5 Potential Dangers of Youth Christian Camps

I wrote earlier this week on some of the benefits summer camps can offer your youth or children’s ministry. Often times they do provide great opportunities for discipleship. However, despite their benefits, summer camps have potential to be dangerous. Most of these dangers can be avoided by selecting a good camp and through some careful pastoral care along the way. Yet, these potential dangers must be spotted less they because to cause destruction in the spiritual lives of your students. So to help I’ve identified five potential dangers of youth summer camps.

1. The Christian Bubble

One of the dangers of Christian camps is that it is a week long Christian fantasy world. It is a bubble and while in that bubble it is easy to live for Jesus because everyone is living for Jesus. Many young people can become adapting to the Christian camp bubble and can often put on their Christian mask to fit in with the crowd. In addition to the temptation to hypocrisy many Christian young people have a hard time adjusting going home at the end of the week.

Many of these young people live in difficult situations such as unchristian homes and lost friends. Sometimes a Christian camp is like training a solider at a kids laser tag party. At the Christian camp it is easy to follow Jesus. Everyone is doing it, no one is trying to hurt you, and it is a lot of fun! However the real Christian life is a spiritual war zone with real danger and temptation lurking in every corner. Many students fail to make any real changes in their lives when they get home because living for Christ is much more difficult in the battlefield of life than the laser tag game of Camp.

2. Spiritual Manipulation

This one varies from camp to camp, but spiritual manipulation is common and a regular occurrence at many of them. Because the students are in the Christian bubble and emotions are running high, it is easy to twist some one’s arm into making a forced decision for Christ. With loud worship music and a dynamic speaker who cares more about notches in his evangelistic belt than your students, spiritual manipulation is common. Unfortunately in our pragmatic church culture we are so tempted to forcefully fabricate a work of God so we can feel better about ourselves. All the while we miss that conversion is a great work of God. It is the Spirit who saves, not us. As a result no amount of manipulation will ever bring someone to Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who converts as we faithfully proclaim the Gospel and call for a decision, which camps should do. Yet I want my students to respond to Jesus not to the camps “worship experience”.

Another danger of the heavy spiritual manipulation at camps is their tendency to cause the faithful Christians in your group to doubt their salvation. I can’t tell you the amount of counseling I’ve had to do with some students who evidently follow Jesus who begin to question their salvation. The perseverance of the saints is a wonderfully encouraging and comforting doctrine, yet the spiritual manipulation tends to just damage the faithful Christians and often fails to see genuine conversion in the lost.

3. Conviction is Confused by Emotionalism

I had one of my students tell me one time “Why does this girl get emotional and cry every year at camp only to go back living in sin as soon as she returns home?” Camps can be very emotional experiences. The last night at camps tend to be the most emotionally intense. It is so easy to confuse an intensity of emotion as a true spiritual experience. Yet an intensity of emotions is no sure sign of a work of God as Jonathan Edwards helpfully explains in his book Religious Affections. Similarly, Thomas à Kempis said:

“Don’t think highly of yourself, or consider yourself to be especially loved if you have strong feelings of devotion or sweetness, for it is not by these feelings that a true lover of virtue is known. Nor does the spiritual progress and perfection of a man consist in these things.”

Heavy emotions are an unreliable sign of true spirituality. As a result biblical, Holy Spirit wrought conviction is confused by emotionalism. Many students might be heavily grieved over their sin and weep, then they find themselves engaging in the same lifestyle as soon as they get off the church bus at home. Yet the Scripture is clear that “Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” (2 Cor 7:10) True biblical sorrow and mourning over sin leads to repentance. An emotional experience at camp that doesn’t lead to true repentance isn’t godly grief but a wordily grief that produces death.

4. A Perpetuation of a Roll Coaster Christian Life

Many Christian young people (and adults!) immature in their faith often find themselves living an a spiritual roll coaster. Their spiritual life tends to center around big Christian events that lift them up to the mountain of spiritual ecstasies then real life hits and they go into a spiritual valley of disobedience only to zealously look for the next event, camp, or program to take them to the spiritual mountain top again. This is spiritual immaturity. How do I know? Because I’ve been there.

I’ve heard many a student say to me, “I can’t wait to get to camp this summer so I can get right with God!” Wait, what? Do students really think they can only follow God or experience the joy of His presence at camp? Unfortunately many do. Camps can perpetuate a roller coaster Christian life in which young people look to the next camp, retreat, mission trip, revival, or ski-trip to pump them with enough Jesus to make it to the next event. They hope the momentum of the last big event carries them up the hill to the next one.

