Things to consider about our youth and children’s ministry

I will be taking some excerpt from an article found here! I thought the open letter was well written and respectful. I am not qualified to get into the discussion between the men here. I simply thought as I read the article, how does this apply to me and the ministry that God has called me to lead.

I hope that Vision would fare well but I wanted to bring my concerns to all of you and let you consider with me if we need to work on improving in some areas.

I spent four years of the interim between my pastorates teaching in a Christian school well-known to you. A large-ish school run by a small-ish church provides an opportunity to observe an intriguing cross-section of evangelicalism. At our school, while there were students from many small churches around the northwest suburbs, by far the largest group was from Harvest Bible Chapel. I mainly taught older elementary students, but since I also spoke weekly in high school chapel I had ample opportunity to interact with teenagers as well.

In other words, I spent four years among kids whose religious background was in your church – a position that was both challenging and distressing. I came to realize that your church’s youth, most of whom would classify themselves as “Christians,” actually comprised the greatest Unreached People Group I have encountered in my years of ministry. This was a conclusion that I reached quite reluctantly, and one which I hope you will seriously consider. Many of those kids had no more idea of the basic facts of the gospel or of its implications for sinners than do the members of the remotest tribes in places American Christians still think of as “mission fields.”

The problem is that few of these kids had ever heard you preach, for the simple reason that they had never actually been to the adult worship service.

First, is there not a point during a child’s maturing years at which he ought to be exposed to “big church”?

And second, when he isn’t in the worship, doesn’t it matter exactly what takes place in the youth center?

While I was struggling to come to grips with what my students did and didn’t know about Jesus, I hit upon the idea of assigning everyone the task of writing a one-page description of their most recent trip to church. The first time that I read a description from one of your sheep, I wondered if he had understood that I wanted a description of Sunday church. He had written of a whipped-cream eating contest, of half an hour of songs, and of throwing pies at the youth leaders. His only mention of teaching was of “some guy” talking for ten minutes about “the music we listen to.” But yes, this was Sunday church, and unfortunately it was no rare instance. Year after year, student after student gave me similar heartbreaking descriptions of “church.”

I wondered what such children could know of the gospel. Another writing assignment asked, “What does ‘being a Christian’ mean to you?” The kids said a lot about going to youth group and having a good time, but they rarely mentioned the cross. The same boy who wrote the above account did talk about Jesus; he said that shortly after he turned ten he heard something about Jesus dying, so he asked his mom what that was all about. Sadly, after a decade of church attendance it was a new subject to him.

In fact, whenever I talked to my classes about the death and resurrection of Jesus, they reacted as though perhaps sometime they might have heard something similar. This is how I came to the conclusion above: how could one expect the members of this Unreached People Group to demonstrate any familiarity with the gospel when their religious education had consisted of food fights and infantile pranks sprinkled with the occasional virtuous platitude?

This experience sent me back to the pastorate with a sober appreciation of what it means to be accountable for souls – particularly for the young souls who are brought to my church and raised under my pastoral care. Is it not my business to be certain that they have at the very least been confronted with the realities of sin and its only cure? I realize that they have parents and Sunday School teachers, but -under Christ – I am a minister of the gospel, and I have a responsibility to them.

Don’t you agree? Don’t you feel the same way about the crowd of young souls currently growing from infancy to adulthood in your youth center?

First, if your calling is to proclaim the gospel of grace which every sinner must hear, make certain that the lost children in your congregation hear it. I am not suggesting that you do away with your nursery, nor would I presume to tell you the exact age at which kids should start coming to worship. Wouldn’t you agree, though, that at some point before adolescence a child is capable of understanding gospel preaching? Your people bring their families to your church because you are a gifted communicator and because your reputation is that you preach that Jesus Christ saves sinners. But what good does that do for the kids if they never hear you preach?

Do you know with any certainty that your youth program confronts kids with the gospel? If you have never dropped in unannounced, then may I suggest that you could do more good in the classroom than in the pulpit next week?

We must teach our children about Christ. We must get our children into adult church. We must bring them face to face with the truth about Jesus, the Cross, their sin.

I think we do but I ask you to help me evaluate Vision.

I call on all our missionary team members to do the same!

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