Youth ministry: A “50-year failed experiment.”

Like placing a trampoline next to a spiked fence, sometimes you just have to admit when a bad idea is a bad idea (especially when it’s very harmful to children).

The Christian Post recently reported on a message from Scott T. Brown of the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches ( in which he bravely went where few church leaders will go and criticized the sacred golden calf of youth ministry calling it “indisputably unbiblical.”

Brown gave this speech at the Sufficiency of Scripture Conference in Kentucky earlier this month which also featured Paul Washer, Voddie Baucham, Ken Ham, Doug Phillips, and others. Brown was optimistic though, hoping that “we are now at the end of this 50-year failed experiment.”

Ingrid Schlueter also weighed in on Brown’s lecture in this post when she said the following:

Youth groups that follow the fun and foolishness model of ministry have been an outstanding success—if by success you mean creating at least two generations of biblically illiterate, immature, and conscience-free consumers of American pop culture. As for training up disciplined, mature soldiers of Jesus Christ who possess a comprehensive knowledge of the Scriptures, most evangelical youth groups get an F.

Laodicean parents are concerned that their children will turn out badly. Turning out badly to Christians now means things like doing drugs, getting drunk or holding up the local QuickTrip. In terms of encouraging teens to avoid sex, drugs, booze and armed robbery, youth groups at evangelical churches probably get a few points. But when did avoiding procreation and police contact become the measure of success among Christian youth? Shouldn’t we be aiming a little higher than that? A working knowledge of sound Christian doctrine, knowledge of the Scriptures and the history of Christianity are now considered the arcane specialties of theologians, not tweens and teens.

The real issue is that evangelical parents are too busy servicing their debt providing iPhones and iPods and laptops for their offspring to worry about the biblical training of their children. Fathers are too involved watching the NFL on their large television screens to lead family worship. Mothers are too busy working out to achieve age-defying abs to teach children Scriptures when they rise up and when they lie down. That’s what youth group is for, they think. Except youth groups aren’t doing these things either. Youth pastors, even those well into middle-age, are bent on proving their coolness to the students in their care. They got krunk, see? They like dance-offs and air guitar competitions and having food items lobbed at their heads for entertainment purposes. Biblical training? Catechesis? Ha Ha Ha. Right.

Scott Brown is right. The neglect of biblical training of young people by their own fathers, in their own homes, is seen everywhere. Most frighteningly, we are seeing the increasing acceptance of things God clearly condemns in His Word. Kids today don’t know the Word. That’s why homosexuality is now seen as just another lifestyle option in a growing number of evangelical churches and colleges. Young people don’t know the Word because their fathers have failed them. Next, their “youth leaders” have failed them by perpetuating foolishness and buffoonery in the name of ministry.

Fathers, mothers, take back your roles as the primary disciplers of your children. Stop delegating the job to fools who are leading your children off a cliff spiritually. The times are dark and getting darker all the time, but the evangelicals party on, seemingly oblivious. The enemy is walking boldly into the church and subverting entire congregations with error of every description, not the least of which is an endemic spirit of frivolity and fun at the expense of teaching Biblical truth. But if evangelicals would look up from their revels, they would see the finger of God writing clearly on the walls of their churches.

“You have been tried in the balances and found wanting.”


See related:

– Peanut butter salvation and other stupid church tricks

– Whos’ pastoring the youth pastors?

– The problem with youth ministry today.

– A story of injured clowns and evil chickens.

– Another church sanctuary turned into a stage for a worldly dance exhibition.

9 thoughts on “Youth ministry: A “50-year failed experiment.”

  1. I don’t know how many men I have talked to in churches with big, well-funded “youth departments” that have said the reason they came to this church is only because they have a “great youth program”. The theory is, since their kids were bored and therefore had no interest in their former church with a lesser (or non-existent) youth program, they felt the answer was moving the whole family to a church with the best youth program. Continuing with their reasoning, they felt that doing so would give their kids the best church experience, expose them to God’s word in a “relevant” way to them, and provide good Christian friends for them as well. So they talked to the pastor, liked him and his “philosophy of ministry”, thought it was a safe place, and trusted their kids over to the youth pastor.

    Those churches that understand this reasoning, see that this is how lots of parents think. So the youth department becomes a major draw to family church membership. Therefore they pump tons of bucks into fully outfitted youth facilities with the coolest multimedia, game rooms, paid multiple youth staff, etc.

    The major attractant of course for kids (and adults as well), is entertainment. There is nothing fun about learning how to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus. So let’s do this: let’s focus on fun, and as long as we’re “Christians”, well, at least we’ll provide a good influence on young lives, and they’ll have a fun “Christian experience”. And somewhere during the cool-down time between the extreme sports and gross-out games, we’ll have a short bible-based talk and maybe some prayer time. Maybe. If there’s time. And that’s where the reasoning breaks down. Because nowhere in Scripture do I see fellowship in a church gathering as a place of fun and entertainment as a vehicle to attract to a “Christian experience”.

