This is a post from a young lady named Natalie. She posted it last August on her blog, Take My Hand:
I’ve had this post’s title rolling around in my head for a number of days now. Originally, I wasn’t even going to come close to actually writing this. I figured it was too big of an opportunity for me to not get my words out straight and thus offend people. But, like so many times the personal truth in my title won’t leave me alone. I have to share:
I’ve always been frustrated with my youth group and youth groups in general. Am I completely knocking the youth group model of ministry? No. But, I do believe that it too often and too easily becomes a place to entertain. Youth group morphs into a social club disguised verbally as “fellowship time”, exclusive cliques form, and God ceases to be the obvious focus. Once this happens, it’s terribly difficult for the people deeply invested in the group to acknowledge.
Now. I am not saying there is no place for fellowship or fun stuff or games or just chillin’ with folks. What I am saying is that youth group should be and can be more than it is often allowed to be.
Youth are more willing to ‘dive deeper’ than one might think. As Dr. Faith Kirkham-Hawkins (Emory professor of Youth and Religion, as well as YTI’s Director) put it in a seminar she led at a N. GA Conference event, “Teenagers are showing up to youth group, and they’re coming in droves. But, they’re still dying inside.” How good of a job are we doing at bringing them Life?
This past Wednesday was my first time back to youth group since having been gone for the summer. To put it simply, it left me terribly upset, angry and sad. At one point I had to get up and go stand out in the hallway to collect myself.
We played games for a good while, sang songs for a very good while and prayed once. This isn’t just a description of a one time event at youth group either, it’s pretty indicative of what goes on generally. Youth deserve more than that. Youth need more than that. And, I know for a fact that it’s not just me who feels this way. And it’s not just because I am an ‘older’ youth. We deserve more and we need more.
I realize that my frustration with youth groups — and only a smidgen of it is mentioned here — is seen in context of my own personal experience. Though I am not coming at this from a specific single local church’s perspective, my perspective is shaped mainly by larger membership churches. And, honestly I think that is a huge contributing factor.
My main worry in all of this is that I don’t know if I can, or even if I should, try to play a role in bringing about change. I do know though that the best I can do personally at the present is to keep my mouth shut until I can figure things out and responsibly act not out of negative emotion.
So, until further notice I’ve given up on going to youth group.
Most every Sunday morning you will find me in a pew — hymnal, Bible and church bulletin in hand — in my home church’s sanctuary. Come September, every Wednesday evening you will find me, in a room full of adults, as a member of a ‘Christian Believer’ (part of the UMC’s Disciple curriculum) class. And, I’m perfectly happy with my conclusion. I can’t say that I’m content (dare I say that we as Christians will never be content?), but I can say that I’m at peace.
This is encouraging to me as I am swimming against a trend in youth ministry. Many people hold on to the high numbers all fun model–at home, here, we have been working towards a different end.