote the practice of witchcraft. Puts things into perspective, I think. A coven raising money to help homeless people find shelter or food, or to help drug-addicted teens get the support they need to quit, however, would be okay, and definitely fall under the category of real charity.An easy way to solve this dilemna is for such institutions to have to itemize their expenditures/charitable deeds, and only getting things exempt that are truly charitable. < HREF="" REL="nofollow">Just like individuals have to.<>

  32. OK. First off I am tired of hearing all this crap about men being feminized because we want to let go of the patriachy.Steve, I partly agree and partly disagree with you about youth ministry. I agree that it should not be a training ground for pastors so they can grow up to real church. But I dont think its impossible for a younger person to do youth ministry. I did youth ministry of a sort (royal rangers) and was terrible at it because I was in it to train and grow up to big boy Church.It is my opinion that those who do youth ministry should be called specifically to do that. I agree they should be paid a hefty salary.The only problem I have with excluding younger people because of age is the younger you are the better you relate to youth. I am 34 and I can say I dont understand much about todays youth. But people in thier 20s might. So regardless of age, sex, or whatver, I think the key is youth ministry is a real ministry not a training ground for pastors. Its not a stepping stone, its a destination. I agree that most youth ministers are really wannabe pastors. I also think you may be on to something with the ego thing. Most pastors treat their people like children. Maybe its from having to put up with youth when your not called to.I think I did some good things and was used by God in my royal ranger days. But I think I was viewing as a stepping stone on the corp ladder of church.I knew a guy who was great at it. He has no pastoral ambition and his heart is in it. (he is 60 btw).The other type I see in youth ministry is those who are bullied into it by the pastor because the church cant find anyone else to do it for free. This doesnt work either. Its the same concept as cheap labor. Anyway, sorry for the novel. I just had a lot to say

  33. Marc (davidsoftulsa):<>What you are talking about is something that every power position struggles with.<>You have no idea what you are talking about… In what other arena are young adults (often ages 18-24) given control of a group of students to lead them and educate them in something so important?

  34. Here’s how you MIGHT get the attention of a youth in your group. Just say to them: “You’ve never been my age, but I’ve been yours.” That should get the teen’s attention and let them know that you’ve been where they are and that they can learn from your experience. That was always my wish for the kids when I was involved in the youth program as a volunteer. It was my wish that no one end up like me. You can’t learn from a youth pastor if both of you are making the same mistakes because you’re pretty much the same age.

  35. Ninjabride of Christ – I’ve just gotta know: who owns the trademark?nice!!oh, and good point too, but I’ll be over to your hood to elaborate.

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