I was happy to discover a short, refreshing article written by Jon Nielson, a college pastor in Illinois. His call to Youth Pastors to, “preach, teach and talk,” should be extended to everyone in the church. As to the matter of youth groups in particular, While I can meagerly recall quite a number of activities we engaged in during my own youth-group years, I must admit I don’t remarkably remember spending much time, if any, in Bible study.
While I certainly believe there are times to gather for group and fun retreats, I must agree that churches “need to stop being pleased,” with such a good number of attendees. Most of my recollections of our youth group gatherings were more of the “after-school activity-type,” than any other. Although they were held in the evening times, they were “get-to-know-yous,” and “welcome to the neighborhoods.” They were about socializing and fellowshipping, not fellowshipping with Jesus or God, but rather simply with one another.
Admittedly, I haven’t been a “youth” since the seventies, but one of my take-aways from Jon’s article is that much hasn’t changed in the activity-realm of these groups. While it’s nice to know how to handout Bibles throughout communities and other countries, we should, as Jon says, “teach, disciple and equip,” our youth.
I’m confident that there are many exceptions to the experiences I recall her and Jon Nielson eludes to. But, I lean toward the reality that most youth groups across America are not. Too many children leave church youth groups with little to hold on to. For example, I recall having friendships with a lot of my fellow-teens, but I can tell you that once I grew out of the youth group, along with all my acquaintances, they and it, became nothing more than a memory. I could not mention one person with whom I still maintain a relationship with, let alone their names.
No, this is certainly nothing to brag about, and I’m sure this is not the case with many, but I’m also sure it happens every day. People grow up. They grow apart. They move away. They gradually lose contact with one another.
How can we tell that our youth leave the church group? How can we tell that they leave the church itself? How do we know that they leave ill-equipped? Oh there are so many signs. How many youths are killed each day in America? How many youths currently live for years behind bars? Why are so many attracted to join gangs? Why are so many addicted to alcohol and drugs?
There is no doubt that children and young adults are leaving the church every single day, untaught and unprepared to live a life for God or even themselves? It is apparent that while church youth groups can reach some, it’s just clearly not enough.
Christ-centered and Bible-centered education is not something that should come to an end when one might outgrow a youth group. Yes, of course we know that there are many adult Bible-groups. But what are we, as Christian leaders and ministers, doing to transition our youth into more appropriate, adult Bible studies, as they are phased out out of the youth group?
I must say that something is missing. There are gaps somewhere in our outreach. The fact is, there’s a need today for a youth group and Bible school in every single neighborhood across America. There’s a need for parents, for adults, businesspeople, and communities to support these programs. Bible schools should be available to every person, youth or adult. It would be great for every church in every neighborhood to provide these within their own buildings. Although many do, we know that not every single neighbor-hood has an established church.
Denominational as well as non-denominational youth groups and Bible schools can be in every neighborhood. Every Bible believer can teach or help teach. Churches might volunteer to support one. Bible-believing parents need to support one. I’m not speaking about academic schools needing the approval of any government to tell us what we can teach and what we cannot.
We need neighborhood centers where youths, young people, and adults alike can go to and learn the Bible or continue learning. Sermons and messages are great and greatly needed, but I sincerely believe that what our youth and young adults need today is the benefits that can be offered by a good, old-fashioned, neighborhood Bible school.
It benefits no one, and is frankly a detriment to our society when children and youths have nowhere to go. YMCA and the like cannot make the impact that it had in previous days. Boys clubs, girls clubs, cub scouts and boy/girl scouts cannot make the impact they once did in years gone by.
Our children, youth, and young adults must have an alternative to gangs and crime within their neighborhoods. It benefits all when all support such a place. Jon Nielson has asked some very good questions and cited some very important points that deserve more attention across this country. I pray that his brief article makes it into the home of every Bible-believer, every church youth pastor and every parent. Watch for the conclusion of this article in the near future.
Jon Nielson has a website at
http://www.college-church.org/staff.php, and his article can be found at
© 2017 Clayton Moore