If I were the Devil…

This was quoted in the sermon last Sunday evening.  “If I were the devil” by Paul Harvey.

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If I were the Devil, 

I would want to engulf the whole world in darkness. And I would have one-third of the real estate and four-fifths of the population , but I wouldn’t be happy until I had the ripest apple on the tree. So I’d set about, however necessary, to take over the United States. 

I’d subvert the churches first; I’d begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: “Do as you please.” 

To the youth I would whisper, “The Bible is a myth.” 

I would convince them that man made God instead of the other way around. 

I would confide that what’s bad is good and what’s good is “square.” 

In the ears of the young married I would whisper that work is debasing, that cocktail parties are good for you. 

And to the old I would teach to pray after me: “Our Father, who art in Washington…” 

And then I’d get organized; I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting, so that everything else would appear dull and uninteresting. 

I’d threaten television with dirtier movies and vice versa. 

I’d peddle narcotics to whom I could; I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction; I’d tranquilize the rest with pills. 

If I were the Devil I’d soon have families at war with themselves, churches at war with themselves, and nations at war with themselves; until each in its turn was consumed. And with promises of higher ratings I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flames. 

If I were the Devil I’d encourage schools to refine young intellects but neglect to discipline emotions: let those run wild. Before you know it, you’d have to have drug-sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every school house door. Within a decade I’d have prisons overflowing. 

With flattery and promises of power I would get the courts to do what I construe as against God and in favour of pornography. 

I’d designate an atheist to front for me before the highest courts and I’d get the preachers to say, “She’s right.” Thus, I could evict God from the courthouse, then from the schoolhouse, and then from the Houses of Congress. 

And in His own churches I would substitute psychology for religion and deify science. I would lure priests and pastors into misusing boys, girls, and church money. 

If I were the Devil I would make the symbol of Easter an egg and the symbol of Christmas a bottle. 

If I were the Devil I’d take from those who have and give it to those who want it, until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. 

What’ll you bet that I couldn’t get whole States to promote gambling as the way to get rich? 

I would caution against extremes: in hard work, in patriotism, and in moral conduct. 

I would convince the youth that marriage is old-fashioned, but swinging is more fun; that what you see on television is the way to be; and thus I could undress you in public and I could lure you into bed where there are diseases for which there is no cure. 

Then I would separate families, putting children in uniform, women in coal mines and objectors in slave-labour camps. 

In other words, if I were the Devil, I’d just keep doing what he’s doing.

What is Family-Based Youth Ministry?

I have enjoyed reading Family-Based Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries.  Before writing one of my book recommendations I am posting a three part summary of the book.  The first part HERE dealt with the need for family-based youth ministry.  The second part below deals with what family-based youth ministry actually is which is covered in the second half of the book, chapters 7 to 12.

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What is Family-Based Youth Ministry? 

Chapter 7: It only makes sense The Vision of Family-Based Youth Ministry

Researchers have discovered that young people who grew up in church attending the worship service and not Sunday School were much more likely to be involved in church as an adult than those young people who had attended only Sunday School without attending the worship service. 

The real power for faith formation is not in the youth programme but in the family and the extend family of the church.  Family-Based youth ministry recognises this, and these two things a priority. 

Priority 1: Empower Parents 

By supporting them and equip them to pass on their faith to their teenagers as effectively as possible. 

Priority 2: Equip the extended family of the church 

By providing the teenagers with extended Christian family, which is done by allowing them to experience the extended family of the church community.  This is especially beneficial for those who don’t come from Christian homes. 

These two principles can be implemented with any model of youth ministry.  Churches need to be intentional in choosing its youth ministry model and then undergirding it with family-based programming. 

The primary goal of family-based youth ministry is to equip young people to grow toward mature Christian adulthood. 

Chapter 8: Beyond the Cleaves The Challenge and Opportunity of Ministry to Nontraditional Families 

What every teenager needs in order to growing in Christ (faith nurturing family and extended faith nurturing family) is especially true for those from non-traditional families. 

There are many types of non-traditional families: Divorce, single parent, blended families and stepparents, with chemical dependency, with aging grandparents, in financial crisis, with both parents working. 

We are unlikely to be able to reach all these families and their needs specifically, but we can provide a consistent personal ministry to each teenager.  The extended family of the church can support for these families. 

Chapter 9: Walking the Tightrope Family-Based Youth Ministry and the Developmental Need for Independence 

There are two needs with regards to faith formation that teenagers have: 

Need for continuity – faith community to be involved in, a ‘family friendly’ youth ministry. 

Need for individuation – helping young people establish their own faith identities. 

Family-Based youth ministry is not about abandoning traditional forms of youth programming (which deals with the need for individuation) as much as it is about building the foundation of solid connections with mature Christian adults (which deals with the need for continuity). 

Chapter 10: A Different Gospel Youth Culture comes to Church 

Three of the dominant characteristics of our culture are in opposition to the Christian gospel.

1) Individualism – Christian discipleship happens in the context of Christian community.  Although we do want our teenagers to become independent in Christ, that is they stand on their own faith.  

2) Consumerism – Christian discipleship is not about seeking pleasure and avoiding pain and boredom.  Discipline is a key component.  If you build your youth ministry upon an entertainment model, the young people will be consumers and will move on when they get bored of it.  

3) Demand for success – Christian discipleship is not about treating God as the most efficient means to success in life.  It’s about learning to trust God during times of failure and suffering as well as times when everything is going well. 

