May 10, 2012 by Daniel Beckworth
I recently came across a copy of “Critique of Modern Youth Ministry” by Christopher Schlect. Before reading this pamphlet, I jokingly said, “This book is going to paint youth ministry as modern day paganism and youth ministers are the cult leaders.” As it turns out, my statement was spot on. The author attacks youth ministry from cover to cover. I find his critique to be lacking. Schlect creates an image of youth ministry and the youth minister that is far from accurate. The youth minister is dumbed down to a slob who plays “Chubby Bunny” each week while preaching through the Harry Potter book series. Youth ministry is just another group meeting where we encourage kids to hate their parents and break commandments. This monotony is broken up once a year for Easter when the “Cult Leader” (aka youth minister) reads from the Jesus Story Book Bible. (Please note heavy use of sarcasm)
In my opinion, the picture that the author paints is far from the norm. Schlect draws from this character he creates to call for the dismissal of all youth ministries. He suggests that all church members should meet together for all events at all times. No exceptions.
He rightly concludes that the parents are the primary spiritual leaders in their homes. I absolutely agree. The parents are the spiritual leaders in their homes, but to conclude that we should do away with youth ministry all together is a stretch. Schlect seems to believe that all youth ministers hate parents and absolutely refuse to work with them. Once again, I think that is complete garbage. A healthy youth ministry is one that has a healthy connection with parents. I grew up in a single parent home with a father who had zero interest in spiritual matters. As a teenager, I was invited to participate in a small youth ministry at a Baptist church in my neighborhood. My youth pastor became my spiritual father and stepped up in the areas where my biological father dropped the ball. If it was not for a youth pastor who cared and a youth ministry that accepted me, I would likely still have little or no interest in church or the things of God.
Around 50% of the students in my youth ministry come from divorced homes. Most of those students live with their mother. That means they are lacking a spiritual father figure. If their biological father will not or cannot meet this need, the church should step up and provide for them.
Around 50% of my students come from un-churched or de-churched families. To conclude that mom and dad should be the only ones to pour into them is absolutely ridiculous. Half of my students have virtually no prior knowledge of the bible or the person and work of Christ before they plug into our youth ministry. We don’t need to abolish youth ministry; we need more youth ministry.
Of the students who have parents who are proclaiming Christians, the majority do not have parents who show a great deal of knowledge of the Scriptures. Our churches have failed if they do not seek to train parents to teach the scriptures to their children, share their faith, and lead their children to a personal relationship with Christ. We have to train parents to be spiritual leaders, but that doesn’t happen over night. A very small percentage of the parents in our churches feel comfortable training their children in spiritual matter. It is our duty to train them and to assist them. One way we can assist them is to offer youth ministries that function as a partner to the parents. Mom and dad still get to be Batman and youth ministers take on the sidekick role as Robin.
In conclusion, Critique of Modern Youth Ministry really made me mad! If you’re in youth ministry, don’t bother reading that junk. You’ll just get extremely angry and search for the guy on Twitter so you can express your displeasure with his critique (I looked on Twitter. He doesn’t have an account!). Schlect’s argument only works if we lived in a Utopian world with no sin and perfect parents who all loved Jesus and faithfully taught His Word on a daily basis. Until that day comes, we need youth ministry.