High School Graduates Deciding to Follow Jesus?

The annual tsunami of high school graduations is just around the corner. Passing this milestone is one of the most momentous events in most people’s lives. At the very least, it is one of life’s most anticipated achievements. There is so much potential wrapped up in the lives of these young people that are making their grand entrance on to the vast stage of the adult world. What a great time of the year!

In spite of the fact that these are exciting times, the annual cap and gown season always prompts me to wonder about how the current occupants of the vast stage of the adult world are doing with one of our most important tasks: bringing up our children in the training and instruction of the Lord. I do not want to be a Gloomy Gus, but I am very concerned about some of the things I’ve observed in recent years.

Some of these are:

— It’s not unusual for soon-to-be graduates to begin drifting away from their church, even the youth group, by the time they graduate from high school. I’m aware of one congregation that recently honored their high school graduates, 85 percent of whom had not participated in youth group activities for several years.

— An increasing number of young people who have Christian parents move in and through and out of youth group and their church without ever committing to follow Jesus as Lord of their lives.

— Going hand-in-hand with the previous observation, there seems to be an increasing number of parents who have deferred to the church or youth group when it comes to their children’s spiritual formation. In recent years, I’ve even noticed more parents who are inclined to blame their child’s lack of spiritual development on their church or youth group.

— To be fair, there may be a need for constructive criticism here, since many congregations don’t seem to place enough emphasis on their youth programs. Beyond this, many don’t have much to offer young adults who fall in the crevasse between high school youth group and the young marrieds’ group. With so little to look forward to, there is little wonder that many young people fill their lives with other things.

So, I’m wondering: How shall the young secure their hearts, and guard their lives from sin? Well, this is not specifically what I’m wondering. These lyrics by Isaac Watts do keep running through my mind, though. What I’d really like to know is what the Spiritual Oasis readers think about these observations. What sort of experiences have you had? Why do you think situations like this are becoming so uncomfortably familiar? Perhaps your experience is different. I hope so. If so, what do you think is the root cause for the positive difference?

-bill
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About a fellow sojourner

a sojourner in life, trying to follow in the steps of Jesus.
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41 Responses to High School Graduates Deciding to Follow Jesus?

  1. Lisa says:

    I’ve definitely seen some of the same. Without a doubt, the majority of the responsibility lies with the parents. But you’re right that youth group ministries and young adult ministries could be improved to encourage and strengthen our young people. I think I was one of the most blessed ones — I had a great youth group and wonderful parents — I didn’t have a chance to fall away. (o;

    Thanks for your input, Lisa! If you don’t mind sharing:

    — What made your youth group so great?
    — What were the best things that your parents did in your upbringing?

  2. Trey Morgan says:

    I think generally there are two ingredients that are necessary to stay faithful after graduation:

    1 – Kids who grew up in a spiritually strong family. For those kids who grew up in a spiritually strong family, it didn’t matter how much the church focused on youth. These were still going to be faithful kids. I believe so much of it goes back to the parents. I have seen some young people who have graduated from high school and quit going to church. Most of these were “on the fence” kids. Kids that didn’t have parents that weren’t really faithful. Usually the ones faithful in church upon graduation are faithful in college.

    2 – Churches with a strong youth program helps. I’ve seen teens come through high school with a no youth program (or a bad youth program) and stuggle following high school. But when we’ve had a strong youth program with a strong youth minister I’ve seen the kids excel. As for this congregation, for a stretch in the 1990’s when the youth program was weak, many of our kids struggled. The last few years when the youth program was excelling our kids have breezed thought college spiritually strong.

    Those are just a couple of thoughts. I do think the responsiblity falls on both the parents and the church.

    I love what the elders do here in Childress. They will meet next week with each graduating senior individually. They will tell them how proud they are of them. They will remind them that they expect them to continue to be faithful when they go to college. And, they’ll asked them where they plan to attend church when the get to college. They tell the graduating senior that they plan to write a “letter of recommendation” about the graduate to the church where they are planning on attending so the church there will be expecting them. This has worked wonders.

    I think that’s pretty cool!

    Thanks for this great input, Trey! I love what your elders do. I can see how this would make a powerful impact in their lives.

  3. Nicole says:

    The major responsibility lies with the parents. A good youth group is a bonus and can be reinforcement. A solid follow-up ministry in churches with a significant youth population is a boon to maintaining spiritual practices when the youth “fervor” ends after graduation, i.e. college and career.
    Our son had 5 youth pastors, the second one being the best because of his passion for spiritual matters as well as good fun, but he was the most mature, also. When the last one arrived, our son was attending for about half of his senior year but decided to move on because he was older than most of the group and was ready to be with the adults. He spoke with the youth pastor and explained his position, and the youth pastor understood.
    Without the solid spiritual foundation in the home (since even with one, it can be challenging), it takes God’s special anointing on a young person for them to remain faithful. Nothing works more adversely on a teen than to observe a mixed message, or hypocrisy, at home.
    Some transition well into the “adult” classes (usually the ones who are already somehow involved in church ministry), but others need another layer before getting there as they work out their positions in Christ, what their callings are, etc.

