August 29, 2007

A Plug on Youth Ministry

On August 14th, I was privileged to attend "Youth Leaders Cafe" sponsored and hosted by Positive Action for Christ. (www.pafc.org) If you are unfamiliar with Positive Action for Christ (PAFC, henceforth), I would encourage you to check out their website.

The topic covered at this edition of the YLC was "Training God-Focused Parents" referring to the parents of the teens in a given youth ministry. Frank Hamrick, the founder, president, primary writer, and visionary of PAFC was the speaker. His philosophy of youth ministry at it's core is, "Growing kids to, above all else, know God." It seems in some ways on the surface to be overly simplistic. Alot of times, people ask me, "But what about music and dress (et al)?"

It's interesting to me that we have attempted to quantify christianity and being 'godly' to a look or some established external guidelines.

I went to a Christian high school. At almost every Christian school, there are kids that are either (1) lost, or (2) not showing much desire for God, if they indeed are saved. It seems, though, that alot of people at Christian schools (administrators, teachers, parents, peers) are overly occupied with maintaining the status quo in appearance and conduct, but failing in encouraging kids with regards to their heart or their walk with God. (Aside: I know that these things are mentioned and worked through, but how many times is the goal to 'get' a kid to surrender to God so that he will dress differently or listen to different music? Is this Biblical)

I realized all institutions must have policies. Those policies must be enforced. Otherwise, anarchy ensues, and the academic institution fails. However, if the Christian school is to be a MINISTRY, shouldn't there be goals and plans in place that extend beyond that of externals?

In Matthew 23, Christ condemned the Pharisees for having a clean, polished outside, but having a corrupt and filthy interior. I wonder which category our Christian school ambitions fall into: Christlike or Pharisaical...

I say all that to say, I graduated with guys who looked the Christian school part. They could pray, sing, give testimony of Christ. They were the 'leaders' of the school, your Christian school 'posterkids,' yet when they left the school, their lives seemed to drastically change. Why?

I believe that you can 'do' everything 'right' and a kid still reject God. However, should we be surprised when we 'cookie cut' kids and then as soon as they leave our 'ministry institutions,' they, for some reason, begin to look and act much differently, with their lifestyles not reflecting a heart that loves God most of all? I would say, No. we should not begin to be surprised: For we have not reached their heart. We reached their temporary wardrobe and their ipod. (maybe) We encouraged them in their depravity to 'mask' their 'lostness' and their worldliness to appease people who wanted, most of all for kids to 'look right' and 'fit' a certain mold.

If you have read this far, I encourage you to visit PAFC's website to learn more about what it means to be 'GOD-focused' in ministry, both church, school, home, and life. My thinking has been radically (and biblically) affected by this ministry. I hope your's will be too, for the glory of God.