This sort of inconsistency long term can be very damaging to our spiritual lives. We must help our students learn how to follow Jesus every day and not depend on big events to get them through. We must teach them the discipline of studying the Scriptures, the habit of prayer, and the priority of regularly attending worship and participating in the life of the Church.

5. A Cynical Attitude Towards the Home Church

Camps are purposefully contextualized to the generation they are trying to reach. As a result the songs, style, and format is uniquely geared towards communicating spiritual truth to that age group. Many young people greatly connect with the modern style and then get frustrated at their home church. You may hear comments like, “I wish our worship band was like this” or “I wish our pastor told more funny stories like that speaker does” or “I wish we had cool LED lights in our sanctuary”.

Camps can create a cynical attitude about the home church. We must remind ourselves and our students that what unites a local church together is not worship style, preaching style, or worship technology but the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We should teach the importance of local church who exists for their discipleship and to send them out on mission. Keep an ear out for any cynicism about your church and quickly squash it with the truth.

There are Benefits, but Be Cautious

Camps again can provide wonderful opportunities for discipleship, yet there are some potential dangers which leaders should be aware. Camps are often a mixed bag and it takes a youth leader with a pastors heart to help shepherd his or her group towards the Gospel while correcting any errors that come along the way. I pray that as many of you may be taking your students to camps this summer that the Lord moves powerfully. I pray that the Gospel is heard, believed, and treasured. I pray that your lost students would be saved. Summer camps are used best as a catalyst for long term discipleship and life long mission. Don’t squander the opportunity and carefully disciple your students not only at camp, but especially when you return home.

Are there any dangers I missed? How can we best minister to our students to avoid these errors? Love to hear you thoughts in the comments below.

6 Ways Summer Camps Disciple Students

It is now June and that means camps are beginning to start up. The Christian camp world has become a wonderful opportunity to get students away for the purpose of discipleship. I spent many years attending camps, working on staff at camps, and taking youth groups to camps. I have such fond memories of these camps as they provide so many opportunities for discipleship.

Yet these camps require a huge investment. Not only do they tend to be fairly expense, averaging around $300 a person for the week, but it is a huge time commitment especially for your volunteers. Is the rewards worth the investment? Is the spiritual fruit of camp worth the cost? I certainly think so. Let me give you six reasons why you should be taking your children and youth to such camps this summer with your Church.

1. Camps Provide a Week of Separation from the World

Camps are one massive spiritual bubble for the week. The student is completely separated from his or her normal setting. They are away from their parents, their routine, the TV screen, and their normal friends. When a person is participating in or surrounded by such worldliness on a regular basis there is often a dullness and unresponsiveness to spiritual truth.

The great thing about camp is that it gets students away from the noise of their life so that they might focus their attention on Jesus Christ. That separation attenuates their ears to what God is speaking and teaching to them.

2. Camps Build Unity in your Group

Church unity is a constant struggle in most congregations. Youth group unity is just as difficult. Cliques and groups can so often form which divide students rather than unify them. Many of our students may not even like hanging out with each other. Yet, when you get them away for a week and they have no choice but to hang out with one another, it is amazing how friendships develop and grow. The cliques tend to fade and a unity in the Gospel grows.

In this sense camps can be great team building opportunities drawing your group of students together for the mission of God when they arrive back home. It is always wonderful to see the friendships that began at camp grow into a strong biblical relationship of accountability and spiritual growth.

3. Camps Provide Opportunity for Conversation

In my experience, students tend not prefer to talk much about spiritual things when they are at the church. (Isn’t that strange?). I find that before a church service or afterwards many are largely closed off or disconnected from deep conversation. Yet, when you are at camp and you are sitting on the bus, it is amazing how quickly the conversation turns to spiritual matters. Camps provide great opportunity for pastors and volunteers to disciple students. It provides a great atmosphere (since you are always together), to chat, talk, discuss, and pray. If pastors and volunteers capitalize on this opportunity it is amazing to watch the fruit from these conversations.

Last summer I was with the students from our church at camp and the power went out in the whole camp for about an hour at around 9 PM at night. Cell phones were dying and there wasn’t much light to see so everyone just sat around and talked. Participating in these conversations brought me great joy. I’d walk around and hear a group of our students talking about youth ministry, scripture, and sharing the Gospel with their peers. That sort of chatter is sweet music to any pastors ears and camp provided an opportunity for that to happen.