  4. Kathy says:

    I have seen some young people who have graduated from high school and quit going to church.

    I’m one of the radicals that does NOT like nor feel it is particularly scriptural, to separate our kids from the “big church” from birth to high school. How can we expect the majority of these kids to continue going to church when they have absolutely NOTHING to which relate. They have been in their own little bubble and suddenly upon graduation from high school, we push ’em out into the “real world” – what else can we expect?

    I’m one that constantly preaches stopping youth ministries, or at least, rearranging the ministries to include emphasis on whole church activities. Many of the kids don’t even know songs that we sing, communion thoughts and devotionals, haven’t heard an “adult” sermon most of their lives. What can we expect from them….that they suddenly adopt a relationship with an organization they know nothing about? Really!

    What I’ve noticed is a strong movement by our post secondary kids to the missional church concept. They are very spiritually minded, in love with Jesus, but not the Pauline epistles that most of us cut our faith teeth on. A book that has helped me understand better this shift in emphasis from Paul to Jesus is Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution – tough for some of us to read, but is a good peek into the college aged kids’ mindset.

    But again, the youth ministry format has NOT prepared our kids for adult faith activities, at least, not in our traditional formats.

    Too long, but there you have it. Poorly written so your grace is pleaded for….I should NEVER try to communicate within the first hour of getting out of bed, not awake yet, but just had to put in my 1/2 cent’s [sense???] worth.

    So glad to have you back, Bill. How you’ve been missed!

    In His love, grace and mercy
    Kathy

    AMEN, Sister! That’ll preach!!! More than that, though, you’ve done a great job of pointing us in the direction of a pathway to a better tomorrow. Thanks!!!

  5. Nicole says:

    I agree with Kathy in that “separation” as such from the adults is potentially harmful. Our son spent most of his young life in the regular Sunday services worshipping with adults, listening to the pastor preach, even attending prayer meetings. He didn’t like the “chaos” of some of the Sunday School classes for his age group.

    However, a good youth group which emphasizes worshipful participation in the Sunday services is encouraging to both the youth and the adults. With a good youth leader, the meetings designed for teens on a week night get to the specifics of preaching about what directly impacts their young lives which should be an enhancement to the parents’ teaching, instruction, at home, and can lead them into and show them Christ-like ministry.

    I really resonate with both of your comments, Nicole. Your comment re: your son’s experience in some Sunday School classes must not go unnoticed. How can we expect our children to believe that we are committed to the idea of wholeheartedly following Jesus when we send them to poorly organized and monitored classes? In my estimation, we cannot put too much emphasis on our home church’s need for a quality educational ministry.

  6. Royce says:

    Youth ministries are very important, but at the end of the day it is parents that make the difference.

    Children who see parents whose lives have been radically changed by a relationship with Chist will likely follow their example. However, the reverse is true too. If children have parents whose only loyalty is to the church, faithful in attending, active in church events and activities, but seem no different than their peers the rest of the week, will likely have children who are also half hearted when it comes to spiritual matters.

    We have made the grave error of equating spiritualilty with activity. They are not remotely the same. In far too many homes the emphasis is on going to church rather than leading kids to a vital, life changing relationship with Jesus. Granted, many children and young adults haved met Christ at church but we should always emphasise Christ more than the church to everyone including our children.

    Grace to you,
    Royce Ogle

    Yes, Royce! Thanks for adding your voice to this discussion. I wholeheartedly agree: “we should always emphasise Christ more than the church to everyone including our children.” AMEN!

  7. cwinwc says:

    We have seen some of the “falling away” syndrome from some of our graduates; however, our church may be an anomaly with respect to this particular question.

    Our youth group is very active and they take a “Christian College Tour” every 2 years. Most of the kids in your youth group intend to attend a Christian College.

    We have an “AIM” team here at our church. This has helped us to start a vital and growing “College Age Group.” They sit together in church and do things together like a second youth group.

    We’re not 100% successful with everyone but I think we’re doing a better job with reaching more kids and equipping them to not fall away.

    What’s always impressed me, Cecil, is the fact that you, one of the spiritual shepherds of your congregation are so closely involved with your youth group. Many young people never see their shepherds in any role other than what might be described as ceremonial. Thanks for setting such a good example for all who aspire to this good work!

  8. revolution says:

    I think there needs to be a cooperative spiritual formation experience between “youth ministers” and “college ministers” involving parents, congregations and senior leadership.

    now, personally, I enjoyed youth group but I’m not too keen on relying on it for anything nor do I think it’s necessary to have a “youth group” to assist in developing spiritual formation in the young. In fact, I think that when we ponder “how can we make our youth groups more effective” we’re probably pondering the wrong issue.

