I’ve been to a lot of youth groups. Like a million or something. The reason there are so many youth group stereotypes is because they’re all about the same.
Now, recently everybody has caught onto the whole “millennials are leaving the church” thing. A bunch of people are proposing a bunch of different reasons for why, and offering a bunch of different strategies to fix it.
I thought I’d share my opinion.
- The problem: nobody knows the Bible anymore.
- The solution: teach people the Bible.
“Nah, that won’t work.” Yea, because dodgeball, stupid intro games, stupid videos, and stupid stories from the youth pastor have been working so well.
Even the “serious” part of youth groups is pretty stupid these days. Here’s how a typical youth group message goes:
- Stupid intro story about when the youth pastor was in high school
- Reading of one verse
- No explanation of the verse
- Application of the verse: “Guys, God loves us… and we can change the world. We just need big faith that He can do it. Here, read this book Sun Stand Still.
(The Sun Stand Still thing is just a joke.)
Now, please hear me. I don’t mean to disrespect you if you’re a youth pastor. I especially don’t mean to belittle your desire to help students encounter God. But here’s the thing: the reason students are leaving the church when they get to college is because they don’t believe anything significant enough about Christianity to keep them once they get there.
Here are the core things we teach:
- God and Jesus love you no matter what
- You should be a good person
- You should change the world
The problem is, all of that is sexy in the world right now without the church.
- God and Jesus love you no matter what… because for God to refuse to accept someone would be intolerant… so of course God loves us no matter what
- You should be a good person… exactly. We should all be nice so we can live peacefully and in harmony
- You should change the world… totally! Look at Tom’s shoes, he’s really making a difference! Oh, and we should stop human trafficking!
Please hear me. People desperately need Jesus Christ. Jesus is only found one place. All the Scripture leads back to Him. So let’s just teach it. Let’s make our primary strategy to teach God’s Word. We have to help students see that the Bible addresses the issues they’re dealing with, and that it’s the voice they need to obey, because it’s the only voice that’s true 100% of the time.
As long as we boil Christianity down to a few core ethical principles, people won’t be sticking around. They get those everywhere.