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Youth and Faith

Today’s Reflection

THE PROBLEM, we have discovered after a hundred years of youth groups, is that the youth group is notoriously unreliable for fostering ongoing faith. The youth group model—sometimes referred to as the “one-eared Mickey Mouse” model of ministry—created an environment in which youth, isolated in an “ear” on top of Mickey’s head, had only marginal contact with the rest of the body of Christ.

The congregation worshiped in the sanctuary; youth met in the basement. The congregation gathered on Sunday mornings; youth gathered on Sunday nights. The congregation listened to sermons; youth heard “youth talks.” The congregation had Bible study; youth had devotions. The congregation had a budget; youth had a bake sale. …

In parachurch ministries, the gap between youth group and congregation widened further. Although parachurch ministries preserved certain theological foci commonly lost in congregational youth groups (for instance, the emphasis on repentance and personal salvation), parachurch clubs met at school or in homes during the week, and most had only minimal connections—if any—to a worshiping congregation.

The upshot of the overwhelming dominance of youth-group models of ministry was a deepening chasm between youth ministry and the theology of the church as a whole. When youth graduated from the “youth group”—the only form of ministry many young people had ever experienced—they effectively graduated from church as well.Those who returned to church as adults often found worship an alien experience, a distant second to the warmth and intimacy they remembered from the youth ministry of their teen years.

By now the exodus of adolescents from mainline churches is both legendary and sobering. … Today more than half of the youth who attended church as children have disappeared from church involvement by the time they are 17. Even youth who go through confirmation tend to view the ceremony not as a rite of passage into the life of the church but as graduation out of it.

-Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster
The Godbearing Life

From pages 30-31 of The Godbearing Life: The Art of Soul Tending for Youth Ministry by Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster. Copyright © 1998 by Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Upper Room Books. http://bookstore.upperroom.org/ Learn more about or purchase this book.

Today’s Question

Pray for a youth. Share your thoughts.

Today’s Scripture

But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.

Hebrews 11:16, NRSV

This Week: pray for someone feeling hopeless. Submit your prayer to The Upper Room Living Prayer Center or share it in the comment section below.

Did You Know?

Happy 75th anniversary, El Aposento Alto!
This year, the Spanish language edition of El Aposento Alto celebrates its 75th anniversary. Congratulate the editors and the community in the comment section on the web: http://elaposentoalto.upperroom.org/es.

Saints, Inc.:

This week we remember:
(August 8).

Lectionary Readings

(Courtesy of Vanderbilt Divinity Library)

Sponsored by Upper Room Ministries ®. Copyright © 2013, a ministry of GBOD | PO Box 340004 | Nashville, TN 37203-0004 | USA


{ 3 comments… add one }

  • robert moeller August 9, 2013, 2:25 am

    Very sadly this narrative about youth groups and the church is quite true. If the young people lost in this process are to return to church, a lot of work needs to be done. My own children fall in this category, now in their 30s, they reject religion, don’t believe in God, and have no spiritual life. My hope and prayer is that this situation will change. Nudges on my part have not worked. Even the suggestion that my grand-daughter be baptized was turned aside. God sustains me. I keep going because of God. I want this for my children as well. Know I may not see it happen but also know I have placed this situation in God’s hands.

    Lord, thank you for hope for both Erich and Anneliese. Erich has the financial aid he needs to continue his studies and Anneliese received the pain management treatment she needs. Thank you too for a good day with Brandon who just turned 12. I pray for those who feel hopeless, may they come to know You and have a relationship with You for with You hope is eternal. In Your name I pray, Amen.

  • Jill August 9, 2013, 5:43 am

    Father – I pray for my great niece, great nephew and my two god children. Thank You for the news a few weeks ago that my great niece invited Jesus into her heart. I pray for both her mom and her dad – that they would foster this relationship and model Christ-likeness in the home for her. Both sides of her family are Christians. Thank You for piercing her heart.

    Thank You for the work that has been done in the home of my two god children. Thank You for getting their mom a new job – one that will free up more time for her in the home. Somehow reach their dad – that he would lead as the man of the house. He did not have that example – and likely does not know how.

    Father – I praise You for Your faithfulness.

  • Nancylee August 9, 2013, 10:36 am

    A painfully true observation that also applies to both my sons. It is the heartbreak of my life to watch them leave behind the heritage of faith that has been theirs for generations in our family on both sides to flounder in the world, lonely for the God that loves them. As a pastor, it is doubly hard, not only to watch my own but to see others do the same. I rejoice in every small step forward when a young person in the church takes ownership of faith and connection with God’s people.
    Loving God, send forth your Spirit, that these, and all we who are your prodigals, may be renewed in your grace and love. Amen

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