Monday, May 5, 2008

Youth Groups Rejected

In my previous post I mentioned the proliferation of the "youth group." I'd like t expand on this a bit. Youth groups are relatively new in the history of the church. Could you imagine Paul calling all of the teenagers from the Church of Ephesus together for a youth rally or could you imagine a flourishing youth group at Calvin's Geneva? While my tone is obviously negative, let me say that not everything about youth groups is wrong. None can fault efforts to bring our young people together for acts of service in the community and surely every opportunity for Bible study is to be encouraged among people of any age. However, there are some serious dangers with youth groups.

The concept of the youth group continues to foster the modern notion of adolescence; that there is a period of time between childhood and adulthood in which irresponsibility and foolish behavior is to be excused. Unfortunately, this period of immaturity in our day lasts past the 20's and often well into the 30's. Of a truth, there are only two stages of human development: childhood and adulthood. We should view our teenagers as young adults. At this period of their lives their parents should be wisely helping them to prepare for their future, teaching them how to be Godly husbands and wives and how to order their lives for the glory of God. At the age of 12 was not Jesus sitting in the midst of the teachers listening and asking questions? To segregate teenagers from the influence of their parents and other adults at this crucial period of their lives is a tragic mistake. In our church we do not have a separate class for teenagers. They meet with the adults because we recognize them as young adults which helps them to begin seeing themselves that way.

Youth groups are often used by parents to delegate their responsibility to someone else. Too many parents are too busy with their own lives to give themselves to the instruction of their children. Often, by the time the teenage years roll around they have so little influence in the lives of their children, they place them in the hands of the church youth group in hopes that their children might be positively influenced. Too often the influence is just the opposite - carnal kids teaching each other how to be worldly. Churches would do better to give their energy to training parents of their duty to their children.

Youth groups tend to encourage the so called generation gap. The idea is that these young people will do better when surrounded by their peers. Unfortunately, their peers are poorly equipped to provide the leadership they need. Besides, is there any other time in life when we limit our association with only people of our own age? Does a 40 year old man refuse to associate with people older than 45? We would do far better to teach our teenagers how to interact with other adults.

In addition, youth groups almost always result in a "group" mentality. The nature of human beings is to seek the approval of those close to us and to conform to their behavior. In the youth group this often has dangerous consequences. It has been my observation that professions of faith within youth groups often occur in clusters. Several will profess Christ at the same time and the church rejoices that so many of their young people are being saved. Sadly, many fail to bear fruit. Many years ago I was a member of a church that sent their teenagers to a popular SBC youth camp. Each year the youth would return from camp and have a testimony night on a Sunday evening where they would weep and "recommit" their lives. Within a few weeks the high would wear off only to be repeated again the next year.

Instead of youth groups how about groups of fathers getting together to do activities with their sons? What kind of an influence would it have upon a young man for him to help paint a widow's house, to see that life is more than just fulfilling his own desires? How much better would it be for young men to join together with their fathers on a camping trip so that under the influence of men they might learn how to be men. "Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned" (Titus 2:6-8). And how beneficial would it be for mothers and daughters to gather together to quilt or to prepare meals for a shut-in? "That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed" (Titus 2:4-5). How much more beneficial would it be for churches to plan activities that involve the whole family? This would seem to be of a much greater benefit than a youth group.


Anonymous said...

Hey Pastor Dale,
Have you heard of the book, "Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations"? This book was just published and is co-arthored by ALEX AND BRETT HARRIS (younger brothers of Josh Harris.) They are challenging you adults to rethink the notion of the "teen years" and to embrace adult hood and to prepare themselves by seeking out challenging areas in their life where they can express dominion in the little things. Then be faithful with that which God has given to them. The have a web site connected with John Piper at There is a promo that you can check out to learn more.

Dale Crawford said...

Yes, I've heard of the book. They had an article about it in World Magazine. These are some exceptional young men. They understand well that young people want to be challenged. When parents raise their children with high expectations the children will almost always rise to the occasion. The "boys will be boys" low expectation mentality is poison. I've seen too many young people flounder with no direction or purpose because they were not encouraged to do the hard things.

Pastor Dale