    Granted, there are true men of God whose desire is to truly minister to youth, relating the truth of God’s word to them. But from what I’ve seen much of that concept gets lost in actual practice when such ministry is attempted in this fun-based environment. Since Christian growth only happens as the spirit is nourished and the flesh is put to death, how is that to happen in a fleshly, worldly environment (despite calling it “church” or “Christian”)?

    Then, of course, there are the horror stories that are all too common in Christian youth groups. I have personally known decent high school girls leave the church for unsaved guys that were invited to youth group, (who apparently only came for the girls they could pick up). A male youth leader was brought before the church for “restorative discipline”, due to having affairs with 10 young women (that he admitted to). The stories go on and on.

    For too many churches, youth ministry is a system that is now firmly in place. It is now an expected program, and if your church doesn’t have an “engaging” youth ministry, well, don’t expect too many families with teen and tween age kids to come.

    Personally, I have seen far greater growth among youth who have been raised in the faith by godly parents and who sat in the general assembly, than those who have been turned over to church youth ministry.


  2. If these words were spoken in my town, the pastors and youth pastors here would run you out on a rail.
    Youth ministry is such a waste. There is no biblical teaching, and much like the article stated, the youth seek the world and not the church. If I had not been spending time with my child in the word for years, I would have lost out.
    Because of God, I’ve taken the time for years to expound on scripture and how it’s applicable for everyday life. My teen-ager asks me every night mom, are we going to have bible time. I take the time no matter how tired I’ am to read and pray with my child.
    Why? Because the youth pastor or pastor is not responsible for my child’s spiritual growth and not responsible for mine either. That’s my job and I believe God will judge me for it. And the youth pastors here are to young and biblical illiterate to teach anybody.
    Wake up parents; in a former youth group that my child was in, kids were having sex, doing drugs, bi-sexual, homosexual, cutting school, stealing any and everything. But these are the kids that were in leadership??? The youth group was just another club where the popular and rich kids ruled. Youth groups need to be dismantled, and quickly.


  3. Scott Brown and the NCFIC movement is a dvisive movement that is focusing on the minors. Youth groups and Sunday School is not the problem with the Church. In fact, the damage that is being done to the church by these so called Reformers is doing damage to the church by splitting churches and causing division, not to mention what their unbiblical partriarchy is doing to families. Sunday School and youth groups are a tool and blaming them for all the problems in the church is silly and shallow. People should examine the unbiblical doctrine that is prevalent in this movement like the patriarchy, reconstructionism, dominionism, etc. This is the real problem with American Christianity to allow false teaching to become the norm.


  4. Dink,

    I appreciate you stopping by. However, I do have a few questions in regards to your comments. Our church was listed with NCFIC and at no time did we find the focus on minors. What we did find was a biblical emphasis on families.

    As for splitting churches, I cannot answer that as I have not seen that occur. Although to be honest, we were not connected with other churches, but were simply a listing on the NCFIC website.

    I fully agree that reconstructionism and dominionism are unbiblical doctrines. I am sure that in every Baptist and Protestant organization there are those who hold to either or both of these. But I am curious as to what you mean by the doctrine of patriarchy. If you are referring to the husband being required to be the head of the home in all things and to be the leader of his children and to being fully responsible for ensuring his children are educated from a Biblical worldview, then you are on shaky ground at best for these are taught in the Scriptures.

    The problem is not with family-integrated churches, but with the fact that parents have abrogated their responsibility to the church and the youth pastors. There is no spiritual interaction between parent and child. Yes, SS and youth groups are just a tool. Or more correctly, I should say they are supposed to be NOTHING more than a tool. However, more times than not, they are not just a tool but actually the building materials used to raise children in church. And the results are very telling!

    I look forward to hearing back from you.

    The Desert Pastor


  5. Desert Pastor,

    See Midwest Christian Outreach – Don Venoit’s article on VisionForum’s pagan version of Patriarchy. Don has covered this issue very well.

    “The problem is not with family-integrated churches, but with the fact that parents have abrogated their responsibility to the church and the youth pastors.”

    Where do you get this from? Says who? VisionForum? How do you know that this is true?

    If someone is not training their childrent in the faith then attending an NCFIC church is not going to fix that problem. In fact, it could make it worse, because now the children will not be taught by a gifted teacher or their parents. This is not a solution to the problem but an exasperation of the problem.

    Ephesians 4:11 – …He gave some to be teachers. In the NCFIC movement the only person who can exercise their gift is their pastor or whoever is allowed to preach. Why would you cut off your hand? God has gifted people with various gifts; teaching is one of them.

    “There is no spiritual interaction between parent and child. Yes, SS and youth groups are just a tool. Or more correctly, I should say they are supposed to be NOTHING more than a tool. However, more times than not, they are not just a tool but actually the building materials used to raise children in church. And the results are very telling!”