4. Camps Allow Leaders to Model Mature Spirituality

Discipleship does not happen in a sermon but through relationships. When you are living every moment that week with your students they have a unique opportunity to watch how you live. They can watch your life and see what it looks like for you to do a quiet time, to pray, to listen attentively to sermons and bible studies, or to sing and to worship with the band. If leaders steward this opportunity well they can demonstrate to their students what it looks like to faithfully follow Christ.

5. Camps Engage Students in Worship and Preaching

The programing at most camps are top notch. The quality of the band or the pastor tend to be very high. All of the worship and teaching is geared towards students. As a result it is often easy for them to connect and respond too. Our Sunday morning services cannot just be youth rallies. We must contextualize the Gospel to all people in our church and our community. Yet, to take a week and have the Gospel contextualized specifically to them can be very beneficial.

6. Camps Provide Great Evangelistic Opportunity

The Lord often and regularly saves students at camp. It is not unusual to see some lost students in your group come to faith in Jesus Christ. This is what we long for isn’t it? The separation from the world and the focus on worship and teaching is often used by the Spirit to covert and save. Having conversion take place at camp also provides a wonderful opportunity for pastors or leaders to disciple, follow up, and train while they are still at camp. Seeing God move and save is what so often makes camps a place of joy and tears as we worship what God has done in the lives of our students.

A Myriad of Opportunities

Camps really are a wonderful tool for training your students to follow Jesus. The spiritual fruit to be reaped is enormous in these unique, once a year opportunities. If you are taking a group of students to camp this summer, treasure these moments and do not squander the opportunities the Lord will present you with while at camp.

Yet, camps also have some potential to be dangerous for our students. Not only have I seen great spiritual fruit at camps, I have witnessed many dangers that can be harmful to our students. Later this week we will look at some potential dangers of summer camps.

If you are pastor or leader at your church, how has summer camps helped you make disciples? Is there anything missing from this list? Share with us in the comments below!

Youth Ministry: Daycare or Boot Camp?

Teenagers are fascinating.  After spending five years in youth ministry, they never stop amazing me. So often we write off students as dysfunctional, clueless, and rebellious.  However, over the course of this summer I've been amazed by students who take on responsibility, demonstrate the character of Christ, and serve in ministry at their local churches. Here are a few things that have just left me in awe of God this summer.

  • At my last church, the current youth ministry leaders are students in their late teens who I discipled and trained.  They are currently doing all the teaching, planning, organizing, and ministry.
  • Students at Forest Hills Baptist Church have given up their summer for ministry.  Whether it is visitation, making decorations for VBS, teaching children at VBS, or leading Bible Study.  They keep stepping up to the plate taking to heart 1 Timothy 4:12.
  • Last week was Youth Week 2013: The Search for Truth. After asking several students from different churches what their favorite part of the week was, I kept getting the same answer: The Breakout Session. Now if you click through and see all the breakout sessions that were offered, they covered some deep and difficult issues.  Classes like "How to Share the Gospel with an Atheist" or "Biblical Womanhood" or "What is Truth?" The amazing thing is these students loved these deep classes.  They want to be grounded in what they believe.  They want someone to treat them like adults and engage deeply and honestly about difficult issues.
  • As I'm serving as the Interim Senior Pastor/Youth Pastor at FHBC, a team of six students have stepped up to help plan, lead, and organize the youth ministry for the fall.  They will be doing things from managing our youth twitter to teaching on wednesday night.

Who says students are spiritually incompetent? This summer I have seen God use young people powerfully. As Alvin Reid says, we must learn to Raise the Bar for our youth ministries.  When we disciple young people with the truth of the Gospel and train them as leaders and then empower them for leadership, I believe young people will continue to surprise us.  I praise God for His work in these students lives.  One of the ways I measure "success" in my own ministry is when disciples I've trained start making other disciples.  That is happening, and it is incredibly humbling.  As I sit back and watch God work in our church and these students lives, I'm humbled at the power of God who takes the unexpected and does the remarkable.

