I never played the part of the typical youth pastor very well. I may even have intentionally worked against it at times. I’m terrible at working a crowd. I was so bad at coming up with a catchy name for our group that I stole one. I’m very unenthusiastic about youth group games. Someone once told the powers that be that they thought I should dress a little cooler like the Young Life guy. This, I must admit, stung a little because I think I dress pretty cool.
I sometimes had a reputation for being anti-fun. Hey! I like having fun as much as the next guy. But fun was never my focus. It was never an end in itself and this sometimes caused me problems. Here are some of my thoughts on fun as it relates to youth ministry.
1. There is an appropriate time for fun. I’d put the fun we’ve had in our youth ministries around the country up against any other youth ministry. We’ve skied, snowboarded, swam, ridden waves, shot paintballs, played cards, played basketball, played football, played waffle ball and played softball. I’ve visited Disney World/Land, Six Flags Magic Mountain/Great America, SeaWorld, Wet n Wild, and uncountable California/Florida beaches. These are some of the best memories of my life and they were a blast.
2. The charge, “Our youth ministry is not any fun,” should always be investigated. What kind of fun would your child like to have? I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve put an end to some “fun” activities that had no place in the body of Christ. Fun for this generation of teens knows no bounds. Chubby bunny can’t compete with MTV’s Jack Ass. There are many things students do for fun on weekends that no one in their right mind thinks should be going on among the church gathered.
3. Students who love Jesus expect more than fun when they come to church. These are students who put up with what the world calls fun every day at school. They work to discipline themselves for righteousness by shielding their eyes and ears from the pollution of sin. They are out there living as salt and light in a world that hates the One they follow with their lives. They come to church to be encouraged, admonished and taught the word of God. They are looking for a place where they can pray together, sing together and fellowship together. Those who seek to make their youth ministry fun often do so at the expense of Christian teens.
4. The charge, “Our youth ministry is not any fun,” is often a diversionary tactic. The apostle Paul calls the message of the cross a stumbling block. “Repent and believe” is an offense to anyone who loves their sin. If I dress cool or build a roller coaster in the church parking lot it doesn’t change the offense of the message. The way to get more kids to like a youth ministry is to water down the message. Don’t mention sin. Don’t mention sacrifice. And definitely don’t mention repentance. Combine that with a guy who knows how to work a crowd, some nice looking guys and girls leading a band and an easy going, relaxed atmosphere and you’ll get a crowd that thinks your youth ministry is fun…if that’s what you want.