For the past year I have been serving as the Interim Youth Pastor at First Baptist Church in Lebanon, TN.  It has been a unique experience being that it is my first interim position.  There are many challenges you face as an interim that you do not deal with as a full time staff member.  For myself, I consistently deal with the frustration of not being able to be there more often and in turn feeling limited in the range of service that I can offer this community of believers.  I have grown so much in the midst of this experience.  I have seen a picture of what a godly family should look like through multiple families within this congregation.  Annie and I experienced the overwhelming kindness and generosity of a people that can simply be characterized by the word loving.  We have dealt with the struggles of connecting real Christian faith with real Christian change and action in the lives of teenagers.

This leads me to a series of blog posts by a man named Voddie Baucham.  Voddie is an elder who oversees the preaching ministry of Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, TX.  I have had the privilege of hearing him teach and preach on a few occassions during my time at Union University.  He is a man who I have come to respect and admire as a preacher, teacher, apologist, and man of God.  On his blog, Voddie makes a bold statement about the current state and model of youth ministry today.  He states:

“Youth Ministry as we know it has three key problems:  The model finds no support in Scripture, it undermines the biblical practice of family discipleship, and it has failed to accomplish the goal for which it was established.”

Since I am currently serving as a youth minister, I have taken a keen interest in this argument.  I believe Voddie has a very strong argument that certainly challenges the way things have been done over the past 20-30 years.  Naturally, this type of discussion will rattle some cages and create some unsettled feelings.  Nonetheless, I urge you to read these posts and leave me some thoughts of your own concerning this matter.  I definitely believe that some discussion on this issue will be a great benefit to many people (or least to me).  Here is the link and the posts you should read:

http://www.voddiebaucham.org/Blog/Archive.html

Begin with Youth Ministry – Parts 1-3, continue with Answering Objections to the YM Issue, and finish with What’s a Youth Minister to Do? – Parts 1 & 2.

For more on Voddie Baucham, visit www.voddiebaucham.org.
For more on Grace Family Baptist Church, visit www.gracefamilybaptist.net.

0 Replies to “Thoughts on Youth Ministry

  1. Wow…I am more than a little taken off-guard by his points, but they make sense when I let them simmer. I’ll definitely have to mull this one over and come back. I’m interested to see what others have to say. I happen to know a guy that exemplifies what I would say is a strategic, visionary, youth minister. It’s hard to fully accept the ramifications of Voddie’s arguments in light of knowing this guy.

  2. Wow is right. I really don’t know what to say. His points make sense…but I do not think that youth should not still be ministered to. Also, what about the kids who come to church and do not have families there? (I’m still thinking through all this, so I’m just writing my thoughts as they occur.) I do feel that the church has stopped focusing on the family and that we should start ministering to our families, but I also believe that different age groups should be individually ministered to. We all know that a 70-year-old is going to have different physical needs than a 12-year-old, so why would spiritual needs be much different? You need to minister to both, but they might need different approaches for the message to make sense and to be personal. I hope my thoughts make sense!

  3. What you both said is correct…it does seem to make sense. The word that first came to mind for me was “interesting.” Like you two I’m sure, I had never heard a position articulated from this point of view. Lauren…I totally know what you mean concerning the youth minister you know. Voddie himself says that there are some exceptions but the statistics show that the current model isn’t creating disciples out of students so those examples are fewer. It really staggers me and breaks my heart that so many abandon their “faith.” Chad…I certainly hear your argument. But who is to say that if we move away from a segregated model of ministry that you can’t meet the needs of different age groups. It doesn’t mean they can’t and won’t get together outside of church meetings. It certainly would encourage parents to engage their children by teaching and explaining the bible and messages to them instead of pawning that responsibility off on a youth leader (not that all parents do this…I think FBC is a great example of families who really invest in their children and teach them). I mean, consider Voddie’s responses to the arguments against this model and I think he has a point. It would be anti-segregated with a purpose, not just for the sake of doing it. And one of the real questions in my mind is this…is the current model of ministry working against the biblical model and responsibilities of the family? I’m still chewing on it all myself.

  4. Hey Jeff, it’s Victoria’s friend Josh Taylor.

    I happened upon your blog on here and went and read Baucham’s blogs. Albeit, it was kind of a skim job, because it’s late and I need to get to sleep haha, but I wanted to look into it now while I was thinking about it.

    I’ve gotta say, I agree. It’s some compelling arguments. He’s saying stuff that I’ve thought for a long time but not been able to put so elegently haha.

    There’s nothing like a good youth group. You can’t knock a good youth group. And what I love about The Rock is that a lot of the parents are there hanging out. And it’s a very tight knit group. To me, that’s a youth group done right.

    But I agree that the whole idea of a youth group is flawed from the start. The whole idea of seperating people into age groups is doomed to cause the opposite of what all youth groups strive for: “growth”.

    Still, there are ways to make a flawed system produce good results. I think the Rock does that. I’m not saying that just because you pastor there. haha. I’m saying that because it’s true.

    But…yeah. I could probably go on. I’ll be around the Rock sometime soon again. Maybe we can chat more.