Churches must begin to look at their youth ministries not as an adolescent day care services but a bootcamp preparing young people for advancing the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

  • Daycare babysits kids and keeps them out of trouble. Boot camp pushes, trains, and equips.
  • Daycare treats kids as consumers, always entertaining. Boot camp is hard work and teaches discipline.
  • Daycare prepares you for nothing. Boot camp prepares you for war.
  • Daycare is a waste of time. Boot Camp has a mission and purpose.

What kind of youth ministry is your church building? Are you baby sitting students until college or are you equipping the future ministry leaders for the decades to come? Are you just fostering the poisonous atmosphere of consumer Christianity or are you training soldiers for war?

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

 

Youth Week 2013 Sermon Video and Audio

Last week was Youth Week 2013: The Search for Truth.  It was a great week in which churches from around the city of Wilson gathered to worship Jesus Christ and seek out the truthfulness of Christianity.  My good friend Daniel Ritchie already wrote a fantastic blog reflecting on the week called Churches Loving Other Churches. Each night we had a different speaker answering a different question during worship.  If you would like to relive youth week 2013 or see it for the first time, these sermons are for you to use and share with others.

Night 1: "Is There a God?" - Brad Perry

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqi_7XY9Tu4

Click Here for just the audio of this Sermon

 

Night 2: "Can We Trust the Bible?" - Daniel Ritchie

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFHQcJ5f1vI

Click Here for just the audio of this sermon

 

Night 3: "Who is Jesus?" - Justin Deeter

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zViXo4AeS-U

Click Here for just the audio of this sermon

 

Night 4: "Is Jesus the Only Way to God?" - Joe Strange

httpv://youtu.be/V0Q1eHFrP9A

Click Here for just the audio of this sermon

 

Night 5: "What Does it Mean to Be a Christian?" - Jeff Smith

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDoKuoWPoSs

Click Here for just the audio of this sermon

 

End of the Week Video

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4L_FaI7QZVU

Youth Week 2013: The Search for Truth

CardFront_YW2013 I'm am excited to officially announce Youth Week 2013.  Youth Week 2013 will be at Forest Hills Baptist Church July 29-August 2 from 6-9 PM.  Youth week is a time for students in Wilson, NC to come together for a week of worship. Churches from all across our city will bring their students together to worship king Jesus.  It is an exciting week that you will not want to miss!

The theme for youth week 2013 is "The Search for Truth".  As the youth pastors in Wilson, NC have been meeting and praying about our theme for this year. We felt led that we need to ground our students deeply in their faith.  We live in a culture that has largely discredited Christianity as reasonable or plausible.  In fact, some even falsely characterize Christianity as anti-intellectual.  Students today are being bombarded with a variety of ideas that are in direct contradiction with the Christian faith. More than ever, our young people need to know what they believe and know why they believe it.

1 Peter 3:15 helps us understand why knowing what we believe is so important.  Peter writes, "always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you".  Students need to be trained and equipped to defend the hope that they have in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  That is our heart and that is our goal with youth week 2013: The Search for Truth.

We have some great speakers lined up featuring:

  • Daniel Ritchie from First Free Will Baptist Church
  • Brad Perry from Peace Church
  • Joe Strange from Raleigh Road Baptist Church
  • Jeff Smith from Shiloh Pentecostal Church

In addition, we will have Stephen Combs from Wilson Community Church lead us in worship throughout the week.

To give you a sneak peak of what we will be talking about at youth week here are our themes for each night.  Each night we are going to try to answer a major question people have of Christianity.

  • Night 1 - Monday July 29 - Is there a God? 
  • Night 2 - Tuesday July 30 - Can the Bible be Trusted?
  • Night 3 - Wednesday July 31 - Who is Jesus of Nazareth?
  • Night 4 - Thursday August 1 - Is Jesus the only way to God?
  • Night 5 - Friday August 2 - What does it mean to be a Christian?

 

This is just a small sample of each night that will also include games, music, break out sessions, and more! So get excited about Youth Week 2013: The Search for Truth which will be at Forest Hills Baptist Church July 29-August 2 from 6-9 PM.  Pre-Registration will be opening very soon.  Hope to see you there!

