According to Barna Research group, 63% of Christian teens don't believe Jesus is the Son of the one true God, 58% believe all faiths teach equally valid truths and 27% of Christian seventeen year olds have had intercourse. Uplifting, no? I think a lot of this has to do with the way we've done youth ministry for the past twenty years: to much pizza. Pepsi and dodge ball, not enough Biblical based instruction/reasoning.
I've worked in youth ministry since 1990 and have noticed a trend away form instruction and towards entertainment and a drop in behavioral standards as well as a pathological fear of "the parents". In short, some of the youth pastors I work with have "lost their nerve." They are afraid to teach Biblical apologetics because the "kids will be bored" afraid to promote sexual abstinence because "it's an awkward subject" and afraid to uphold high standards of behavior because, "parents might get upset if I discipline their kid."
From my vantage point as a touring Christian comedian and speaker it appears some Youth pastors and speakers have moved form ministry to entertainment. Entertainment is safe: pizza, skiing games - the kids love them and the parents are happy because the kids are happy and the Senior Pastor's happy because the parents are happy and nobodies calling him complaining about the youth ministry. Now, as a Christian comedian, it may seem hypercritical that I'm coming out against entertainment in ministry. It is not the entertainment I'm against; it is the complete emphasis on entertainment that has crept into youth ministry that has me alarmed. I use comedy as a left jab to set my audience up for a right cross of the truth. My shows address sexual abstinence, apologetics, racism/bullying and a whole host of tough topics. The comedy is the delivery device, not the message itself. The point is, there is a strong message. Some youth groups appear to go form activity to activity with no message. It is appropriate when Christian youth speakers and pastors use entertainment as a tool - it should not be an end in itself. The contemporary Christian band used to open for the speaker who delivered a Biblical based message, now it opens for - another band.
Nowhere is the avoidance of intellectual heavy lifting more apparent then in the areas of apologetics and sex. We have produced a generation quite unable to defend their faith or even explain what that faith means. They are, however, quite comfortable wearing their Christian t-shirts and know all the words to the most recent Toby Mac hit. Given the current attacks on Christianity, the avoidance of teaching apologetics is inexplicable...unless the current attacks on Christianity ARE the reason some youth pastors are avoiding apologetics. In other words, are some youth pastors not taking a stand because it is harder now to take a stand then it was in the 80s and early 90s? Or stated differently, popular youth culture is intolerant of conservative Christianity, so have we stopped promoting conservative Christian principals in order to better appeal to the youth the popular culture is sending us? Is the lack of Biblical instruction in many youth programs just a reflection of the culture?
Is the popular culture affecting the way Christian youth speakers and pastors deal with sex? I had two discussions while out on the road (Yes, I still get hired despite my radical, "confront the culture/teach something" stance) that answered this for me. Just before I went on stage to perform my Biblical based sexual abstinence show, one of the sponsors approached me and said, "Please don't be too aggressive with the "abstinence thing" a lot of these kids have been sexually active and several have children." In other words he didn't want to offend the sexually active teens in the audience and apparently, he didn't want to take the flack for taking a Biblical stance. Two weeks later, just before hitting the stage I got a very different comment from the host church youth pastor, "Hit them hard, a lot of my kids are sexually active, I'll take a few phone calls, but it's worth it." One Christian youth leader had conformed to the culture, one had not, one had lost his nerve, one had not...where do you fall?
Keith Deltano is a Christian Comedian and youth speaker that uses comedy to promote sexual abstinence, Christian apologetics, drug/dept free living, and a lack of conformity to typical American "Group Think". He is one of the most effective Christian Youth Speakers touring today.
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