Monday, March 21, 2005

Wasted Potential

With the tremendous energy and mind-power of youth, it is a tragedy that so much of it is wasted in church youth groups.

My first experience with a youth group was when I was in my early 20's and was invited to attend a youth group party. I was never at ease the entire evening with some of the things that went on in this group. The first thing they did is play a ridiculous game which involved getting the arms and legs of each person all tangled up with other people, until we all together looked like a giant octopus. I trusted the young minister who had organized this youth group and was sure he was about to use it as an illustration in an important spiritual concept! The game seemed more like something small children would do without trying, while struggling to reach for their own toys.

After this the group sat around and contributed complaint stories about all their problems, and in particular, their parents. The leader supposed that attending this group more often would help keep the young people in the church. I can't remember every detail of what went on, but I never attended another youth group after that one time. I just couldn't see what the purpose was. They did not study the Bible, and they did not talk about spiritual concepts, nor did they discuss useful things to do for the church or for others.

I consequently did not involve my own children in youth groups. Occasionally they were sometimes introduced to such things, through various circumstances, but I never saw that it enhanced their spirituality in any way, nor did it increase their Christian maturity. Exposure to the youth group was more likely to give my children unexplainable frustration than it was to ennoble them and give them the tools for mature living or the hope of a bright future.

I remember once a minister asked if I would take a turn hosting the youth group meeting in my home. I gladly accepted, thinking "Hmm. Meeting at the home with the family present, is a good thing!" I didn't know that I would be prompted by him to leave the room, along with the siblings of my teenage son. What was the great secret that necessitated the absence of the parents in this group? I asked about it and was informed that kids wouldn't "open up" with their problems when the parents were present. Being a homeschooler, our family was very close and loved to discuss many concepts and principles together. I was very saddenned that the youth group separated the young people from the parents, the very ones that would help them and give them wisdom, rather than turning their hearts toward them. In fact, I think that youth ministers, if they were scriptural and necessary, should be someone like Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Sherman, who have experience with youth in raising their own family. We love being around younger people and we don't like being relegated to our own age group.

I am aware that there is a movement away from youth groups, yet there are still some church groups desperately hanging on to the youth group method, insisting that they are necessary.

Anyone can do their own survey and look at the fruits of youth groups. Let us take a look at the girls, for instance:

-Are they good homemakers, able to manage a home?
-Are they helping their parents? Are their own rooms a mess? Some girls have not yet learned the habit of organization, and are out sitting in restaurants, going to movies, or at the bowling alley with the youth group.
-Do these girls learn wise use of time?
-Are they learning to be good wives?
-Can these girls care for a sick person in their home, such as an aged grandparent?
-Can they relieve their mother of the many duties of the home?
-Can they hold an intelligent conversation full of wisdom?
-While participating in the youth activitites, are they able to be different than the world, in the way they dress and act?
-Is their conversation silly?
-What do these girls in youth groups know about what God's plan for them is, as set forth in the Bible? Can they quote any scriptures pertaining to women? (Proverbs 31, or Titus 2, to name a few.)
-Do they know the names and stories of many women in the Bible? (Besides Eve, or Mary?)
_Do the ambitions of the girls in the youth group consist of becoming first and foremost a wives, then a mothers, and keepers of the home?

Now let us have a look at the young men:

- Can you look at the young men in youth groups and honestly see one as a responsible husband and father?
-Are they learning to take strong stands against the world?
-Are they dressing differently than the world?
-Are they going to the same movies as the rest of the world?
-Are they really living up to the full potential that is available to them as young men?
-Do they thoroughly know the books of I and II Timothy? Years ago, someone told my husband to read these books every month, to familiarize himself with the Christian attitudes and examples expected of a young man.
-Are the young men ernestly striving to honor their parents by exhibiting and practicing the Christian values they were taught? Are they keeping company with girls that their parents don't wholeheartedly approve of?

