Is Youth Ministry Biblical?
By: Jared Dodd
Satan doesn’t fight in the open, but in the shadows. He’s a deceiver. What does that mean? It means that he fights us in ways where we don’t recognize that he’s taking us down. He fights us without us realizing it. He gets us doing things we think are right, but are actually wrong. Youth Ministry is an example of this. Many of today’s Christian families are highly involved in Youth Ministry, to such a degree that they can’t imagine life without it. What if I was to tell you that Youth Ministry is actually doing more damage than good? What if I was to tell you that Satan is completely fine with Youth Ministry because it distracts the children’s hearts away from their real pastors, namely, Mom and Dad?
Let’s face the facts. Statistically, the vast majority (70-90%) of the American Church youth are leaving the faith when they leave the home. (This may be a difficult statistic to believe, but it has been researched and documented in multiple studies, and in my experience as a Youth Pastor has also proven true). Most churches put tons of money, time, and energy into Youth Ministry, and only 10-25% of their youth are making it. That’s a big deal. That would be like someone having a car manufacturing company that makes cars, but only one out of every ten or so cars work. Modern Youth Ministry isn’t only not getting the job done, but it’s actually contributing to the problem. It’s my aim, in this article, to show you how and why this is happening. But first we need to recognize and important point of doctrine. The Reformation was a move back to the Scriptures. It was understanding that it isn’t the Pope or the King that choose how God is to be followed, but the Scripture is the standard. In our nation, today, the standard isn’t the Bible, the Pope, or a King. It is the individual. We each choose how we will worship God, and most of us have signed up with the modern American Christian way of doing things. We look at what everyone else is doing, and we do it. We must repent of this and turn back to the Scriptures. If you can’t open the Bible (chapter & verse) to defend why you do what you do, then you need to rethink what you do. All of our life should be supported from the Scriptures.
I should insert a disclaimer here. I have nothing against Youth Pastors. I actually love them and appreciate their hearts. Some of my best friends are Youth Pastors and I was one for around 10 years. This isn’t an attack against people, but rather a philosophy which is solely rooted in this world and not the Bible. I’m not fighting against the church, but for her. My intent in this article isn’t to shame anyone. It is rather to open up people’s eyes to what the Bible says, so they might experience His kingdom. It’s to turn the tide concerning the reality that we are losing the majority of our children.
Let me be very clear. If you are satisfied with the results of modern American Christianity, then don’t waste your time reading this; just do what everyone does and you’ll get their results. Your kids will likely fall away. Pornography, impurity, infidelity, divorce, and worldliness will likely make up the roadmap of your child’s future. Your grandchildren, likewise, will have little hope of finding the way. These are the statistical results of modern American Christianity. If you want different results, you must do things differently. If you want the results you see in the Bible: victory, Kingdom living, and holiness, then you have to do what the Bible says. Modern Youth Ministry isn’t only absent in the Bible, but it goes against it in many ways. And yet, (call it the power of culture), your average American Christian, even after being faced with the points I’m about to make, just can’t seem to let it go.
The Biblical objections to Youth Ministry are many. They aren’t out of legalism or anything like that. They are sincere concerns. First of all, the Bible says that ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’. Unless your Youth Group is made up of only a handful of Kingdom children, it is likely full of ‘bad company’. (And even if it is only a handful of ‘good kids’, time together will likely pull them down as well). The principle quoted above, ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’, is without exception. No one is immune to the consequences. If your child is around ‘bad company’, their morals will be corrupted to a certain extent. For the parent who sends their children to private or public school, or homeschool co-ops, this is a frustrating point because they are faced with the realization that their child is regularly put in such poor environments, and will therefore become worldlier. But schooling is a different topic all together. Let me simply finish this point with an illustration. If your child was invited to a party, and you knew that at this party there would be foul language, drugs, extremely inappropriate conversation, pornography, and even sexual activity, would you send your child? I’m assuming you would decline such an offer. I’m sad to inform you that these elements are likely experienced in your child’s youth groups, somewhat during the meeting, and more so before and after the meeting, and especially on retreats and camps. You might not believe me: ask around. I know firsthand stories of each of the examples I gave, happening on multiply occasions.
Another Biblical objection to Youth Ministry is the fact that there is no office of youth pastor in the Bible. The responsibility to disciple the children are put on the parents. People will argue that even though the Bible doesn’t acknowledge a youth pastor, it doesn’t say we can’t have one. This argument is one that unruly children will often use when they do something wrong and say to their parents, “Well, you didn’t say I couldn’t drive the car without a license.” Once again, the standard must be the Bible. God dictates how our children are discipled. He doesn’t say, “Just do whatever you think is best.” He wants us to do things His way, period. The bottom line is simple: It’s the parent’s job. And unfortunately, the church is putting virtually zero expectation on the parents to do it. Think about it. How many parents in your church read the Bible on a regular basis to their children? How many children look to their parents as spiritual shepherds in their lives? And what is this church doing to cure this problem? Usually nothing, seeing as it isn’t even on their radar. They’re too busy planning the next lock-in, where unbeknownst to them, your child might be exposed to pornography for the first time. Maybe the reason why our society is falling apart is because we have opted for a Plan B in training up the next generation. Understand this: In God’s Kingdom, there is no Plan B.