    -Josh

  5. Just wanted to say that Paul Washer (my boss man) preaches this same basic ideology concerning youth ministry, as does my home church (www.fbcms.org). I thought it might be helpful to say a thing or two about how this is playing out at our church. I don’t really know, ideally, what things should look like, but I will say that I don’t think you can have a biblical youth ministry borne out of an unbiblical church. I think there is a growing rejection of a lot of the common factors of modern-day youth ministry, like entertainment-based ministry, the ministry being based upon the personality & charisma of the youth leader(s), the idea that young people can’t understand and learn doctrine, or that you have to somehow change/dope down/humorize the word of God to make it relevant for youth. But… this is just a follow-up to the reformation that’s also going on in hearts and churches.

    We do have a “youth minister” – his title is “Associate Pastor of Family Discipleship”; he basically serves as another pastor on staff, preaching in church services, doing counseling, and also overseeing the youth program. He is young – 25ish, but is married with two children and one on the way. He often says that he hopes to one day have worked himself out of a job, because he considers ministry of children to be the job of the father/parents. A lot of his convictions on this have stemmed from Deuteronomy 6. For the most part, youth are not treated much differently than others at our church. They do have their own small groups on Sunday mornings, but the whole church (aside from the small children, I think) does the same lessons. On most Wednesday nights, they join everyone else for the regular service. Once a month, they have a special “student night of worship” on Wednesday night – I think this is sort of an outreach event where the gospel is preached. They also still go to youth camp during the summer and have occasional retreats, etc. geared for youth. The youth camps and retreats are always “in-house” type events – not put on by a youth organization. I guess that the main difference would be that parents are involved and integrated as much as possible, with the expectation that the majority of the kids’ instruction, overall, is coming from them, not from the youth leaders. Another main difference that I can see is that there is very little emphasis on entertainment. Courtship, which emphasizes the role of families in the whole “finding a mate” process, is also taught & encouraged.

    I will say that our church as a whole is trying to become more family-integrated instead of family-segregated, and has started to change a lot in this regard over the past year. The youth ministry is just one aspect of this. I don’t really know how it will continue to play out & change things in the future.

    Hope this maybe offers some practical insight! Again, I don’t know much, but just wanted to say that this is being done/attempted at our church.

  6. You’re right Josh…he does put his thoughts together rather well. I certainly couldn’t have said it any better. The more I think about his position the more I agree with it. However, I think a lot of people would strongly disagree with him on the basis of tradition. Tradition can be good but it can also be detrimental when it is held so tightly that nothing else matters. You should come by the Rock soon. It has been a while.

    Buckle…it has been too long. Thanks for the comments and example of a transitioning church. I think the family based model makes so much sense to me. I think it has so many advantages. We might say, “What about the young kid who walks in off the street not knowing a single person? How do they get connected when there is no youth group?” I think the answer is intentionality (is this a word? If not, it is now) on the part of the body. When we see someone we don’t know, we have to be intentional about getting to know that person, making him or her feel welcomed by all, and inviting that person to spend time with us in the pews, at lunch, and everywhere else. This means that we have to get off of our lazy, apathetic, Christian butts and start really living out our faith. But I digress…thanks for the thoughts Buckle and keep them coming!

  7. I say a hearty “Amen!” to the idea of integrating families in worship/ministry. Also, as a homeschooling mom I can especially relate to Baucham’s cautions regarding how others view this attempt. I have faced many of these criticisms over the past years as we have prayerfully chosen what activities in which to involve our children (young adults now). People have misunderstand our efforts and every “odd” choice we have made has been perceived as a criticism against the “normal.” Maybe rightfully so–but that is not our motivation. Instead we are striving to follow God’s command to raise up our children in the way each of them should go. It is our privilege to do so. I have sadly heard too many parents say that they have “lost” their children by the time they reach high school–but what did they do to keep them? Many have abdicated their responsibility to hand down the faith and have relied way too heavily on Sunday school teachers and “hired guns.” Obviously, we are imperfect parents and human beings. We don’t have all the answers, and we make many mistakes; but at least we can say that we have given it a good shot. Our kids deserve it!

  8. I think the main point for youth ministries is to be very sure they have assessed the family correctly. Does the family WANT alot of input from the youth ministry? How well does the youth minister know the parents?

    Once the parents feel that youth pastors are undermining their roles as parents, it becomes a battleground for the kids, or the family leaves.

    There have been some atrocities committed in the name of intervention by youth ministers and their wives who were inexperienced, new to the job and operating on both information from attention getting tactics by kids, or church leaders who disapproved of something about the parents.

    Unless there is real abuse going on I think a hands off approach to other peoples’ kids is in order, except for teaching the word and being simply a friend. Period.

    If kids need surrogate parents then that assessment process requires older and wiser minds than most young youth pastors possess, especially if they don’t have kids themselves.

    Our family went thru a hellish situation simply because the youth minister- a very very young and inexperienced boy and his wife resented our family’s leaving to go to another congregation. The church leaders felt our leaving made them ‘look bad’ and together they all put so much pressure on my child to come back to their congregation she almost had a nervous breakdown.
    We couldn’t get anyone to discuss anything with us, and my child was too intimidated by them to tell us what they were doing.

    They spread rumors in our church community saying I was a bad parent . The reason we left was because of an inappropriate chaperoning situation.

What Do You Think?