Many honest, well intentioned, devoted to Christ, and sincere parents take their children to church and send them to youth programs hoping that this will be a great opportunity for growth in the teen’s life. However, what if that action is doing more harm than good?
Let me be up front here. There are some GOOD youth ministries. I’m not here saying that all youth ministries are unhealthy, sinful, or that the church should not seek to minister to the youth.
But I am saying that many youth ministries are actually undermining the real role of parents in the lives of their children. Furthermore, I have seen many youth ministers who are not much more mature than youth themselves. For example, without using his name, I went to a Christian concert where the youth pastor of the large local church in my town showed his true colors. He almost got into a fight with a man because the man sat down in a seat that he, the youth minister, was trying to reserve when everyone had been specifically told that no seats could be reserved. His temper, his words, and his immaturity was alarming. I thought very long about how this leader could easily influence the youth/teens toward rebellion since he had so much in his own heart.
So how should parents judge if a youth group is a good place for their teen? Here is a practical guide to govern your decision making process:
- Is the leader an elder/pastor of the church? It is better for the minister to be connected to the leadership of the church. Some “youth ministers” are little more than recreational directors.
- Does the youth ministry involve parents on a regular basis? It is better if the leader has time with the teens and parents together. If a teen in the group does not have parents in the church there are hopefully some parents who will spiritually adopt the teen and be a father and mother figure to that teen There are enough forces trying to keep parents and teens apart today without the youth group making matters worse.
- Does the youth leader teach the parents how to teach the teen in the home? This is vital.
- Are the lessons solid and filled with meat? Teens learn algebra, science, history, english, psychology, and many other subjects that require strong mental attention. Why should a youth leader not teach doctrine, church history, biblical theology, and other such disciplines? Too many youth ministries today are filled with much fluff and entertainment but very little biblical substance.
Look for those four keys when looking at any youth group. Do not forsake your responsibility as a parent by letting the church leaders train your teens. A good youth ministry is one where the church leaders aid you by being an extension of your authority in the life of your child.
Keith Sherlin, DD; Th.D
Article from Disciple Like Jesus