Just teach em the good book

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.

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14 comments

  1. Kids see the hypocrisy of the “church”. They see “family centers” built at costs of a couple of hundred thousand dollars which could feed hungry kids and help the homeless. They see people come together for a couple of hours on Sundays like sheep, without thought or meaning and by habit. They KNOW there is a whole lot more God at the beach, the river, the mountains, the woods, than there is sitting inside 4 walls 52 times a year listening to a sermon that’s often either threatening them into servitude or directed at an older more educated audience. They tire of being told what they need-to-do: they get that at home and school. They see members of their churches giving to the church, expecting that their church will use the money for social good or send it on up to the bigger main church organization to take care of it instead of being the hands and feet of Jesus. They yearn for being just that: His hands & feet. They yearn to get out in the world and get dirty for Jesus, to leave their electronics and home comforts. They KNOW that the Truth of God & Jesus is within them and not out there somewhere to be “found”, and they know that they were born perfect and do not have some defect that they need to be saved from. Lastly, kids KNOW that they are not stupid and do not appreciate being looked down upon by the adult members and leaders of church. I worked with youth groups for many years and have mentored young people for 25 years. They’d rather have a genuine hug and feeling of being loved than all of the games, stories and innovative Sunday School lessons that there are out there.

    1. I appreciate you sharing. I think you’re definitely right that students want to be connected and want to be treated like they can handle “deeper” thoughts/concepts. I think we have to be careful saying that students want to leave their comfort and electronics. I think the church should actually be doing a better job of challenging students to stop wasting their time on stuff like that. And I think we have to be careful using the terminology, “they were born perfect without a defect they need to be saved from.” I think that’s the point. They aren’t perfect. They do have a HUGE defect that they NEED to be saved from. Not sure what you were trying to communicate with that line but feel free to elaborate. Thanks again!

  2. My grandma just linked to your post on facebook. I TOTALLY agree. Decided to go to St. Andrew’s Mt. Pleasant yesterday out of the blue and heard one of the most accessible, relevant, comprehensive, and refreshingly GOSPEL-based sermons on grace, forgiveness, and sanctification that I’ve ever heard. Well worth 30 minutes of your day! This is the kind of teaching that will keep grown-ups, students, and seekers alike in the church for more.

    http://www.wearestandrews.com/sermons.aspx?ArticleId=1152

    1. Thanks for sharing the link. I’ll check it out. I’ve heard from a few people some great things about St. Andrew’s. I might have to go to one of their services before I leave. Also, your blog is really cool. Thanks for connecting!

  3. Great post Nate! There is so much focus on entertaining youth today instead of teaching them obedience to the Word of God. Doing fun activities is fine, but there has to be an effort to stand out and be different from the world.

    I believe true youth ministry begins at home. No other leader should be as important or influential as a child’s parents. Having a seemingly “cool” leader at church can sometimes work against this.

    At the end of the day, as you’ve stated, the focus should be on “teaching the good book” and not producing ignorant youth who get puffed up on self help and leave the church whenever they hear something they don’t like.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. We still have to be contextual, but that always has to be a means for the end. And true youth ministry begins at home… absolutely! That’s another blog post in the works.

      1. Glad to hear you have a post in the pipeline on this subject. I agree with Devin in that it begins at home. Study after study shows that parental influence is the greatest influence in reaching children with a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. I wish more churches realized this and invested more in reaching out to parents. Children and youth programs fall way short without the reinforcement of parents throughout the week. By that I mean we as parents need to be sharing the “good book” with our kids regularly and demonstrating what it means to repent, ask forgiveness, and give God the glory for the work HE does in our lives on a daily basis.

  4. I thought the lead singer of Tenth Avenue North made a good point regarding millennials leaving the church. He simply said, “They’re bored.” They aren’t challenging their faith in any way and youth group certainly hasn’t challenged them. Like you said, we’re teaching them a wishy washy Gospel, not the Gospel that is hard and life-changing.

  5. Thanks for sharing this! It actually make me feel better. Why? Because my heart cries everyday for not being able to bring my son to church with me. Maybe God has another plan for him!

  6. Great article. I would agree that as Youth Pastors we need to teach youth the Bible, reveal Jesus to them and show them their chief end is to bring glory to God. I would add one more thing. We need to value youth as much as adults. We need to connect them into the church body and have them serving and adding value to the church. They need to love Jesus first and then love his bride the church.

    1. Absolutely! That’s a great point. Student ministry has become its own little church within the church. That’s ultimately crippling the students and the universal church as a whole. Thanks for sharing. Good thoughts.

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