Power Outage, Caswell, and Delayed Fruit

Fruit in ministry is often delayed. For those of us who serve in the local church this can be a frustrating endeavor. We are the McDonald's generation and we want instantaneous results and immediate fruit. Unfortunately ministry does not often work that way. Spiritual growth is often slow and gradual, not rapid and immediate. This can be incredible frustrating because when you first arrive on the scene to teach a Sunday School class or lead a small group or pastor a church, it can feel like you are not making a difference at all. If you are like me, sometimes you feel like you're talking and teaching the same things until you are blue in the face. unfortunately most of us get so frustrated at this point in our ministry that we just give up and stop. We step down from teaching our Sunday School class or we move on to another church after a couple of years. When we go from one ministry to the next, and we do not plant ourselves and stay we are robbing the people of a consistent, loving, teacher in their lives and you are robbing yourself of the joyful fruit that will follow.

By God's grace, I've reached a place in my ministry years where I am able to begin to see the fruit of my ministry. To be honest, much of the frustrations I just described were frustrations that were my own. But one day, after several years of loving and teaching God will lift the vail and allow you to see some of the fruit of your labor. Such an experience has happened to me as I am spending time with my students here at Caswell this week. The Lord gave me a glimpse of how he has been working in these students lives and how things are starting to click and stick in their minds and hearts.

My primary goal with my students was to help them grasp and be wrecked by the Gospel. I've done my best to teach them to love and cherish God's word and see how Christ impacts all aspects of their lives. Many of my students couldn't even explain the Gospel to me when I first arrived, but that is beginning to change.

As we were sitting in our church group time at Camp Caswell, the power went out throughout the whole camp. This forced everyone to go back to their rooms and our church congregated on the porch and in the rooms. With darkness covering the whole campus, students were forced to do something they don't often know how to do; sit down and talk to one another. Cell Phone batteries were dying and there was no other option but to sit and talk. I was hanging outside with the majority of our students having a great time, but I stepped into our housing area and I walked in on a conversation with three guys who were talking about the christian faith, teenage culture, and the Gospel. I must say, this absolutely caught me off guard. In my two years of pastoring these students, I had never walked in on a spontaneous discussion on the Scriptures and the Gospel. I sat down, joined them, and the conversation spanned from church, entertainment youth ministries, discipleship, legalism, manhood, and the list goes on and on.

So be encouraged this morning. Ministry is hard work. It is often very difficult and by no means glamorous, but do not give up. Be obedient even in the midst of incredible frustration and keep loving and teaching even when there is little fruit. Often times after several years, the Lord will begin to show us the fruit of our labors. It is a joyful gift and it leads me to worshiping my God and my King. God works in spite of us and he often works behind the scenes without us even realizing it.

Attractional Ministry has a Shelf Life

Attractional ministry has a shelf life. You can only entertain for so long. Eventually you run out of ideas. Eventually you can no longer top yourself. Eventually that cool new building will become uncool and old. This is the great danger of basing your ministry on an attractional or entertainment model alone, Whether it be a church or a youth group. Eventually you can't put up anymore intel-lights or get anymore fog machines. You run out of skit ideas and have exhausted every gross youth ministry game you can think of.

The church cannot compete with the culture in entertainment. It is exhausting to even try. So many churches find themselves in a money pit of trying to keep up with the latest trends and what a magazine says they "should be doing”. Instead, we must teach our people that the Word of God alone is enough to incite God's people to worship. If what motivates your people to come to church is the show their going to watch and the laughs that will be had, you no longer have a church but a comedy club.

We must help our people see that it is the glorious truth of the Gospel that fuels and motivates our worship. The glorious news of Christ's life, death, and resurrection must usher us in humble worship.

We will be tempted to give our people what they want instead of what they need. What they want is entertainment. What they need is Jesus. May our glorious savior fuel our pure, unadulterated worship in our congregations!

What is it that motivates your worship? How does our lust for entertainment influence our worship? Love to hear your thoughts in the comments

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5 Reasons Why Youth Ministry Can be Dangerous

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As a Student Pastor, I've spent a lot of time reading, studying, and doing youth ministry.  I've been doing this for several years now.  While I have been in the trenches of youth ministry, I have seen some huge potential dangerous in the youth ministry culture in America.  These dangers are real dangers that might even be found in your youth group.  To be honest, I see some of these dangers in my own.  Take an honest look  at five reasons why youth ministry can be dangerous:

1. Youth Ministry can cause Parents to Outsource Discipleship to Paid Professionals

Discipleship is first and foremost the responsibility of Christian Moms and Dads.  Youth Ministry, originally created to be an evangelistic outreach to non-Christian teens has quickly become the new norm for discipling teens of Christian parents in the church.  Many Parents have the idea that if I just send my kid to youth group, then I am doing my job as a Christian parent.  However, nothing could be further than the truth.  The one who God will hold for the discipleship of your child is you.  God will hold Dads and Moms accountable for how they disciple their children. We have created a culture in our churches where we outsource discipleship to paid "Youth Ministry Professionals" and let them do all the work in discipling our children.  The only problem with that is the Bible.  You can't delegate discipling your teens to someone else, when it is God who expects you to do it. 

