I don’t know about any of you, but I’m starting to notice a trend in Youth Ministry blogs that is a reflection of what I believe to be a larger problem in Youth Ministry.  Be forewarned, if you choose to continue reading you will be reading a rant.  It’s going to get a little soap boxy from here on out, but I need to vent my frustration.

A recurring topic in Youth Ministry blogs, but something that has been discussed and validated in several Youth Ministry circles for as long as I can remember being involved in Youth Ministry (as a teen and as a Youth Leader) is the balance of being culturally relevant and biblically sounds.  I’ve got to say, I feel like there are far too many people making the case for the need to be culturally relevant in Youth Ministry and not enough of us standing up and advocating the primary need to be biblically sound in Youth Ministry.  I get that we want to connect with students and be relevant, but where did the assumption come that the Gospel isn’t relevant?

I wonder what Youth Ministry might look like and how effective a tool it might be within our churches if we all focused on sound biblical teaching, proclaiming the Gospel at every opportunity, walking our teenagers through systematic theology, and building relationships and community with them that were solely rooted in God.  I’m thankful that there are Youth Leaders out there that are wired this way, but it pains me to think that there are teens who are out there that are walking away from a Youth Group experience that spends more time, energy, effort, and resources on being culturally relevant that biblically sound.  I’m all for a balanced approach, but if we take biblically sound to an extreme we can still have effective ministries  (I just believe the Gospel is that powerful – call me nuts!) but if we take culturally relevant to an extreme we may not.  But we talk about it like it’s where we’re lacking. I feel like when we place too much emphasis on being culturally relevant our thought process is rooted in the idea that the Gospel isn’t enough, so we need to make it more attractive.

I don’t want to read another blog post that gives me 5 steps to being culturally relevant.  And for the cynics out there…I stop reading them when I realize what I’ve gotten myself into. I would love to see any army of Youth Leaders who are raising up teens in the Bible and not in entertainment.  Can we respect the calling that we have in our lives to minister to these teenagers and bring them closer to God and appreciate the fact that God hasn’t called us to be Event Directors or Production Coordinators?  Can we start putting our faith in God and His Word to attract students to Him?

Am I alone in my thinking?  Or are there other Youth Leaders out there who are becoming discontent with the state of Youth Ministry and the way we approach it?  If I’m crazy and out of my mind…tell me like it is.  But I refuse to believe that extra efforts put into being culturally relevant vs. biblically sound will help us be any more effective in ministering to teens that putting those same resources into simply being biblically sound.

What say you?

11 thoughts on “Frustrating YM blog trend

  1. This is an interesting observation. But for you what is the difference between being culturally relevant and biblically sound?

    I think it is a both-and not an either-or. I think relevance is using what is cultural to say what is timeless. I don’t think we mess with the core biblical truths but we can mess with how it is delivered.

    At least for me…… ministering in an unchurch culture context: how you say what you say is just as important as what you say.

    Also being culturally immersed in the exact same thing as being an incarnation witness (John 1).

    bottom line youth workers just cannot be culturally clumsy. Paul and Jesus were highly culturally sensitive to their audience which is why I am an advocate for what youth leaders need to do the same.

    This also raise the need for contextualization……….

    Any way…….Good thoughts. It gots me thinking……

  2. The only ‘relevance’ a student absolutely must have is love from a concerned, connected adult. Being ‘culturally aware’ might get buy-in from a student more quickly, but connection to a caring adult is what holds them – and by default, earns the opportunity to share (and live) a life-changing Gospel.

    That’s why, in my humble but accurate opinion, grandmas and geeks and jocks and college students and parents and pastors all have the same opportunity to be ‘relevant’ to students.

    Good word, Jason!

  3. I am with you Jason!~ It is about balance and I’m ok with fun! But I am concerned about the time we spend on relevancy overtaking the time alone I have WITH God and WITH students. It’s the WORD that is living & active and thru the Holy Spirit can transform, not me! And Darren you are totally on dude (trying to be relevant) when you say we need all types influencing for the kingdom!~
    Hitting the like button,. not because it’s relevant, but because it’s true!

  4. Read this last week: ‎”Our business is to present the Christian faith clothed in modern terms, not to propagate modern thought clothed in Christian terms… Confusion here is fatal.” -J.I. Packer

    Spot on, Jason!

    • I love this quote! One of my favorite New Testament theologians, NT Wright says: “For too long we have read Scripture with nineteenth-century eyes and sixteenth-century questions. It’s time to get back to reading with first-century eyes and twenty-first-century questions.”

      I agree with everything Jason said in this post. Youth ministry doesn’t need cool environments and trendy youth pastors to attract the kids. I get that. I think being cultural relevant and engaging culture are two different conversations.

      I am just confronted with how do we engage a teen who doesn’t see the Bible as authority which is why engaging culture is so huge.

  5. Agreed.

    This fall is a wild ride in our Student Ministry. Our students are learning Systematic Theology and Church/Baptist History. I introduced the series by making the statement – ” You have spent time in the Kiddee Pool, you learned to hold your breath underwater, tread, kick your legs, etc. I hope you enjoyed it. This fall is a jump off the High Dive into the deep end.” The majority of the students responded – “Bring it on!!!”

    Love it!

  6. Jay, I feel your frustration. I am frustrated that many ministries may have biblical teaching but are not Christ-centered. There is hope, and I believe a new generation of world-changing believers are rising up.

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