In the Bible, from cover to cover, when the church gathers, men, women, and children are all present, together, as families. There is no age-segregation in the Bible. Maybe that’s why our protestant forefathers didn’t lose their kid’s hearts, by and large, like we do today. Maybe that’s why they got much better results than we do today? In the Bible, and in all good church history, parents taught their children. They read the Bible to them, and spoke of the Bible throughout their day (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). Such ideas today are radical, scary, and unpopular. That’s why we are failing. We aren’t doing things God’s way, but the ways of the world, and so we are getting the world’s results.
Did you know that from Adam and Eve until about 1900 AD, there was nothing at all like Modern Youth Ministry in the church? Let me give you a quick history lesson on why we have Youth Ministry. It’s actually pretty simple. About 150 years ago, public education became very popular in this country. Children had to go to school, and they were often apart from their parents. Because of the influence of Darwinian and Marxist thinking, the age-based classroom was invented for the first time in history (putting children into groups according to their age). This practiced created a phenomenon in this country where children stopped growing up as quickly. Whereas at the founding of this country, 12 and 13-year-old boys and girls were becoming men and women of maturity, now you had children who just weren’t growing up. (The Bible says that ‘Folly is bound up in the heart of a child’. It’s interesting how we think it’s a good idea to put a bunch of six-year-olds together all day.) The word ‘teenager’ was invented in the mid 1930’s as a title for these children who just wouldn’t grow up. Their maturity was stifled because of the lack of adult interaction. A subgroup/subculture was thus created in our country called ‘youth’. (Have you ever noticed that some youth are very hard to talk to. They look at you like your crazy if you try to talk to them because you are an ‘adult’ and they are a ‘youth’.) The term ‘adolescent’ was also invented around this time (1900) based on Darwinian theory. The church should have been the one place that said, “We will not observe this subculture and we will not separate our children like the world does.” Unfortunately, the church followed suit with the world, and in doing so needed to hire someone to bridge the gap between parent and child. Have you ever wondered why most Youth Pastors are so young? Wouldn’t it make more sense to find a man in his fifties or sixties, with decades of wisdom, to pastor our youth? But we don’t look for such men. We aren’t looking for men of maturity. We are looking for someone who is still ‘hip and cool’ who can ‘speak the lingo’ and somehow convince our children that being a Christian is ‘cool’. This can’t be denied. From a historical, logical, and Biblical perspective, it makes no sense at all to separate our children from their parents and then hire a 23-year-old to pastor them. The only reason we do this is because it fits within Modern American culture, which once again, has been highly influenced by Darwin and Marx (in other words, by Satan).
It amazes me how hard people will fight to keep Youth Ministry. I will present all of this evidence, and much more to them and they still send their kids to youth group. The reason for this allegiance to Youth Ministry is simple: It’s in our Modern American DNA. We can’t imagine life without it. We have become so accustomed to the continual delegation of our children, that we can’t imagine actually having to shepherd them.
There was a church plant in my hometown that wanted to do things differently. They weren’t going to separate parents and children. They weren’t going to have Youth Group. They were going to stay true to the Bible and to good Church history and keep the family together. But something went wrong. People started coming to their church, they loved the preaching, they loved the pastors, but then they would say, “But wait, where’s the Youth Group?” The church planters were very clear that they were doing things different. The new church members, where likewise very clear by saying, “If there’s no Youth Group, we are leaving.” The church platers reluctantly gave in, and now that church is doing what every other church does, and are likewise getting the same worldly results.
We don’t do Youth Ministry because of the Bible. The Bible, of which we are supposed to be following, has absolutely nothing to do with Modern Youth Ministry. Many pastors know this. They know that Youth Ministry isn’t biblical and that it isn’t really all that affective. But they still do it. Why? Because they are often held in slavery to the desires of the people. If pastors don’t give their congregation what they want, then people will leave. And in the American church, people leaving is a bad omen. Unlike Jesus, who didn’t change his message or methodology for the pleasure of people, the American church has gotten quite accustomed to serving the desires of the people instead of serving God. Jesus often had his congregation shrink when he preached the truth, and would therefore be fired today from most American churches.
Let’s be honest: The only reason we do Youth Ministry is because it’s expected; because it’s what everyone else is doing. This is why it never existed before. No one would read the Bible and say, “Oh my! We missed something here! Whenever the church meets we must separate the children from the parents! It’s right here in the Bible! And make sure they are put in age-based peer groups! And let’s have them all hangout, often, just with other youth! This is going to be awesome because it’s really going to teach them to grow up and be godly! And it’s also going to strengthen the bond between them and their parents! How in the world did the Old Testament church and the first 1900 years of the New Testament church miss this? Let’s have them all stay up late at church and spend the night together! Wow! What a great idea! This is really going to change the world!”
