February 15, 2010

Problems with Fun-Focused Youth Ministry

Written By Cary Schmidt

Is your youth ministry Bible-focused or fun-focused? It’s easy to focus more on making the youth group fun than on making it biblical. I’m all for having a good time with students in the right context, but we have a much higher calling. How easy it is to fall into the trap of spending more time planning silliness than studying for Bible lessons.

Over the years, I’ve been delighted to find that teens really appreciate a strong biblical focus. Inherently, they know life is more than fun and games, and they know we are supposed to lead them to maturity. When we raise the bar spiritually, they rise to the occasion.

Here are some problems with the pop-culture, fun-focused model of student ministry:

  1. Teens find fun, they don’t need an arm of the church dedicated to producing it. Let’s face it, teens are fun-magnets. Where they can’t find fun, they create it.
  2. Ministry leaders are called to biblical, pastoral roles, not entertainment roles. In pastoral ministry, our calling is to teach and preach God’s Word and to make disciples. We are called to build mature Christians, not fill water balloons. Be certain—I’m willing to fill a water balloon, but only if it has a direct impact upon the spiritual growth of young lives.
  3. It takes the spotlight off of God and places it on self. The focus of “fun” is pleasure, self, and personal entertainment. This is the focus of the emergent church—what man wants not what God desires. In building an entertainment-driven youth ministry, we feed the flesh and promote the love of pleasure and self.
  4. It trivializes spiritual matters—God, the Bible, Truth. The more we turn Bible truth into “slapstick” silliness, the more we say to young people—“Christianity is juvenile and you will one day outgrow it.” And sadly, eventually, they do. We must be careful not to make spiritual things childish and silly. Let’s hold high the value of the eternal!
  5. It doesn’t build the heart towards local church and pastor (two lifelong, vital relationships). Students eventually leave the youth group, but they should always be in church. Students will have a youth pastor for a season, but they should always have a pastor. If you teach them to value the local church and love their pastor, you have prepared them for life.
  6. It encourages young people to stay immature. If teens only find fun at youth group, they know in their hearts something vital is missing. In high school I had two types of coaches—the ones who made us winners, and then the ones that goofed off with us. Through the years, the coaches who pushed us have my respect. The others didn’t help me. When you expect teens to grow in maturity, they will ultimately respect you for truly helping them.
  7. It implies that living for Jesus Christ isn’t “fun,” so we have to compensate. This is perhaps the biggest! Somewhere along the way we began to think that bowling and putt-putt would be more attractive to a young person than Jesus! Jesus Christ—the living Word of God—when presented accurately, is incomparably and eternally attractive! Compel teens to fall in love with Him—for there is not a more joyful or “fun” life than the one where He is preeminent.

This article makes me sound like such a prude. Truly, we have a tremendous amount of fun in student ministry. No teen should have to endure a youth group that isn’t enjoyable. My point is balance! Let’s just be sure we strike the right balance. Our calling is to see them “rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith” (Colossians 2:7).