When we attended our local homeschool conference, I gleaned some wisdom from the speakers, as well as some concerns. They are a family with 14 children (some grown), so how could I NOT learn something? My daughter and her friend, however, had some serious issues with some of what the speaker said. I had some heavy-duty Mom time to do in the car on the way home from the conference, because I had two VERY UPSET teenage girls.
What I tried to get across to P and her friend was that we don’t have to agree with everything someone says, just because they are Christians. I approach conferences and things with the mind that I will glean what I can, and if it is good information I can use, then I will use it. If I cannot use it, no harm done. It’s too bad that teens don’t filter like that, though. They hear a Christian say this-is-how-things-are/should-be and they think he is condemning everyone who disagrees with him. Maybe he is, but that doesn’t mean we have to take what someone we have never met before said and take it so personally! It’s that adult thought filter that hasn’t kicked in yet. Let me tell you, it was not a fun conversation!
P’s friend is a baby Christian, who would have never have set foot in the church if it hadn’t been for the outreach of kids in our youth group. The speakers believed youth groups are terrible. I agree that segregating age groups isn’t the natural way of doing things, but it serves a valuable purpose. Our students aren’t segregated all the time. They have a Sunday school class during one service, and they attend the main worship service with the congregation during the other one.
Our students are all over the church, serving and being ministered to in many capacities. They also have their own Wednesday night youth service. If our youth group shut down, we would lose 60% of the students right then. These are kids with no church background, whose parents aren’t believers, and the only time they hear the Word is on Wednesday nights. Many of them have yet to accept Jesus as their Savior. P’s friend S was VERY upset about what he said on this subject. She loves Jesus and she makes it a point now, to come to church on Sundays as well. But she wouldn’t even be there if it weren’t for the youth group, and the open door and loving fellowship she found there. It was the youth service that got her plugged into the church, and from there, into the main services.
I know that youth groups are a hot button issue, particularly among homeschoolers. I am a youth group Momma. I am present on Sundays during Sunday school and Wednesdays during youth group. I am watchful that what the youth pastor speaks about is appropriate for my kids. We had a very young YP who was NOT appropriate, and when he refused to listen to the men who were supposed to be his advisors and accountability, we parents stepped in, went to the senior pastor, and had him removed. We have some very involved parents in our youth ministry.
There are no perfect churches, and there are no perfect youth ministries. They are all made up of PEOPLE, who by our very nature are fallible. That doesn’t mean that youth groups are bad. It just means that parents need to be fully involved.