    Thanks, “revolution”, for your poignant observation! Thanks, also, for pointing out the flaw in the inquiry regarding making youth groups more effective. I believe your point is well-taken. This should not be our focus. However, there is still, in my estimation, a need to have some specific church-wide endeavors designed to foster spiritual formation in the young. If you disagree, would you please let me know why? Also, if you agree, would you mind suggesting a few things that you would recommend to assist with the spiritual formation in the young?

  9. reJoyce says:

    One church we attended had a youth minister who thought the teens were not able to really understand in-depth bible study, so he thought his role was to keep them entertained. They just played all the time.

    This was rather appalling to me, having just come from a church near Pepperdine where the youth minister kept the teens hopping with service and very in-depth bible study.

    I’m not sure how exactly not treating teens as if they are “real” Christians might translate into them not wanting to attend anymore once they were out of high school. (I’ve been up for a couple of hours but still am not processing very well on this particular Monday. Maybe someone can help – or tell me I’m loopy and this wouldn’t impact a teens decision.)

    I think there are some teens who feel like it is more important for them to be good than to do good. Perhaps this is a hold-over from the old attitude that says that children should be seen but not heard. I sometimes wonder if our youth programs are designed to accomplish this, rather than focused on the spiritual formation.

  10. revolution says:

    I agree there needs to be spiritual formation focused on the young. I just wanted to make sure we weren’t heading down the “all we need is more programs” path. The young can be fully participating members of a community without having their own program. Small communities who desire to remain small can get a complex with all the program talk 😉 In all seriousness, some of us attempt to veer away from programs intentionally and focus more on relationships.

    I think that the focus needs to be on involving ourselves in the lives of the young (I’m saying “the young” because I’m referring to all those considered pre adults – 18 and under generally speaking) and I think that attending to the spiritual formation of the parents is key as well.

    engaging the young in the entire community as they engage in their locale to serve and love and improve and live the Gospel is really what it boils down to.

    but I’m not speaking as an expert…just theorizing

    Yes! Relationships! But, this is so difficult with so many of us holed up in our little islands of isolation. May God help us break down the barriers we’ve been constructing for decades!

  11. Rachel says:

    I’ve worked in children and youth ministry since I was 14 years old, and the one thing that really strikes me as an issue is that youth programs have become more about the “entertainment factor”. I worked with one program for 3 years, and initially the program was focused with a time for eating, singing, and a Bible Study with review games all as a group. Then it became eating, no singing, a quick Bible Study, and a major arts and crafts project in small divided groups. It even got to be where the teachers would try to outdo one another with projects to draw the kids to their “small group”. Some teachers would be left with very few or no students in their group because their project wasn’t as desirable. I really saw the focus drift from Christ and bringing these children to salvation, and shifting to filling the seats and keeping the kids “happy”. When I expressed my concerns in a meeting, I was scoffed at and considered “old school”, “too strict”, etc. I am no longer affiliated with this group, as I was one of the teachers who didn’t have phenomenal projects to offer, but rather I chose to teach from God’s word what He put on my heart, and I would incorporate games like Bible tic-tac-toe or Bible pictionary, but that wasn’t cutting the mustard. I even tried to encourage and teach Bible memory, but to no avail…the kids wanted paints, woodworking, ornaments, etc.
    I even found it difficult teaching a Sunday School class this past year. I was unsuccessful in getting the young people in my class to learn their memory verses or even pay attention to my lessons, as they brought cell phones, video games, toys, trading cards, etc. They would ask several times during the lesson…”are we playing a game today?” I found it frustrating and discouraging, but I kept plodding through and praying that God would speak to their hearts regardless of the distractions.
    I am praying that there will be a revolution in our country…a revolution to teach our youth to be satisfied with Christ and His word…after all, what else do we really need?

    I’m with you Sis! Right now, though, I’d be pleased and satisfied with a mini-revolution on our little hill! Your faithful service and sweet spirit are an example worthy of imitation!

  12. Nicole says:

    The current generation has been raised on video games, Wi, etc. Public school, as a general rule, has degenerated. Many parents have “fed” this monster entertainment thing, and some youth groups have adopted the concept. But a lot of that stems from the nonsensical “culturally relevant”, “postmodern” approach to Christianity.

    From my experience teaching Sunday School for the senior high schoolers, young people want to be told the truth in a way that doesn’t bury them or use older examples they can’t relate to. When you present Jesus Christ as a real person, real God, translating what they don’t understand about Him, laying out the reasons for repentance with the motivation of love and protection from God’s end, most kids will listen and learn. There is a drop out rate, however. Not all hearts want to hear the truth addressed. Hanging on to those whose time has not yet come and trying to “convert” them with an entertainment gospel is unfair to those whose hearts are hungry and ultimately presents the unwilling with a fraudulent gospel.

    Jesus Christ is just as “relevant” today as He has always been and will always be. Programs don’t save anyone.

    Amen!

