Thursday, August 14, 2014

Recent Thoughts On Youth Group

        I know this is a rather controversial topic, but I've been wanting to share my musings on it with y'all for a while now. At the moment, I don't really have anything else going on to post about, so it's time. I'm still getting over the lazy blogging spell I had this summer too, and posting more is the cure. Firstly, let me say that if you had asked me my thoughts on church youth groups fifteen months ago my response would have been very different than what you are going to read now. I'd had a couple of bad experiences with different church youth groups, but more on that later. So I suppose we should start out with some basics. 
        What should the purpose and intent of a God-centered youth group be? The answer to that question is remarkably simple - to shepherd and teach young people to love and follow God and to prepare them to do His work. In short, God. God should be the purpose and intent. (Many youth groups run into problems right here in the beginning). Some might say, well, they don't need a separate group to do that. If a church has sound doctrine and pastors who are delivering it, there is no need for a separate youth function; the youth should be right there in with the rest of the the church, the body of Christ. There is nothing wrong with this reasoning, in fact, it is perfectly correct. Here's where we get into the real issue, what a youth group should not be and do. 
        On that same topic, a youth group should not take away from the young people's fellowship with the rest of the Body of Christ. This is where a lot of youth programs go wrong. Instead of going to the church service and being with the older (and yes, more wise and responsible) church members, the youth go off and has no part of the actual church. Families especially shouldn't go to church just to separate into their different age groups for an hour and a half, and then get back in the car and drive home together. That's not what church was meant to be! "And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers", Acts 2:42. That is what church is meant to be. Does it seem like I'm going down an anti-youth group path? Well, I'm not. I'm just saying it shouldn't take away from fellowship with the Body, the rest of the church. For instance, at the church my family goes to now, there are two service times, one from 9:00-10:30 and one from 11:00-12:30. There is a church service ("big church") at both, so everyone has two options as to which one they want to go to. This works out well, because the youth functions happen during first service, and then we can go to the service as well. There is no choice, do I want to go to youth group, or do I want to go to the service? Really, I'm guessing if there was, most of the youth would not go to the service. I have overheard our youth pastor (who is, by the way, completely on fire for God and is a great teacher of His Word) telling some of the guys that if their families only go to one service, they need to be in the sanctuary hearing the Word preached by the senior pastor and fellowshipping with the rest of the church. He plainly said, I don't want you to come to youth group if you are not going to the actual service. Yes, he told someone I don't want you to to come, if it's going to take away from the rest of church. 
        Youth group is just an extra, really. A very helpful extra, I might add, if you have Godly teachers. It most likely saved me a lot of grief when I started going! You see (little side story here), about two and a half years ago, I stopped taking ballet pretty intensely. I did have some 'friends' there, but I knew that they weren't actual friends, only acquaintances. That became apparent when I was then only going to one class a week and not being around them as much. They pretty much only gave me a few sentences, maybe asking how I was doing or something of the sort. Then, perhaps eight months later, I stopped taking that class as well, but continued to help out with a Ballet 1 on Fridays. I think it was about that time that I started really wanting to be friends with some of the other girls, but being the quiet person I am, I didn't quite know where to start. I didn't have any other friends or any other place I could meet friends, so I was pretty desperate. Looking back on it, I would not want any of those girls as my friends. I was so desperate that my standards were in the dust and I was willing to do whatever just to have someone to talk to. And if you ask me, that is not a situation you want to be in. Ever. You see, I am very much an introvert, but I need my small group of friends to talk to. When I don't, I lock myself in my room and write and write and write about all of the things I would otherwise be telling people. It's not quite the same to tell a piece of paper, though, if you know what I mean. It's kind of just like keeping the thoughts in your head, which I didn't want to do. Right when I was really in pretty bad shape because of this issue, my mom suggested that I start going to the youth group at our church. I was skeptical, because of a couple of other ones I had gone to with friends. They were, to say the least, bad (and I'll touch on this later). Anyway, I went to the youth trip to Clear Lake, and it was such a relief! I made several friends, and was pretty much shocked by how different it was than what I expected after going to my cousin's church a few times! People were polite, actually acted like they were following God, and there was absolutely no inappropriate nonsense going on. Now I know that's because the leaders are very strict and the teaching pure, but oh my goodness it was nice! Even if I didn't have a whole lot in common with the people I met there, at least we shared our faith and that was enough. I'm almost sure that if I hadn't started going, I would have made some very bad choices, and friends. Getting back  on track now, what else is youth group not supposed to be?
        It should not, in any way, be a stumbling block to the young people there. I mean, that sounds straightforward, ya know, like it's church! Shouldn't that be a place of spiritual growth and purity? Well yes, it should be. But often, it isn't. Besides, of course, "church" pool parties where bikini clad teens parade around in what might as well be their underwear, and other unsupervised functions that can easily lead to sin, even simple social functions can quickly become pathways to sin. How to eliminate this? Number one, strong Biblical teaching. Pastors need to encourage people, especially at a young age, to make time in their busy schedules for God. This is hard when we're held down by school, sports, and other activities, but guess what? God is more important. Than anything. It's important to build discipline in this area early in life, and youth leaders should be stressing this. What better way to learn than from the Word of God itself? Secondly, rules. This may sound legalistic, but it's really the only way to do things. Have rules. Have guidelines. To tell the truth, most people will follow them without thinking, and the youth, for the most part, will not be leading each other to sin in any way.
        Now, I don't want at all to seem like I'm one of those "my church is better in all ways than your church". Yuck. The reason I attend this certain youth group is because it meets my standards and I like it, I don't like it because it's "my youth group". As I said, I went to a few with friends throughout the years and did NOT like them at all. At my cousin's old church (now she goes to the same church as my family!), I remember the youth group was held in a dark room with loud music and the "pastor" was like nineteen or something and acted like he was eleven. There was no discipline, gossip fluttered around the room like a flock of birds, and even the teaching was hardly Biblical. Maybe I'm used to pastors preaching straight from the Word, but it was strange for someone to just get up and talk without coming from the Bible. I did not feel like spending time there was helping my (or anyone's) spiritual growth, and on top of that, I felt uncomfortable there. That was the main reason why I was skeptical about any youth groups until last year. When I went to Texas to visit Kayla, by the way, I loved the youth program at their church! Going there really helped me sort out what I like and look for in youth groups and what they should essentially be to shepherd young people.
        So, to sum up this very long (sorry!) post, I just want to say that I don't mean to bash anyone's youth group at their church. The examples I have given are my own and apply mostly to my own feelings and what makes me uncomfortable; they are only to explain my main points about what a youth program should and shouldn't be. If you want to comment and tell me your opinion, discussion is welcome!