Many Youth Ministries try to disciple students without the involvement of the parents.  In fact, I have heard some youth pastors claim that parental involvement is a bad thing.  More than ever youth pastors need to see themselves as "Family Pastors" not "Youth Pastors".  A Youth Pastor must aim to disciple the whole family, not just the students.  Youth Ministries should aim to train parents to disciple their children for the glory of God.  Youth Pastor, if you are going to create lasting disciples, you need Godly parents who have been trained to take the lead on discipleship, and not just outsource it to you.

2. Youth Ministry can be a breading ground for Moralism devoid of the Gospel

Moralism is a constant danger in youth and children's ministries.  Many students leave well intentioned churches and youth ministries burned out on moralism.  They have heard the list of dos and don'ts and they are tired of it.  They've been taught not to have sex, not to get drunk, and not to lie, cheat, or steal.  They have been taught moralism without grace.  They have been taught Law without the Gospel. More than ever, we need youth ministries and youth pastors who will preach the Gospel into the lives of their students.  Students need to hear the Gospel and need Godly leaders who can help apply its truth to their lives.  Youth Pastors much always teach holiness, but it must always be understood in response to the Gospel, not in the place of it.  

3. Youth Ministry can Disconnect Students from the Rest of the Body

I love Paul's passage in 1 Corinthians 12 when he talks about the body of Christ.  Did you ever notice how many bodies Paul talks about in this passage?  Are their two?  Nope, just one.  A local church is one body, not two, not three, not four.  One of the greatest dangers of age segregated ministry, including youth ministry, is that we unhealthily divide the local church into multiple bodies of Christ.  A tendency in Youth Ministry is to alienate the students from the rest of the church.  As a youth ministries we have our own room, our own building, and our own services.  I've seen many youth ministries operate like a separate church within a church.  This is a unhealthy and Biblical way to do youth ministry.  As the body of Christ, we need each other, and this means we need a multi-generational approach to ministry.  

I love the ministry that is described in Titus 2. Older men are discipling younger men.  Older Woman are discipling younger women.  If we want Titus 2 to happen in our congregation than we must tear down this wall of division between youth ministry and the rest of the church.  Rather than creating a separate youth sub culture within our church, why not be the bridge to bring all generations together for the health of the body and for the advancement of the Gospel.  

4. Youth Ministry can become a "Safe Alternative" rather than Missional Training  

Youth Ministry becomes a "safe alternative" for students.  Rather than teaching students how to missionary engage with the world, we encourage them to leave their busy schedules and pick up the busy schedule of youth ministry.  However, busyness doesn't necessarily mean godliness.  Many youth ministries have activities that compete The authors from the book Creature of the Word write this about youth ministry:

All three of us serves in student ministry at one point in our ministries; therefore, we know that many churches put pressure on student leaders and ministries to "keep the kids busy" with a myriad of programs, events, and activities.  The motivation is to provide constant alternatives for students so that they are helped in avoiding the trappings of the world.  But busyness is not next to godliness.  Students don't need their social calendars planned; they need their hearts continually transformed. (pg.148) 

They would later write, "when the focus becomes the events or the activities rather than Jesus, the only thing that is changed is the calendar."  So often this turns into an entertainment model of ministry, devoid of the transforming power of the Gospel.  So often the trip to the theme park or the concert or the bowling ally become the focus of the youth ministry rather than the Gospel.  Youth Pastors  and ministries must see themselves as Gospel equippers not just alternative safe entertainment for teens.  