  13. What an important topic! I wish I had all the answers 🙂

    I have seen kids from the same family, raised the same way, go in complete different directions once they’re grown; one a deeply committed Christian and the other couldn’t care less about Christianity. I don’t understand it. My father (a Gospel preacher) died when I was nine. Mom stayed faithful for a time but quit going when I was in my early teens. She eventually went back before her death (ten years after Dad) but I didn’t return until I was in my twenties and after my first child was born. I wonder now if I had been in a youth group setting and close to a youth minister would I have waited so long to come home. We are blessed to have a youth minister who works with our kids and they (and we) love him dearly.

    I agree with all the comments above that the parents are responsible for their children however I also believe that each one of us can play a part in building up the youth of our congregation and should a young person fall away we all have a responsibility to make every effort to bring them home. After all, we’re family.

    Thank you for sharing your insights, Paula. Thanks, also, for sharing this slice of your life. What an incredible journey you have taken! I praise God for your faith and faithfulness. You are building bridges that many will be able to travel into a brighter tomorrow. God bless you!

  14. Neva Cooper says:

    Bill,
    Just weighing in—
    When I was in the youth group, we did lots of activities but many of those were service oriented or just plain fellowship oriented. We did a few others that were just plain fun but when my boys were in the youth group almost every activity was centered around fun. They went skiing and had worship on the bus on the way home Sunday afternoon so they could all ski in the morning. The spiritual and service aspects always seemed to be an afterthought. And guess what, youth can get the fun stuff anywhere. So when they get older and we have instilled in them such an incredible desire to be entertained, and the idea that God is always an afterthought, our chances of raising faithful young adults diminishes.
    Like anything else, there has to be a balance—who knows our teens might rediscover that doing spiritual things and being servants are fun, too.

    ALTWIT
    Peace
    Neva

    Balance! That’s the key. No doubt about it. The challenge is to have the right amount of the right stuff to keep in balance, huh?

  15. cwinwc says:

    Thanks Bill. I guess being a middle school teacher by trade helps with my insertion into their world. I guess I’ll become comfortable with that “elder” title the day I stop enjoying hanging out with kids.

    Our kids are not the church of tomorrow but rather they are the church of today.

    Maybe I’ll be a middle school teacher, when I grow up! BTW, it may just be that the fact that you enjoy hanging out with the kids makes you especially well suited to serve as an elder.

  16. Kathy says:

    Bill, it looks as though all of your wonderful contributors here have the same love and concerns. We all want to base teaching of our youth through spiritually strong, mature adults; both family and church members. We all want to build a relationship for our kids with Jesus and those that need to be attended to in their communities. The question is how?

    I’d suggest the best place to begin forming that answer is in a search of God’s word. Surprise! He has a habit of giving us all the life skill patterns we need. For instance, the OT model of family teaching, headed up by the father of the household, and reinforced through Temple gatherings. In the NT, Titus seems to indicate that we have our youth programs upside down. Paul teaches us in Titus that the older, more mature are to teach the younger. He doesn’t seem to suggest that generally [because Timothy seems to be an exception to that rule] the elder teaches the younger, rather than having the younger teach the younger.

    How many examples in Acts do we have of whole households coming to faith in and acceptance of Jesus as LORD and Savior. They didn’t seem to separate the families into generational groups, rather the older generations mentored the younger ones. Could it be that there is a solution to our problems found in His word? [I’ll now attempt to unstick tongue from cheek, but there still holding onto some of the principles mentioned.] 😉

    The same way we adapt more modern apparata to other areas of our spiritual formation and teaching, I’m sure we can do the same with youth training up in the way of the LORD. But again, one of my great objections to youth groups is that in general, the minister is a young man, or couple. Not many have the backing Cecil gives and is so necessary. Handing over a bunch of hyper teenagers to another youngster seems very counterproductive, as well as being fraught with possible traps and snares for all concerned; young ministers and young participants.

    There’s more, but Ive spouted off enough for today. I urge all of us to constantly bathe our kids in prayer. The enemy is in an all out attack against them and I hope we are begging God’s protection for these tender reeds, that they might all grow and mature in His love and service to others.

    But enough, again I say, enough!!

    Goodnight now. May the LORD protect our sleep, granting us rest and strength for tomorrow’s challenges. Amen!

    Thank you, Kathy, for adding your wisdom to this discussion. Keep it coming, please!

  17. Greg England says:

    I’ve never thought it was anyone’s responsibility to raise my children but mom and dad, though many, many came alongside us. For those people I am eternally thankful!! I have noticed that many of our young people are leaving churches of Christ, but not necessarily leaving Christ. They are opting for churches that “speak their language” more or less in music. Maybe some day we’ll figure it out … that the most important element of our tradition is NOT the preservation of four part harmony and acapella singing. But for now we’re losing our children over that, and other, factors.

