The Choice Between Entertaining and Training

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51I often talk about the need to “reform” our approach to youth ministry in light of the astonishing statistics related to young people leaving the Christian faith. While I tend to focus on the direction I would prefer to take, I seldom spend much time critiquing the alternative strategies that other youth leaders embrace in an effort to keep their young congregation. Nick Peters, however, has done a nice job summing up the problem in his piece, “Entertaining Our Youth To Apostasy”. Nick asks an important rhetorical question. If the candy throwing, pizza party, entertainment first approach taken by so many in youth ministry is so darned great, why don’t we apply it to adult services as well?

“Instead of having a sermon, let’s have a comedy show done regularly instead. Adults like to watch Sitcoms after all. Let’s give them a new episode every week. We can make videos of them and let new members to the church see what they missed in past seasons. Or, we can just find the music the older people in the church will enjoy and put on concerts regularly. We can bring in the greatest names in Contemporary Christian Music. The great entertainment will make sure the adults still keep coming to church. If that doesn’t work, we can always make sure that every church service has a grand meal to go with it and have everyone bring whatever they like to it. Surely if we keep entertaining the people in the church, then they will grow into strong and battle-hardy Christians who are ready to go and win the world for Christ.

Or maybe not.

They might be laughing and enjoying themselves, but when they’re out in the battlefield, what are they going to be able to do. They cannot just laugh and expect the threat to go away. That is a great way to shield oneself, but it will not defeat the opposition.”

Great point Nick. I would even take it a step further.Entertainment is certainly not enough, but I’m here to tell you that I don’t think teaching is enough either. It’s time to move beyond all that and shift from entertaining, to teaching to TRAINING. I’ve described the difference in a recent post, but until we are ready to commit to the battle in front of us by addressing our ministry CALENDARS, we will continue to fall short of our responsibilities as youth pastors. It was my role as a youth pastor that first started me thinking about how I could contribute to the cause of young Christians. I wrote Cold Case Christianity in an effort to provide young Christians with a resource they can use to (1) develop certainty about the claims of Christianity and (2) communicate the truth to others.

For more information about strategies to help you teach Christian worldview to the next generation, please read So the Next Generation Will Know: Training Young Christians in a Challenging World. This book teaches parents, youth pastors and Christian educators practical, accessible strategies and principles they can employ to teach the youngest Christians the truth of Christianity. The book is accompanied by an eight-session So the Next Generation Will Know DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.

J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, author of Cold-Case ChristianityGod’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids.

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