These lists are rather incomplete, but they may help you take a good serious look at whether or not a youth group can accomplish what God wishes for young people. If Christianity is a serious thing, then how can we encourage youth to spend so much of their time with other Christian youth sitting around in each other's houses without older people present, "hanging out" and being silly. As one person recently told me, "They are wading in shallow waters of foolishness, and if they keep on going in that direction, they'll drown." It is true that youth are incredibly frustrated these days, and unfortunately, a lot of it comes from the youth group activities--the very thing that was supposedly designed to help them be "strong in the Lord." God does not need us to develop a special youth group to help the youth. Youth needs wisdom, and wisdom cannot be attained in these groups where they are going to the latest movie, hanging around the apartments of other single people and remaining in their childhood.

Some people have admitted that, yes, homeschool families don't need youth groups, but those whose parents are dysfunctional do. I beg to differ. We should not even make such groups available to them. Those whose parents are dysfunctional can find refuge in other families that want to reach out and are looking for ways to serve. If we cover up dysfunctional families by providing artificial groups for them to function in, we won't see the need to raise up good families who will raise up other good families. Youth groups just cover up a problem rather than solve it.

I have yet to see one single achiever, inventor, strong family man, or a preacher with a thorough knowledge of the word of God, who was nurtured as a teenager in a youth group. I haven't seen good mothers or homemakers come out of the youth groups. I've never heard anyone say that a youth group was what they needed in order to know how to raise their children or how to behave in the body of Christ.

If people insist that youth groups are viable alternatives for youth, then let the youth show their faith by their works: let them take care of the elderly, help their parents, and otherwise be rich in good works. In fact, I have an assignment for your youth group. Give each of them paper and pen and ask them to list as many good works as they can. Then ask them to write down as many scriptures as they can remember. Ask them to write down the ways in which the youth group has helped them be stronger Christians, thoroughly equipped with the knowledge of the Word of God. Then, let's see just how much the youth group has taught them or benefitted them spiritually.

Whenever I see a youth group out on the town, I look with sadness, particularly on the young girls. They are wasting their time and potential. They could be making baby blankets for new mothers. They could be learning skills like knitting, sewing, cooking, care of the home, decorating, clothing design, etc.; things that will equip them for a successful marriage and family. Sitting around with youth groups in cafes and movie theatres is poor preparation for marriage.

Girls, if you are in a youth group because you hope to find a mate, you are wasting your time. Youth groups provide too much familiarity between the boys and the girls for their to be any serious spark of interest between them. They often show up in less than their best appearance, which does not endear the boys to them or vice versa. Hanging around a youth group will not get you nearer the altar.

My advice is to be aloof from this, and to provide socialization within the framework of your parents and family. Invite special ones that you like to your home and let them see the fruits of your labor. Spend your time in worthwhile accomplishments that will help you function as an adult wife and mother. Take over the house and behave as though you really were all grown up. Youth group activities will not provide the training you need nor the fellowship you need to accomplish the high calling of marriage and homemaking.

In reading some of the accounts of young ladies of the past, you'll notice that many of them were able to do adult things while still teenagers. I doubt that the pioneers coming across the Oregon Trail had much time for youth groups. The teenagers of that time were responsible men and women who accepted the roles of men and women gladly. Our modern youth groups fall far short of what young men and women need to accomplish in their distinctly male or female roles as outlined clearly in the Bible.


Lady Lydia Speaks said...

Let us consider the main principle behind what I have written about youth groups. There is nothing wrong with young people enjoying one another's company. The problem is that such company is too often exclusive of the parents and siblings.

It is age-group segregated, rather than integrated according to the family structure. The main problem, however is the lack of authority that these group have with the parents, and the fact that the attitudes and activities, just by the fact that they exclude parents, dishonor them.

No one has held up to me a shining example of someone who is faithful to a youth group, any young lady capable of homeschooling her children, being a full time homemaker, or being able to submit to the authority or her own parents or the parents of the other members.

