Saturday, September 13, 2008

Dangerous Youth Pastors

“We have a WONDERFUL youth pastor,” she told me. She was the mother of two teen-aged kids.

“So, how do you know that?” I asked. I wasn’t just trying to be obnoxious; I really am curious about how people evaluate the people who have so much influence in the lives of their children.

Her response did not surprise me at all. In fact her response is very common but I think it should be quite alarming to responsible, thinking people. She replied, ”My kids love him; they think he’s great.”

When she said that, my mind immediately raced back in time to an event that occurred about 25 years ago. A good friend of mine reported a horrible crisis that had just impacted his church. They had become aware of some illicit activity in their youth department.

It seems that, under the direct authority and leadership of their youth pastor, the group had been regularly using illegal drugs in their weekly youth meetings. According to some, they were just “getting high on Jesus.”

And to make matters worse, the youth pastor had organized a prostitution ring using some of the girls to pay for the drugs. Apparently, the popular youth activities had been going on for several months.

I asked my friend how that could happen for so long without anyone knowing about it. He told me that nobody ever looked in on their activities. The youth pastor was well-liked by all the kids, the group was growing larger and the parents were all happy that their kids were involved in the youth activities.

So, that’s it! The value and effectiveness of his ministry was measured solely on the basis of numerical growth and how much the kids liked him.

Parents have the final responsibility for their children in matters of their church youth activities. And that responsibility is not just to find a place where their children are happy or entertained. The responsibility is for their good, not for their pleasure. I remember many years ago, a situation where several young people had engaged in some behavior that I thought needed to come to the attention of their parents. The youth pastor said to me, “My responsibility is to protect these kids from their parents.”

That was the WRONG ANSWER! The parents have a right to know.

The youth pastor’s role is to “shepherd” the flock that he is responsible for. That’s why they are called “pastors.” They are NOT called to be buddies, activity directors, or cheerleaders. Woe to anyone who causes one of these little ones to stumble.

And the responsibility of the parents and the church is to look over his shoulder and hold him to account. He must be called and held to the same standards and qualifications that a church would place on a senior pastor. And his ministry must be evaluated by the spiritual growth of the young people in his charge; not by how likeable he is or how much much fun they have.

Many people know very little about their youth pastor’s character, doctrine, or scriptural qualifications for pastoral ministry. And, unfortunately, they know even less about his practices. All they know is that he must be a good guy because their children like him.


Daisy said...


I'm wondering what the purpose of youth group is anyway?

I can see benefit in having my teenagers (future ones) work in a group serving others in the community. I have major reservations though about my children "hanging out" at the mall, the local church rec. room, laughing, playing pool, and having inappropriate relationships all under the guise of "youth group".

Really, can't a teenager get plenty out of the main sermon by that point? Why do they need their own spiritual coffee house?

Stan McCullars said...

Some youth "pastors" need a swift kick in the butt.

Ralph M. Petersen- Always Right;Sometimes Wrong! said...


Having raised two daughters and seeing them through the years of youth group venues, I wonder the same thing. It seems that the most prevalent influences in the lives of church kids in youth groups during the most important years are their friends, not their parents, pastors, teachers or the Word of God.

On the same subject, I heard one woman ask, "Why do we see teenagers who were raised in the church turning out to be apathetic, entertainment seeking cynical false converts? Could it be that the modern day version of church is actually dangerous to expose unconverted children to? Is the church message they’re hearing in Sunday School, in Bible School, dangerous and is it actually what’s producing these cynical, entertainment seeking, me-centered kids in our youth groups?

Anonymous said...

There is a book out entitled “I'm Not Your Friend, I'm Your Parent: Helping Your Children Set the Boundaries They Need...and Really Want,” by E.D. Hill. I am not sure of the exact content of the book, but the title gives a pretty good clue. Perhaps someone should write a book for youth pastors, “I’m Not Your Friend, I’m Your Pastor: Helping Young People Understand the Difference Between Fun and Truth.”

The position of youth pastor as we have come to know it is foreign to Scripture. Is the typical youth “ministry” really a ministry, or is it just a way to teach young people that church isn’t important and that they should expect what they want - pizza, doughnuts, volleyball, inappropriate music, etc. - instead of what they need - instruction in the truth?

Chuck Bolton said...

Those of us who sound oppisitional to what we have come to know as Youth Ministry, will be labeled as old fogeys, but here I go anyway. I well remember that in "my day," we were required to meet in the main church building with the adults for opening exercises, then after singing "Onward Christian Soldiers," we were dispatched to age appropriate classes, where we learned memory verses, applied Christianity, and how to get along without hitting each other. Later, when the church bell was rung, we returned to the main service, where we were expected to sit QUIETLY through the service with our family. Only when we proved we were able to comport ourselves, were we allowed to sit with other kids our age. We always occupied the front rows in the evening services, where everyone could see us, and we often drove to Youth Sings after that, where we were simply expected to NOT embarrass our parents. There was never the hint that we needed to be entertained the way our young people are these days. On special occasions, there were "entertaining" activities, but they were always in sync with Christian activities. We would not have considered missing the services whenever the doors of the Church were open. In "MY DAY," we had it pretty good. My grandparents were made to endure all day sessions, preaching', singin,' and eatin' on the grounds. The results of our youth programs today leave a lot to be desired. We're seeing far too few in this generation going into life service that reflects their Christian walk. Many families simply drop out of the system. I've seen "church" kids doing marajuana in the parking lot, running off to do "whatever" because there is no longer any accountibility, and falling in love with the fun and games. Ask a teenager in a modern Youth Group what he learned at the latest meeting, and chances are he will tell you he got three candy bars for winning musical chairs, or bumper pool, or gulping chocolate milk from a gallon jug until we threw up. No, we will be accused of being out of touch, but the direction of our system will produce bitter fruit.