    What VFM does is take the worst possible case of a youth group or sunday school and then applies it to all the church. This is illogical and unreasonable. This is the same thing that liberal politicians do. Someone shoots someone with a gun, therefore all guns are bad and no one is responsible enough to use one. Therefore, we will eliminate all guns and there will be no more killings and society will become like our enVisioned utopia.

    Conversely, I could say I know of people who have been saved in Sunday Schools and Youth Groups, therefore they are all good. Do you see how illogical this is?



  6. Dink,

    Thanks for your reply. My responses do not come from Vision Forum. I have been in the ministry for 18 years and have seen the results of purpose-driven drivel, 1-2-3-say-a-prayer-with-me after being emotionally driven to walk the aisle after the congregation sings 17 verses of “Just As I Think I Am”, etc. etc. ad nauseum. Yet the problem is that what you claim works along with “gifted teachers of the young” has produced the spiritual morass that is so prevalent in today’s society.

    The church as a whole has failed because they refused to teach the hard truths of Scripture. They never or rarely demanded consistent accountability from the parents. Now, there are probably more unregenerated individuals in the pews than ever before that think they are on their way to heaven because of some trite little prayer forced on them by a youth leader, youth pastor, and even other leaders of the church.

    Sadly, ministries like Vision Forum, Voddie Baucham, etc. have also seen the truth of where “youth ministries” have brought the church. The truth is that those young people are no longer in church by the hordes. They are not raising their own families in the way of Scripture. Even worse, they are not Christ-like in any part of their deportment but ask them if they are a Christian and they will ALL reply in the affirmative.

    I would much rather have a smaller church that demands accountability (which ironically is biblical) and that teaches the hard things of the Scriptures than to have a thriving youth group that sucks peanut butter off of toes (and other gross things), that encourages ungodly music and lifestyles while consistently demeaning the truth that Christ demands a life of holiness.

    Are there a handful of churches that have “good” youth groups? I am sure there are a few scattered around the country, but I would be willing to state for the record that it is ONLY because the eldership of the church sees the importance of training and discipleship of the family as a whole. Call it what you want. It is the ONLY prescribed method ordained by Scripture. Deuteronomy 6 makes that very clear. Interestingly enough, follow church history and you will find classic examples of how youth were taught until Mr. D.L. Moody rolled through towns with his evangelism crusade train.

    One last thing, in regards to parents abrogating their responsibility. I have pastored on two continents and have rarely ever seen parents in this generation care enough to teach their own children. So, yes, I would say as a whole that parents have done so. If the truth were otherwise, our churches would be full, not closing at the rate they are currently.


  7. It upsets me to read that this is what you think of youth ministry. I have worked with the youth at two different churches since 2004. Under the leadership of three different youth pastors. I am also a mother of two teenagers of my own. We teach our youth. Our youth pastor preaches the Word to them overtime we have a get together. We show our kids love and that someone cares. Your right the parents should be doing these things at home. As do my husband and I do. But what about the kids that don’t have Godly
    parents? If iy wasn’t for the youth groups do you think that all the kids that we get to come to church now would come if there was not one?? No they wouldn’t!!


  8. This whole issue has been very much on my husband’s and my mind lately. We fully agree that parents teaching true, biblical doctrine to their children is exactly what the bible instructs, as opposed to the modern youth group model. I just recently watched the movie, “Divided,” as well as the 45 minute interview with Voddie Baucham that was on the “Divided” website, and I found them both to be very informative.

    However, there was something that troubled me a little bit. I think the sovereignty of God in drawing our children to Christ was really overlooked in both the movie and the interview, and there seemed to be some contradictions, particularly in VB’s interview. Yes, the Bible is clear about the role of parents in training and instructing their children. But it seemed to me that an inordinate amount of responsibility was put on the parents for the SALVATION of the children (or the children “not leaving the church,” as it was put in the movie). But that is not the parents’ burden, and it would be so prideful to think so. I could not save myself, and I certainly cannot save my children. Only Christ can call, convict, and save.

    To say that our children are leaving the church (i.e, not saved) because of failed youth ministry or lack of parental involvement, and that we need to “family integrate” or disciple more at home is to imply (MORE than imply) that our children’s salvation hinges on what we parents do. Don’t get me wrong: I KNOW that it is so very important to do what God commands in regards to teaching our kids, and my husband and I take that calling seriously, but something seems to be off in the attack on youth ministry, as if “Divided” implies a promise that if we do it all right, our kids will be saved, but if we put them in youth group, there is a 70% chance they will go to hell.

    I don’t think I have explained my reservations very well in this comment, and I am sorry for that. I do really appreciate your article, though, as it is an encouragement to continue investing in our relationships with our kids and to disciple them. And please know I am not implying that your post suggests that parents are responsible for their children’s salvation. Just airing some concerns with a certain element of the anti-youth-group crowd. I fully agree with you that Christian parents need to step up and BE parents. I would love to hear your thoughts.


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