Yes. It has changed the world. It’s taken the godly generation God intended, and has made them, by and large, a bunch of immature, confused, worldly adolescents, who think they’re doing things God’s way, but are actually playing into the enemy’s hands.
Some people will argue with me that Youth Ministry is from God because, “I know people who have been saved or positively affected through Youth Ministry.” Whenever I hear such reports I praise God, who is so good as to save people, even in a context that are incorrect. We should all rejoice when good things happen. But you must understand the following: In God’s Kingdom, the end doesn’t justify the means. I have people give the same argument in justifying a homosexual preacher. They will say, “Yes Jared, I know he’s homosexual, but his sermons are really good and he gets people saved.” It is only by the grace of God that anything good happens, but again, the end doesn’t justify the means. And understand this also: Even though, by the grace of God, some good comes through Youth Ministry, it is quickly overcome and buried under heaps and heaps of long-term, multigenerational, damage.
Most people have no idea the damage that is done through Youth Ministry. Let me try to give you a quick snapshot. To sum it up: Youth Ministry separates the hearts of the fathers from the hearts of the children. And it does so in a multigenerational way. Think about it. Satan hates the family. Why? Because when done God’s way, the family is unstoppable. What does Satan want then? Anything that is different than God’s way, and yet has an appearance of godliness. Friend, all of history is laughing at us. They are saying, “Here is the generation that thinks it’s a really good idea to get kids together, away from their parents, every time the church meets!” Satan loves Youth Ministry because it gets children to look to someone else other than mom and dad. When I was a Youth Pastor, parents would often come to me saying, “Jared, you must talk to my child about such and such.” I would then ask the parent what they had said to their child about it. They would often reply, “I’m not going to talk about this with my child! That’s your job!” Satan is fine with the 15-25% success rate of Youth Ministry in the modern church. Those statistics are fine with him, because he knows he’s winning the majority. And even with the few who make it, Satan knows that he will likely get their children and grandchildren. Think about it. Do you really want your grandchildren and great-grandchildren involved in the Youth Ministry of their day? Wouldn’t you rather have them away from worldly kids and together with their parents who love them and who will guide them in the right way?
What kind of culture does Youth Ministry reinforce? A culture where mom and dad aren’t spiritual leaders. A culture of age-based peer groups, and all the bad morals that come with it. A culture of immaturity, a watering down of the gospel, and sinful behavior. Seriously friends, look at the results: few children are making it. And then look at the Bible: it doesn’t mention Youth Ministry, but actually promotes the opposite. What more do you need? If you’re trying to defend Youth Ministry, then you’re defending something that is absent and opposed to the Scripture, and something that doesn’t at all work. You’re trying to hold on to something that isn’t at all founded in history and is a product of evolutionary, Marxist philosophy. You’re standing upon something that is part of the problem instead of part of the solution. Friend, stop fighting. I know your struggle. I had it also. When people first showed me these truths, when I was a youth pastor, I was angry with them and tried to defend Youth Ministry. And what I realized in the end was that the reason I wanted so badly to justify Youth Ministry was because of what it was attached to. I realized that if Youth Ministry wasn’t right, then neither was much of our modern church culture, and that scared me. I realized that if Youth Ministry wasn’t right, then that meant that it was on me to shepherd my children, and that scared me. I realized that if Youth Ministry wasn’t right, that I had to stop delegating my children to others and needed to start taking responsibility, and that scared me. I realized that if Youth Ministry wasn’t right, then I had to question so many other things of this American Church culture like entertainment, education, sports, church, roles in the family, etc…, and that scared me. But at the end of the day God isn’t calling us to be cowards, but men and women of courage. So this is the challenge: Be a Biblical Christian. Your initial reply will be, “I am”. I’m here to tell you that if you regularly practice modern things which are absent and opposed to the Bible, like Youth Ministry, then you aren’t a “Biblical” Christian.
If you want to defend your stance on Youth Ministry, please try to do so from the Bible. Many people try to defend Youth Ministry, but interestingly enough, they never use the Bible. They instead use their own thoughts and logic. The reason they can’t use the Bible, or church history, in the defense of Youth Ministry, is because it isn’t biblical.
It’s time to unplug from the systems of this world that have infiltrated the church. There’s so much to speak on regarding this topic, but I will end here. My last statement is this: If you want the results of American Christianity, just keep doing what you’re doing. If you want different results, Biblical results, start doing things according to the Bible. I guarantee you, in the end, you won’t regret it. Spend time with your children. Teach them how to follow Christ. Follow Deuteronomy 6:6-7.
May God bless you and your family abundantly!
(For more on this topic, please watch ‘Divided the Movie’ on YouTube. Running time is 54 minutes.)