    In my estimation, you make a very valid point, especially with respect to the music. However, what I’ve seen far too often and what I’m most concerned about is the high number of young people who sever all spiritual moorings and take flight almost immediately after they graduate from high school. How can we help them come to faith in Christ? How can we help their parents help them?

  18. Mak says:

    Kids who “take flight” immediately after high school do so because they have no faith of their own.

    IME, kids who have a church that coddles them with programs, gives them a social club called youth group and expects little of them in the way of sacrifice and taking ownership of their own spiritual formation are the ones who end up taking that path…no matter how great their church is or how attentive their parents are.

    We need to equip free thinkers who don’t have a “brick wall” faith but who find God present even in the academic minutae that they will encounter in higher education. If we equate their faith with a literal 6 day creation theory and that theory is challenged then their faith is challenged. In most cases, they will abandon it all together instead of wrestling with it because they were never taught to wrestle as a youth.

    In america, we keep our kids young far too long and then we expect them to think like adults over night the moment they leave home. That’s also part of the problem I think.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that it’s not the end of the world for a youth to explore and remove themselves from church for awhile after high school. in fact, it can be very helpful. So I think we need to make sure we’re not smothering them with attempts to get them back in church but instead maintain relationship with them in community (going to church is not necessarily synonymous with the “coming together” of the saints)

    Remember, once a child leaves home, the parents generally are not much “help” – – which brings me back to a young person needing to develop that spirituality that is not solely tied to their upbringing.

    i think by the time a student reaches the high school level in a church, he/she should have developed a friendship with someone older who can maintain that friendship (even long distance) after they graduate…no strings attached, no condemnation, just love and support and encouragement.

  19. Mak says:

    oh by the way, I’m the same person as revolution. Revolution is our community so depending on who I’m logged in to at the time is how I post.

  20. Nicole says:

    “In america, we keep our kids young far too long and then we expect them to think like adults over night the moment they leave home. That’s also part of the problem I think.”

    Mak, I’d have to disagree here. I think moreso we keep them from becoming mature. The very programs/entertainment you decried keeps them from maturing spiritually while they’re exposed to every kind of temptation known to man unless parents do their due diligence to shelter their innocence until they can gradually educate them to all the pulp and perversion they’re inevitably going to see and be exposed to.

    The public school system insists on introducing homosexuality and sexuality in grade school. Unless a parent is on top of it, their children will be coerced into secular humanism. This spoils their youth but does nothing to foster maturity.

    It takes exceptional and determined parents to keep their children “young” for a reasonable amount of time–at least until they’re able to explain to them the biblical viewpoint of all that they will eventually see.

  21. I certainly don’t claim to have the definitive answer(s). This discussion has helped me gain a better understanding of the issue, though. Thanks to all who have contributed.

    At the risk of sounding like a fence-straddler, I’m going to agree with MAK and Nicole. In my experience, we keep our young people on the shelf for far too long, when it comes to entrusting them with matters of spiritual significance. Perhaps this is because we haven’t spent enough time with them to know that that can be trusted. Or, more likely, we haven’t invested our lives in them to the degree necessary to be sure that they are brought up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

    On the other hand, our young people are inundated with ungodly influences from the time they are able to begin comprehending. Jeremiah could step into our world and cry out as God’s prophet: “My people are fools; they do not know me. They are senseless children; they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil; they know not how to do good.”

    It seems to me that we should be attempting to raise a generation of young people who, in the inspired words of the Apostle Paul, are: “…wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.”

  22. Mak says:

    sorry, that’s exactly what I meant, that we keep them immature too long. I guess I thought that was implicit in saying that we keep them young too long. sorry for the miscommunication

  23. Mak says:

    I agree with you spiritual oasis – our young are inundated with “mature” imagery and messages but not equipped to handle them…and often times they’re too young to be equipped to handle them anyway.

    I disagree with the idea however that inundation in public schools is to blame for children turning to secular humanism. I just don’t see any support for that.

    What I *would* say is that we poorly equip our young to handle the “world” outside the church walls.

    I have both sides of experience. I grew up in a Christian home, going to church, doing all the good “pentecostal evangelical republican” things. Active in youth ministry, drama ministry, the prophetic, service, missions, working in nursery … the works. I also attended public school. Then I went to a public state university and discovered my own faith and my own path that God had for me. Then I went to a christian university and discovered just what the “christian bubble” really is…and it disturbed me on many levels.

    we cannot equip our young by feeding them rigid brick wall dogmatic religion and then expect them to have the sort of “trampoline” (as Bell talks about in Velvet Elvis) faith that can flex with life outside the walls of the church.

    This sort of thinking is contrary to evangelical modernity that asserts that the more “solid” your beliefs are, the more “firm” you are in your doctrine, the more you can withstand the “attacks” of the “world”. needless to say, I don’t agree with that approach in its effectiveness in equipping today’s young to live in a postmodern world.

    Thanks, MAK, for not only making this point, but for making it so well. Rob Bell is one of my son’s favorite speakers / writers. IMO, it would do those of us who are just a smidge older a lot of good to listen to what he has to say about living our faith in this postmodern era.

