My friend Shawn Harrison and I have been tackling what we see as the “Elephants In The Youth Room.” We had planned on only really putting out four posts on the issue, however, we have been surprised at the traction they have gained. Especially with the conversations from, “The Great Game Debate,” I thought there was one more topic I needed to address.
Last week I had an interesting conversation with my 14-year-old daughter. I asked her, “If you were to set up programming for a youth group, what would it look like?”
She said she would nix games, although she might have an opening activity or object lesson to draw everyone in. There would be a “worship time,” followed by preaching, and then small groups.
Then I asked her why she would set it up like this. “Well you know I love to connect to God through singing, so that’s why I would have an opening worship time. I also think it helps quiet our hearts.” She went on, “For us introverts, preaching is a good thing. We can listen and learn. We don’t really have to interact with anyone. Then small groups is where we get to ask questions and really go deep.”
Then she sat and thought for a second. (I thought we were going to change topics.) “You know now that I think about it, the worship time really depends on whether or not there is a decent worship team that works. If it’s just some guy with a guitar who can’t sing, then that’s just distracting and awkward.”
We dove into this for a few moments. She has tried a number of youth programs in addition to the ones I run. It gives her a chance to experience a setting beyond where her parents are the leaders and gives her the chance to “just go to youth group.”
As she thought about the different places she has tried, attended at the invite of a friend or even participated in she noted something,“It’s like there is a formula for how you do youth group, and you know it doesn’t seem to work for everyone.” There were people who weren’t great at preaching, and it lost her attention. Perhaps, that’s just a personality issue.
However, she had attended a couple of groups where the “worship time” was just plain painful. She posed the question, “If it doesn’t work for a group, Do we have to sing?” One guy sang alone and was always off key. In another group, they played musical tracks and that felt weird to her.
So here it is. Does there HAVE to be the “youth group” that includes a guitar and singing if you don’t have the capacity? I think if you have a student run worship band or a leader who enjoys to offer this, it might be different. However, who decided that singing is what makes for great youth programming?
I think some students love it and others hate it. In my own home, my boy would love it if there were only small groups and that’s it. Is it a way to include different types of kids, or do we offer it because “that’s what you do?”
Does it exclude our “unchurched” students as they have no clue what the song is or how to follow along, especially if there isn’t even a PowerPoint?
Could there be “seasons” in your ministry when you have no one to lead that you get rid of this time?
We call it “worship,” however, I think we all know that isn’t always what it is. Worship goes far beyond a time that includes music. If no one is actually “worshiping” during this time could/should you nix it?
Did you get rid of this time already? If yes, what do you do?
I think my daughter’s question is a valid one, “If it isn’t working, Do we have to sing?” A better question might be, “Do we have to follow the youth group formula at all?”
What do you think?