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Monday, July 06, 2009 

Quoting Cwirla Quoting Internet Monk On Youth

Pastor William Cwirla has a short post over at his blog entitled Youth where he points to Michael Spenser:

Michael "internet Monk" Spencer is always a provocative read. As an Evangelical pilgrim in a "post-Evangelical wilderness," Spencer provides a unique perspective on the state of Christianity from the Protestant side of things.

In a recent post, Spencer does some critical reflection on his 35 years in youth ministry. His thoughts are worth pondering, especially considering Spencer's street cred and the fact that so much of what is called "youth ministry" is influenced by Baptist-Evangelicalism. Spencer's antidote to the maladies of youth ministry: Build meaningful and maturing relationships to Jesus Christ and to the Church. Here are some vintage IM quotes:

"We’ve been told that we can use any tool to make church interesting, so youth workers like myself were allowed to run a program of fun, trips, food, sports, recreation, etc. in order to keep young people hanging around for whatever the church was doing. We now know that those young people simply insisted that the church become like their youth group and, ta da- there is today’s evangelicalism. Oh…and there’s a bunch of our kids, never coming back to church again because they eqaute it with juvenile, shallow entertainment."

"The shift from getting 120 kids to a concert to getting 12 kids to pray every morning is huge, and most churches won’t put up with it."

"Let me be clear that families- where there are Christian families- are obviously crucial. But Jesus isn’t creating a community of families. He’s recreating the family around him."

You can read the rest here.

The last two years of involvement in my congregation’s youth program sometimes had me wanting to beat my head against a brick wall. There was more than one meeting where I, as well as the person was working most closely with, would have to actually defend our congregation's youth program being built around Bible studies and the fellowship that followed and not playing basketball all night or paintball after emoting for thirty minutes about how we “feel” about guns in schools and the like. Yes, someone really suggested we do a talk about guns in schools and then go play with guns, no joke!

Pastor Cwirla’s second Spenser quote “The shift from getting 120 kids to a concert to getting 12 kids to pray every morning is huge, and most churches won’t put up with it.” is the one I most identify with. In the two years I served on the Board of Youth I personally had to deal the erroneous idea that successful youth work is measured in how many recess events can be counted with almost every meeting I attended. From our monthly council meetings to special voter meetings called to figure out how we can best staff our parish it sometimes seemed an uphill battle defending a youth program that had at its core a gathering around God’s Holy Word. There was even one meeting where we were asked why we don’t do things with the kids during the summer months when in actuality we were meeting more often than any other group in the congregation. Heck, I had to defend the kids actually liking to play Apples to Apples: Bible Edition to someone who insisted that kids couldn’t possible enjoy a board game much less one with the word Bible in it. Uphill battles all.

This is a long term battle that will need to be fought for sometime to come. I see this fight as a mostly generational one with those who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and learned, wrongly, that successful youth work can be measured by how many activities we can schedule to keep kids occupied and busy apart from any in depth study of Scripture. This is nothing more than pietistic church growth principles applied to youth groups. Should we really expect that the same church growth methods that haven’t grown the Church one iota to help our youth programs?

Internet Monk hits a bull’s-eye on this one and it is certainly worth the read.

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Great post!

I can't think of anything worse than to relinqush our youth to what we are trying to save them from.

The culture is enemy #1 of the church and we make a god of it to ourselves and our kids.

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  • From The Haut South
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