  24. Jim Martin says:

    Bill,
    A good post. The problem you have described is very real. I sure don’t have all or any answers to this one. Unfortunately, I think it may be somewhat related to the failure of so many people in churches to never really be intentional about maturing in Christ. Their children don’t either.

    Much more needs to be said regarding this important issue you have raised. I appreciate what you have said.

    Thanks for stopping by, Jim. May God help us to both say and do more in this regard!

  25. Nan says:

    I belong to a very small church. Our youth group consists of 4 or 5 children which is more than the youths who have graduated and gone on to college. We have two that are in nearby colleges and come to church on an irregular basis. One being my granddaughter. She has to work every other Sunday because she is paying for her education. The Sunday she is not working she comes with me to church. My belief is you teach your children the importance of faith, God and Church and hope the mainstream world doesn’t influence them too much. We live in a chaotic, crazy, scary world that even adults have a hard time dealing with at times and I don’t see it getting any better. Good post Bill.
    Nan

    Thanks for reminding us that we are all in this together, Nan!

  26. Lisa says:

    Sorry I didn’t see your questions for me until this morning.

    To start with, on the youth group question, I grew up mainly in one small church, then just before my senior year we moved and the church there was bigger and had a bigger and more active youth group. We also had one of our elders as our youth minister, much like your friend Cecil, and he was also often heard to say, “Our kids are not the church of tomorrow but are the church of today.”

    With youth groups, my observations are that, as was already said, they tend to focus on having fun activities for the kids, and less focus on spiritual development. Our youth minister always taught one of our classes, and always challenged us to think outside the box and come up with answers ourselves. It was a tough class, and I’ll admit sometimes I was tired of having to think so hard. Do I attribute some of my spiritual growth to that elder and to his classes? You bet. He & his wife also had the youth group over to their house every Sunday night after services. We played games, ate, watched TV, and ALWAYS had a time of singing, devotional thought, prayer, and talked about ways to help get others involved in the youth group. Because of having one of our leaders involved so heavily with the youth group, I feel that led the church to have a focus on teaching the youth. Their educational ministry was top-notch, they had a high percentage of the congregation involved with a local church camp each summer.

    I agree that we can’t solely rely on the church’s youth ministry to be responsible for our children’s spiritual development. But, having a large portion of your congregation involved in the spiritual development of your children is a HUGE way to show them what church and Christianity is about. I love the concept of it taking a village to raise a child. I love having other members involved in the lives of my children. Having a youth program (not just for teens but for all ages) is a great way to show the children that the church cares about them and their salvation.

    Is my comment getting too long? Sorry! But I haven’t even bragged on my parents yet. 🙂

    I’ll tell you what my parents did, which would receive some criticism from some, but I’ll tell you that I think it made a difference in the way I turned out (albeit not perfect). They were pretty strict. As a preteen and teen I LOATHED their rules. I hated that I couldn’t date until I was 16. I hated that they had an early curfew set for me. I hated that I wasn’t allowed to watch PG-13 movies until I was (gasp!) 13 or Rated R movies until I was 17. I know, can you believe that?! I don’t know that I ever asked, but you can bet they wouldn’t have sent me on a spring break trip with a mixed gender group of other high school students.

    My parents encouraged me to go to a Christian university. I know that isn’t for everyone. But for me, it was the ultimate. As a teen who was self-conscious about being different from the vast majority of her high school, I thrived in a college environment where it was okay and even cool to be a Christian. That time of my life was still really important for me to have some spiritual nurturing and little exposure to all the world had to offer. We all get plenty of that after we move into the “real world” and I know that it was really good for me to not have the world “in my face” all the time during my 18-22 years.

    I now live in a community with a large state school (you might have heard of Virginia Tech). I am involved with our church’s campus ministry and have “adopted” a few college students to be part of my family while they’re here. I am glad for them to have a church in town that focuses on helping the college students through these years with their spiritual life intact. Having said that, I’ve seen some of the courses offered to these students. College age can be a really confusing time. You want to be different, you want to be open, you want to be progressive and not restrict what you’re willing to be exposed to. You’re in between — no longer under your parents’ thumbs, but not quite completely out on your own. You’re exposed to a lot at a state school and if you aren’t plugged into a local church, I would think it’d be really hard to stay sane in that environment.

    I hope this doesn’t sound condemning of those who choose to go to a state school, because I’ve always said that it depends on the person — and a Christian school was what I needed (though I think it would drive me crazy to be there now). I think, though, that it’s really important for churches near universities to find the Christian students and care for them. I like that Trey’s elders offer to help their students find a church for them near their school.

    Sorry for being so long. There’s my six cents or more. 🙂

    Thank you, Lisa, for taking the time to respond to my questions in such a thorough way. Speaking as a father who knows your father, I want you to know that it truly is a great day when our children rise up and call us blessed! God bless you, dear one!!!

