Choosing a church proves difficult when you have trust issues WITH the church. I want to address two points specifically pertaining to our situation: #1 We’re against church hopping. This isn’t a post about the multitude of variables people consider when deciding on a church (many of which can be self-centered and self-serving). However, given our current situation, we needed a church that was small and not program driven. Right or wrong… that’s the truth. #2 Given our track record with leadership, we trusted people about as far as we could throw them. (Translation: We trusted no one.) We’re STILL working on that one.
Back to the story…
Now entering high school, our oldest wanted to go to youth group, but her first experience was less than stellar. (You can read more about that here.) She had been invited to a few events at a nearby church and liked the small size of the youth group (approximately 20-30 kids). As a homeschooled kid, and having recently left our co-op, she yearned for peer connection. And as the summer came to an end, we dreaded the request we knew was coming: Can I go to youth group?
We knew it was coming so my husband suggested inviting the youth pastor and his wife over for dinner. I think I rolled my eyes almost immediately. (It was a great idea, actually. Like I said, I was skeptical about everything and everyone related to church.) But, they took us up on our offer and came over for dinner.
I didn’t start interrogating him immediately upon his arrival. I’m astute enough with pleasantries to navigate my way around small talk… but, honestly, I can’t do it very long. I don’t do shallow, surface level stuff very well. I cut to the chase by the time dinner hit the table. In my forward, to-the-point style, stated: I’m not a fan of the ‘fun and games’ approach to youth ministry, and I’d rather not waste my kids’ time teaching them something I don’t find to be biblical. (Like I said, I can be pretty
I feel like this is a good place to tell you WHY I’m not a fan of the mainstream youth ministry model. At the end of the day, I feel like many churches succumb to some perceived pressure to compete with para-church organizations like Young Life. (I actually like the Young Life model. It’s a place, both literally and metaphorically, where teens are introduced to Jesus with no expectations. It’s non-threatening. Non-committal. It’s fun. (And that last point becomes the sticking point for most youth groups.) But, what I admire most is the fact that Young Life offers opportunities for teens to dig deeper in their faith. They have in-depth bible studies and opportunities for one-on-one discipleship. And look, I KNOW there are churches out there doing this. My point is that a lot of them aren’t. My larger point: The statistic has pretty much been the same for years… roughly 85% of church-going teens walk away from their “faith” when they leave high school. But the truth is… many of them walked away long before leaving home. Whatever we’re doing in our youth groups isn’t working. (And I believe it’s actually contributing to the problem!)
As I explained my feeling and opinions at the dinner table, the youth pastor had one simple response, a challenge if you will. He wanted us to become volunteers in the youth ministry. Um…. I’m sorry, what?!?! He then went on to tell me they specifically needed help with the middle school students. Um… I’m sorry, WHAT?!?! Working with pre-pubescent teens is my worst nightmare. I had a quick, absolute ‘NO’ which was met with words usually coming out of MY mouth: You can’t complain about the problem unless you’re working toward the solution.
And I really can’t argue with that logic.