Imagine the freedom of hearing this one phrase.
A parent affirming a youth pastor by saying, “My kids aren’t your target audience. Reach the lost.”
What would happen if parents stepped into their role and discipled their teenage children, and at the same time affirmed the church’s youth pastor by saying, “My kids aren’t your target audience. Reach the lost.”
The reason so many youth workers feel like babysitters or cruise directors is that they are regarded as such by many people in the pews. (And sadly, by their bosses and governing boards who see them as a way to attract or keep parents of teenagers.) The attitude is… “Well, we give money to the church which funds this persons salary and the program they run so we should allow the expert to pour into my kid and I’ll just step back, get the most for my money.”
This makes some logical sense because its visible. But it is missing the point, missiologically and ecclesiologically.
Modern church youth ministry, as a movement, sprung out of parachurch ministries like Young Life and Youth for Christ in the 1950s-1960s who stepped up to answer the call the church would not… reach lost teenagers. It was primarily a method of evangelism. And it operated well outside of the walls of a church because the methods often used to get students interested in the Gospel freaked churchgoing adults out.
In the 1960s and 1970s churches woke up a bit and started hiring youth workers of their own. (Lots were former YFC and Young Life staff) And all of a sudden the vocation of youth pastor started to shift from something that looked like a missionary to something that looked like a pastor.
As things have morphed over the years many youth ministries focus has shifted from non-church teenagers to almost entirely church kids. Youth ministry has gone from being mostly about evangelism to mostly being about discipling church kids with an evangelism strategy which boils down to, “Bring a friend.”
That’s a bad thing! And as I’ve said over and over again… we’re reaching a decreasing amount of the population with this strategy. Some try to dismiss me by claiming I’m just deconstructing. I’m not deconstructing, I’m calling the church to recognize her strategic failure and change!
I’ve always known this to be true. (That my churches job wasn’t to reach my kids, but to reach the lost.) But I suppose economic realities and race make it obvious enough for my dense mind to notice now that we go to a mission-styled church.
I don’t want my church reaching my kids. If I sit in on my churches kids ministry program and it is targeted at my kids I know something is wrong. Why? We’re a mission church in a neighborhood where 75% of the people don’t speak English in their home and even more are not from the U.S.A..
My kids aren’t the reason my staff raises support! I know this and I celebrate it. I’m pleased that my tithe doesn’t help create a ministry paradigm designed to disciple my kids. Why? That’s my job!
Their job is to reach the neighborhood!
Why is acknowledging this important?
- It changes my attitude from entitlement to supporting the mission of the church.
- It clarifies expectations.
Your Role as Parents
If you are like me, a Christian parent, your role is vital. Deuteronomy 6 is abundantly clear. A life with Jesus isn’t reserved for the temple. You’re to talk about God in all that you do, everywhere you go, and in your own home. You are to impress on your children that your faith is real. If you want your kids to believe in God it is up to you. If you leave it to your church to do you have failed as a parent. (If your church is telling you it is their job tell them they are wrong, they need to hear it.)
Your tithe is an offering to God not a ticket to entitlement to church programs. While it is our role to oversee and make sure that the church is not misappropriating funds– It is hardly an offering to God if it has strings attached to it which stipulate that the church will create programs to entertain and disciple your children.
Imagine the freedom it would create to your church staff if you uttered this simple phrase, “My kids aren’t your target audience. Reach the lost.”
Go ahead, try it.