  27. Lisa says:

    Maybe I should have clarified that with youth groups, my observations that they are focused on FUN were not what I experienced with my own youth group — but I see it in others. I think the youth group at my current congregation also tries to not only have fun activities but have challenging classes and devotionals and service activities.

  28. Kathy says:

    Mak, in light of your POV, you might enjoy what Oswald Chambers says about being so enamored of our accepted “creed”.

    When we become advocates of a CREED, something dies; We do not believe God, we only believe our belief about Him.

    This to me expresses the crux of our young people’s quandry and questioning. They want to KNOW God, know Him personally, not just follow a certain theological fellowship.

  29. fisherfam says:

    Kathy – I agree

  30. fisherfam says:

    wow, bringing in a third identity ROFLOL…sorry y’all, I feel very schizophrenic, this is Mak aka revolution aka fisherfam – now you can find me EVERYWHERE! 😉

    We’re just glad you’re here, MAK! Thanks for your valuable contributions to this discussion!!

  31. Nicole says:

    I live on the “left” coast, and I can say to you without reservation that public school in this area is terribly subversive to Christian ideals and thinking.

    Many of you have mentioned those parents who lack commitment in their walk with the Lord, and it shows up in their kids. General respect, commitment to good, strong ideals, even to sound education is lacking in the public school system. Seniors who can barely write a correct sentence with proper punctuation and no misspelled words is the norm. Our state testing has been degraded and even postponed for students because they haven’t been able to pass it for graduation. Now they have several chances to try again.

    Mayan culture, chanting, etc., for example, are taught in classes. Behavior patterns, swearing/cussing in classes (by the teachers, too), immodest dress, it’s all there in the schools. So, Mak, I’m sorry to disagree–even though I misunderstood your other point. That kind of pressure requires a fully committed kid who can withstand it, and since a lot of Christian adults can’t maintain under that kind of pressure in the workplace, how can it not contribute to the weakening of a kid’s faith? What I meant by the secular humanism comment is those who either have no foundation in Christianity or a very weak one will easily succumb to the false doctrines in the schools.

    Before a kid is thrust into this wicked world, we as parents better make sure we’ve done our job because all Christians are tempted and fail at some point. It’s just a whole lot easier when there’s little faith and limited understanding of the process to begin with.

  32. fisherfam says:

    I guess I just think that Christians should be subversive – how can we be subversive if we shelter ourselves and our children? I’ve lived in LA, I’m familiar with the left coast way of thinking.

    I dunno, I guess I get twinges when I hear people talk about the evils of the world and how subversive the “the world” is to Christianity. sort of weirds me out.

  33. Nicole says:

    I spent 30 years in “the world”. Tell me you don’t see the harm there. It chews people up and spits them out. We are to go out into the world but not without being equipped.

    You can call it sheltering if you want to–I call it protection. Then when the time is right, go out, send out, and be the witness God called you to be, the one you’ve been prepared and equipped to be. You’re born into sin, so how can you go out into a sinful world and survive the evil without a steadfast understanding of what’s involved in resisting what you’re going to have to face before you can extend God’s grace?

    How can you be “subversive” to the wrongs of a culture if you don’t have yourself firmly planted in who you are in Christ?

    James 4:4

  34. revolution says:

    I disagree on many fronts here nicole. But as an emerging post evangelical, it’s probably not surprising 😉

    I will start by saying that equipping is important…on that we agree.

    This is a much deeper issue than the topic at hand and best left for another time but I will say this:

    1. Jesus is the homeless man, the prostitute, the drug addict, the suburban soccer mom addicted to pain meds, the goth teenager who feels completely misunderstood. Jesus is more alive in the “evil world” than in most churches today. When we serve those, we serve Christ. We don’t bring Christ to them, we find Christ in them and nurture them by his love.

    2. in 29 years of being “in the church” I have been chewed up and spit out by “the church” more than anything that would have happened to me in the “evil world”. The world has nothing on the church when it comes to living like the devil. Sheltering ourselves in the church and calling it equipping is a fallacy and IMO is one of the most damaging attitudes running rampant in churches today.

    3. the model of equipping and then sending is false. It’s not how Christ did it and it’s not how we’re called to do it. We equip AS WE send. We learn AS WE serve, as we live our lives “in the world”.

    4. spiritual growth is no more accomplished by more knowledge than a car can run simply by putting gas in it. Spiritual formation/growth occurs by doing, by serving, by living AND by learning and obtaining knowledge. But I believe one can actually grow in relationship with God by primarily living the mission but one cannot truly grow in relationship with God by primarily learning about the mission. So if we are to err, let us err rightly.

    I will not deny anyone their experiences. Your experiences are your own and I neither judge them as right or wrong – – they are what they are. I am sharing my feelings about the idea of “sheltering” christians…be them young or old. It concerns me deeply and makes me very uncomfortable.