  1. Oh my stars, this is so true! Our church is the same way, with youth group only being second service (we actually have four services now :P), and we do the same thing--it's been really amazing to be able to go to both. One of the advantages of youth group is getting to be able to talk about God, as opposed to just listening--don't get me wrong, listening to teachings is just as important, but I love to be able to get out of service and then talk about it with people who are my age.
    I've actually never been to any other youth group besides my own, but I know what you mean about the others...the Wednesday night youth group I go to is held in a dark room with loud music, which I don't like, but the pastor keeps everything under control and has beliefs that we agree with. And the Sunday morning one is definitely less rock-concert-ish. ;P
    And btw, that thing about being so desperate for friendships that you have no standards anymore really struck home for me. I had the same thing happen to me a few years ago, but I had just started youth group and there were friendly Christian people that I saw every week there. Though I'm still not really close friends with anyone, it definitely saved me from throwing myself at everyone I met.
    Anyways, great post, and sorry for the extreeemely ramble-y comment. ;)

    1. Totally agree! Oh, and I like long comments, so don't feel bad! Yes, the dark room/loud music thing is definitely just a personal preference, not having anything to do with what makes a Biblically founded youth group. :P And it's awesome getting to talk about things with people my own age, I completely agree! That's something I forgot to touch on in my post. :/
      Thanks again for the comment!!!