Saturday, February 18, 2006

the 3rd commandment of youth ministry

thou shalt never be serious

This is a job-loser if ever there was one. One only needs to peruse publications and websites dedicated to youth ministry to see how seriousness is avoided like the bird flu. However, it is not contagious. There can be no doubt that almost all resources and theories in youth ministry move away from serious thinking, serious discussion and serious instruction. Creating an environement for serious reflection on the gospel and its implications is the death knell for youth ministers everywhere. Instead, they are encouraged to create a fun, light and generally sappy atmosphere. Bible Studies are done this way. Retreats are done this way. And it seems that this is the only way that youth ministers want to go. Students do not gravitate to seriousness therefore we must be silly, not serious!!! A case in point: Today I went to my box in the church office and I had a bunch of advertisements for youth resources, camps, etc. The first one I looked at was for a group that does mission trips. One side of the postcard gave all the details. The other side? A goofy looking guy with his thumbs in the air. Maybe I'm overreacting but I get this kind of advertising every day...on my TV. Why here? Anway, the second one I looked at was typical. It was from Group and it is avertising Friendzee, "The Zany Game That Transforms Bible Study" ( It comes complete with the "Throw and Tell" Ball included in each game! "Hooray! Phew, I thought I was gonna have to teach on propitiation again. But NOW I do not have to! We can learn about the Bible through games!!! And whoever wins gets to shaving cream the other team!!! Pass the goldfish...I think I will swallow one just to be funny!!! Look...Look...I am swallowing a goldfish!!!"

How do I break this commandment?

Let the pin drop. Do not worry about those uncomfortable moments when you can hear a pin drop. These will be moments when they learn the most. No one in their life is doing this. Challenge them. I do this all the time with my kids and they keep coming back. Sometimes I let them have it. And it gets very uncomfortable in the room. Eyes are diverted. Feet shuffle. And minds race. Sometimes I can feel them longing for the door. Well...Good. This is serious stuff with eternity for themselves and the world over at stake. The fact that they read a passed note in class with more affection and more longing than the Scriptures ought to be said and dealt with. Even if they don't laugh.

Throw 'em a T-Bone. Who else is going to do it? Parents maybe...hopefully. But they (the parents) are probably reading Left Behind and The Prupose Driven Life for Boomer Parents, Gold Plate editon, Revised with Calligrophy and Limited Edition Study Guide with Answers. Everyone else is serving fruit rollups. Why not not give them steak? Serve up the real thing that requires some chewing? Fatten them up. Students are lean on serious Biblical Study and have grown pudgy on sappy sentimentality. They have generally been sold what will not sharpen iron. It's all plastic.

Up the ante. Most kids never get told how important all this is. The chief end of most youth ministers is not the glorificiation of God. And that is why most kids never get a feel for the weight of glory. If a youth ministry does not start and end on the note of seeing the glory of God in all things seriousness will ring hollow. However, if there is a cacophony of lessons, studies, retreats and discussions where God'd glory is at the forefront and not the periphery it will make complete sense for there to be a need for seriousness in youth ministry.

There is a myth that seriousness = stoicism or joylessness. The opposite is true. Seriousness gives rise to joy and excitement in the Christian. Only if you can appreciate what is at stake in believeing the gospel (and others believing it) then joy/happiness/pleasure/comfort will be really accessible. Breaking this commandment puts people on the path to joy.

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