    We teach by walking beside our young as they engage the world. We expose them age appropriately to culture and show them by our example how to share Christ’s love outside the walls of our churches.

    We live lives that model the dirty feet, muddy spit grace of Christ. We live dangerously, we risk being shunned because we cavort with scum, just like Christ. We love extravagantly and risk our reputations to do so. THAT’S how we teach our young. THAT’S how we “protect” them. When we show them a subversive, rebellious, counter cultural faith, we empower and equip them to live the mission…THAT’S what keeps our young on the path God has laid for them.

  35. Nicole says:

    Jesus is not who you described Him to be: He is their rescuer, their salvation, their strong tower, their hope in a sea of hopelessness. He is the Holy One, the only pure one to ever walk the face of this earth. He is the same for me, to me, and to all people because we are all equal and alike to the prostitute, etc., which is why we need Him just as desperately as the next person.

    I’ve taken up too much of Bill’s space to dispute you further. I know the church is capable of “chewing up and spitting out”, but at its best it is the design of God to further the preparation of His people–it is, in fact, His people. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate teacher and equipper, but God chose people to further His kingdom. Go figure.

  36. revolution says:

    There was something I heard once about how we often take ourselves too seriously when we discuss theology – it’s a sign that we lack a humble apologetic.

    I apologize if I have sounded that way, I sense I’ve put you on the defensive nicole and that was not my intention, nor was it my intention to “dispute” you, but rather to simply express my point of view. Disputes or debates do not do anything so I had no intention of entering into one.

    I agree that God chose people to further his kingdom. I also agree that Jesus is those things. But i have a feeling we may differ in what we mean by “further the kingdom”.

    Let me show you in Scripture what I meant –

    Matt. 25
    34″Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

    37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

    40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,[f] you were doing it to me!’

    41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.[g] 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

    44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

    45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

    So what I was trying to express is that we cannot become equipped to serve Jesus if we are not doing as Jesus commanded – – serving him by serving “the least of those”.

    I think that a key to preparing our young for a lifetime of service to Christ is by modeling for them a lifetime of service to others and living the life that Jesus lived – – out in the streets, living with and loving the “least of these”

  37. Nicole says:

    I have no disagreement with the service to all or teaching that service to all to children. Our methodology probably differs.

    Service to ALL . . .

  38. MAK and NICOLE:

    I’m really glad that you are having this discussion here. You may be feeling a little bit on edge, because of it. However, you are shedding light on two points of view, or worldviews, that really need to be understood. At the risk of prolonging this discussion beyond what is profitable, I ask you to consider the following:

    Imagine that two people are embarking on a long journey to the same destination. One of the travelers reports that she travels through congested surface streets before reaching the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Interstate Highway that winds its way through mile-after-mile of canal-like concrete covered good earth. After a couple of hours of steady progress towards her destination, she finally leaves the confines of the concrete jungle. Before her is an expansive desert through which the road snakes into obscurity. She squints at the brightness of the glare of the morning sun, even though she is wearing the latest polarized sunglasses. She realizes that she has a long drive before if she is going to cross this desert before the heat of the day makes travel less desirable, if not dangerous.

    Soon after the other traveler departs from her home, she is enjoying a peaceful drive through the countryside. The two-lane highway she travels is no busier than usual for this time of the day. Occasionally, the sun in her rearview mirror strikes her eyes, but, since the morning shadows are still stretching out before her, she decides that there is no need to reach for her sunglasses. As she makes her way along the journey, she marvels at the beauty of the pleasant scenery unfolding before her. Every hill she climbs gives her another breathtaking, panoramic view of expansive valleys that are dotted with picturesque family farms. Her progress is frequently impeded by the slow moving black buggies driven by her Amish neighbors. After traveling this road for a couple of hours, she reaches the turnpike. She relaxes a bit as sets her cruise control at 70 miles per hour. Before her are the eye-pleasing, gentle slopes of the Pocono Mountains, which portend of even more pleasant vistas, when the storied Alleghany Mountains begin to emerge from the horizon.

    Well, the narrative could go on-and-on. Hopefully, though, you get the point. In spite of the fact that these two travelers are moving towards the same destination, their experience is dramatically different. The reason: they are coming from two different points of origin. As long as they both continue to move towards this destination they are each on the “right” road, even though it is not the same road. Interestingly, the closer each one gets to their desired destination the more the scenery looks the same. There will be differences, but, if the focus remains on goal they pursue, the similarities will eventually begin to overshadow the differences.

    It is my sense that we all long to reach the same destination, which is summed up in one word: JESUS. Enjoy the journey!

    -bill

  39. revolution says:

    yep yep – well said bill

  40. Lisa says:

    I agree, Bill. I’ve been thinking throughout their discussion that it didn’t seem like either of them had the wrong idea, nor the only right idea. IMHO, they seem to both be on two right paths. Nice summation, Bill. 🙂

  41. yes, Jesus should be our one destination. Unfortunately many do get lost along the way

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