A young girl may have a boyfriend in that group, but how much does she submit to the authority of the parents? Are the parents even aware of what is going on at these events?

Some people have written to say that their youth group is different, and that the children and parents do things together. I would not call this a youth group as much as it is a family or church Bible study with fellowship.

The youth groups I am talking about usually do not have elders or deacons participating, or any of the parents of the youth. Some of them are not even youth groups, but would be better called "Singles" groups. However, even at that, they don't include elderly singles, or single mothers.

These groups tend to waste a lot of time, and spend unnecessarily, when they could be saving, and at home doing something useful.

Taking this a little further, the very ones who object to youth groups because of the unscripturalness of them (where do we get the Biblical authority to hire a "youth" minister, for example), or because of the unwholesome activities (when these groups are in the public, they watch the same worldly movies, dress in the same worldly fashions, and talk about the same worldly things), will often hotly defend sending their daughters off to colleges. These are just bigger versions of youth groups, in which there is a low student-adult ratio. There might be one teacher for every 30 students, or even less.

Youth need to be around wisdom. The ages were created to interact together, not to be separated. There are plenty of examples and warnings in the Bible about what happens when youth is left on their own. From Sampson's poor choice of a mate, against his family's wishes, to the youngsters that made fun of Elijah's bald head, the examples should make you think seriously about what college is really accomplishing in a girls life.

I have a friend I hope will write an article about how college actually handicaps young women, so that they do not want to be homemakers, wives, and devoted mothers, and cannot cope in the home, nor do they want to stay at home and care for it.

Lady Lydia Speaks said...

It has been suggested by several people that my husband and I attend the youth group in a nearby area, and we have considered it. However, in reading the scriptures, I have discovered that my role does not include attending those things. If I did, I wouldn't have the time to put into homemaking, teaching, and showing hospitality. There is so much to be done in that area. The young ladies of the youth group need to be home doing these things, not out with the boys. As I said before, I've never seen anyone meet an appropriate mate in these groups, even though they do a lot of hugging and have a ot of closeness. Nor have I seen the young men excel in them.

Anonymous said...

I kept our children out of the youth group at our church until this last fall. Because our church is very liberal (and we have no choice in the matter) I didn't have any confidence that anything worthwhile was going on there. But we are isolated. Our daughter has basically been homebound with me for the last few years because we moved to a different town and we have no friends or family. I knew what the other families were about but D wanted to try something new. At least these people said they were the same faith as we. Well, it's basically as you described: lots of dumb games, laughter, silliness, there is a little Bible reading and the group is led by a H and W whose D is in high school.. They've been on some stupid retreats with a lot of popular "Christian" music and jumping around...tee shirts and jeans standard attire. worldly kids doing worldly things with a Christian veneer stretched over top. The girls are all in sports, excel academically, all lined up to go to universities far away from home. All of the mothers have college degrees, work outside the home, sports minded. These are even the same people that aren't part of our church...some men my H is associated with have the same lives and the same type wives and kids. It's unbelievable how trapped we are in this environment...and this is a very small town, one I (ignorantly) thought would have retained some semblence of old fashioned values. But I'll tell you what I blame a lot of this cultural homogenity on: the television. Kids in a small rural mountain town dressing like black urban gangsters. Give me a break!

LadyLydia said...

By the time a pioneer child was 15 or 16, he or she was prepared to start their own home. Youth groups certainly do not prepare children for the serious future ahead!

LadyLydia said...

If your children have been around adults, particularly parents, it is likely they won't like the youth groups anyway. They will see it as not very intelligent or useful and it will bore them. If they have been brought up to seek their full potential, they will want to be doing something else.

Mrs.O said...

I know this is an older post, but I have decided to go back to the beginning and read through the whole blog:)
I have never heard or read our opinion on youth group described so accurately. I could not agree more and have had many parents criticise my husband and myself for not having our children involved with youth groups.
God bless


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