5. Youth Ministry has Proven Inconsistent at Making Long Term Disciples of Jesus

One of the great critiques of Youth Ministry the past few decades is that Youth Ministry has failed in producing long term disciples of Jesus.  Statistically, this has proven true time and time again.  This indicates that something about the current direction of youth ministry is failing in its purpose to produce disciples.  I believe some of these dangers listed in this blog are a reason why youth ministry is floundering in producing life long disciples of Jesus.  Many other leaders in Youth Ministry are beginning to recognize that as well.  Wayne Rice, one of the founding members of Youth Specialties said this:

We got what we wanted.  We turned youth ministry into the toy department of the church.  Churches now hire professionals to lead youth ministry.  We go relevance but we created a generation of teenagers who are a mile wide and are an inch deep. (Cited)

In Youth Ministry we need are renewed focus on teaching our students the entirety of the Scriptures.  We need to give them the Gospel first and foremost.  Although Youth Ministry does have some potentially dangerous problems, I still believe that it can be used powerfully to disciple and train students.  As a fellow Youth Pastor, I have seen some these dangerous even in my own youth group.  However, we must remember that because we love these students, sometimes we must give them what they need and not what they want.  What they need more than anything is the glorious Gospel of our Lord Jesus.  Let's proclaim it to them!

What are some dangers that you have seen in youth ministry? How can we correct these dangers in the life of our churches?  Love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Why Do Teens Abandon the Faith in College?

Paul Tripp in his book, Instruments in the Redeemer's Handstalks about a practice he calls "Fruit-Stapling", in which we staple good fruit to a tree with bad roots.  His point is that often in personal ministry, we never get to the heart of the matter.  Often times ministry is focused on the external, and neglects the internal.  Tripp applies this truth to teens leaving the faith in college.  Here is what he writes:

This is what happens to the teenager who goes through the teen years fairly well under the careful love, instruction, and oversight of Christian parents, only to go off to college and completely forsake his faith.  I would suggest that in most cases he has not forsaken his faith.  In reality, his faith was the faith of his parents; he simply lived within its limits while he was still at home.  When he went away to school and those restraints were removed, his true heart was revealed.  He had not internalized the faith.  He had not entrusted himself to Christ in a life-transforming way.  He did the "Christian" things he was required to do at home, but his actions did not flow from a heart of worship.  In the college culture, he had nothing to anchor him, and the true thoughts and motives of his heart led him away from God.  College was not the cause of his problem.  It was simply the place where his true heart was revealed.  The real problem was that faith never took root in his heart.  As a result, his words, choices, and actions did not reveal a heart for God.  Good behavior lasted for a while, but it proved to be temporary because it was not rooted in the heart

 

Four Things I Learned at Camp Willow Run

This past weekend I had the joy and privilege of speaking at Camp Willow Run for their Super High Retreat.  It was a great weekend in which God was Glorified and the Spirit worked.  Over the weekend I got to meet a some awesome new people as well. Although I was the teacher for the weekend, God used this weekend to teach me a few things as well.

1. I have Learned that Teenagers can handle deep, expository messages.

I preached four different times over the weekend, and I didn't hold back. I taught them in the same way I would teach any adult.  I stuck to the text and taught them the Bible for 40-45 minutes straight.  They ate it up.  I loved seeing students with their note books out, writing things down and actively listening.  They were engaged as we studied the Scriptures together.  This past weekend reminded me that teenagers need the meat and potatoes of the faith, not just the milk.  If teens can do algebra and read shakespeare in school, they can handle some theology and biblical exposition.  I thank God for these teens at Willow Run this past weekend, because they reminded me that teenagers can handle deep truths.

2.  I have learned to be Thankful for Lay Leaders and Adult Volunteers

The Super High Retreat at Camp Willow Run is designed for smaller churches.  A lot of those churches did not have a paid "youth pastor" or leader.  Over the weekend I got to meet a lot of adults who work full time jobs during the week and love students with their free time.  It was refreshing to see these adults sacrifice their weekend to bring their churches youth ministries out to a retreat.  I can only imagine the daily sacrifices they make in their ministry, and I praise God for them and for their faithfulness in loving their students!

3. I have learned to appreciate the Gift of Hospitality

If you have never been to Camp Willow Run, you need to go.  Kevin Adams and his team are one of the kindest and most hospitable people you will ever meet.  Over the weekend I was so thankful for the love and hospitality they showed my wife and me.  From the great food to the joyful servant hearts, this camp is truly a unique place.  It was my joy and privilege to get to serve along side them this weekend!

4. I have learned to Praise God for my Wife

I was able to bring my wife Kaitlyn with me this weekend.  She is pregnant with our little boy, and she was a trooper.  I praise God for her because she is a constant encouragement and support to me.  She prays for me and walks alongside me as I attempt to boldly preach the Gospel.  She is a precious gift from God, and I am so thankful I get to spend the rest of my life serving our King together.