Chapter 11: God Calling Thinking Theologically about Youth Ministry 

When dependence on God’s grace is excluded from our thinking we end up trusting in human strategies.  All our systems are not enough to lead us to repentance and faith.  We can only support teenagers in the growth that only God can bring.  This means the best we can do is to work with God’s design for faith formation. 

God’s first provision is the family (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).  Sunday School and youth group is not a substitute for the spiritual training in the home.  The Sunday School movement began originally as outreach to unchurched poor children.  

God’s second provision is the Christian community.  God wants people connected to the community of faith.  Ideally every young person who makes a commitment to Christ should be eager to become part of a specific church.  The parent’s commitment to the community of faith should also hold them accountable for their faithfulness in the home. 

The Christian family is a tool for building faith and character in God’s children, but the family is not God and without His work will not be able bring any growth. 

Chapter 12: Making it work Implementing a Family-Based Youth ministry 

There are two main approaches to family-based youth ministry. 

1) Family ministry model – this aims to empower families and support the ministry that rightly belongs to families.  So churches employ a ‘families pastor’ whose role is to empower and equip parents to nurture their children in the Christian faith.  Programmes under this model might include divorce recovery, marriage enrichment, and parenting seminars.  One problem will always be the parents who do not and will not take the initiative of doing Christian nurture in the home. 

2) Youth ministry model – this aims to help young people come to maturity in Christ by accessing their family and the extending family of the church.  

There are two types of family-based programming. 

1) Uniquely family based events – such as parent/youth Sunday School classes, retreats. 

2) Exfamized events – taking a programme already in place and infusing it with parents and extended Christian family of adults.  If an event worked with your young people, try it with young people and parents together.

The Need for Family-Based Youth Ministry

I have enjoyed reading Family-Based Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries.  Before writing one of my book recommendations I will post a three part summary of the book.  The first part below deals with what I’m calling the need for family-based youth ministry which covers the first 6 chapters of the book.

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The Need for Family-Based Youth Ministry 

Chapter 1: Something’s Wrong The Crisis in Traditional Youth Ministry

There is a crisis in youth ministry today.  The crisis is not getting teenagers to come to our youth meetings but rather that we have not been effective in leading our young people to mature Christian adulthood.  More teenagers are participating in our programs but they are not growing up into adults who participate in church.

One of the dangers in youth ministry is that youth workers and churches evaluate their success or failure by the wrong numbers.  They spend huge amounts of effect and energy getting more teenagers to participate while ignoring most of the ones that God has already given them.

Chapter 2: Is Anybody Out There? The Growth of Teenage Isolation

The main cause of this current crisis is the way that our culture and our churches have systematically isolated young people from the very relationships that are most likely to lead them to maturity.  Young people grow in maturity generally, and maturity in Christ particularly, by being around those who exhibit such maturity themselves.

9 cultural shifts have taken place which has increasingly separated children and young people from the world of adults (taken from Urie Bronfenbrenner). 

  1. Father’s vocational choices that remove them from the home for lengthy periods of time.
  2. An increase in the number of working mothers.
  3. A critical escalation in the divorce rate.
  4. A rapid increase in single-parent families.
  5. A steady decline in the extended family.
  6. The evolution of the physical environment of the home (family rooms, playrooms and master bedrooms).
  7. The replacement of adults by the peer group.
  8. The isolation of children from the work world.
  9. The insulation of schools from the rest of society.

There are now today, less opportunities for children and young people to be with adults in the neighbourhood, schools, social activities, families and church.  Hanging out with friends or partying in an adult-free home has become the norm for the teenager’s social life.

Church is possibly where youth are segregated the most from the world of adults.  Youth programmes keep them separate from the rest of the church.  Even when adults and young people do worship together, they sit in peer groups – adults with adults, youth with youth etc.

Chapter 3: The Developmental Disaster The Impact of Teenage Isolation

There are a number of things this isolation of teenagers from adults brings:

1) Teenagers won’t learn the skill required of mature adults.  Maturation occurs as less mature have repeated opportunities to observe, dialogue, and collaborate with the more mature.  This does not happen in a peer centred Sunday School class. 

Youth culture keeps young people in youth rather than moving them towards adulthood.  Young people who sit together in church tend to act like children.  Young people who sit with parents, or who are divided amongst the rest of the congregation imitate the behaviour of the adults they are with.

2) The media now plays a more powerful role in the formation of teenagers values .

3) Teenagers are severely limited in their ability to think critically, leaving them easily swayed by what feels right at the moment.

4) Peer influence correlates closely with the rise in rebellion, resistance, chemical abuse, and promiscuity. 

Chapter 4: Sitting on a Gold Mine The Power of the Nuclear Family

What happens in the youth group has miniscule impact compared to what children learn on a day to day basis as they do the everyday things of life in and with their families.  The best long term youth leaders are parents themselves because they ultimately have the greatest interests in their kids.

Research has found a number of things to support this: It’s found that parents remain the single most important influence in the development of a teenager’s personality.  It’s found that parents who talk about faith and invite their children in serving alongside them can double and sometimes triple their children’s chances of living out their faith as adults.

This shows how important it is to equip fathers and mothers to play a more active role in the religious education of their children.  Parents play a role second only to the Holy Spirit in building the spiritual foundation of their children’s lives.

However, it’s also important to remember that the parent’s power to build up is matched by their power to cause harm.

Chapter 5: The Critical Care Unit The Peculiar Crisis in Today’s Christian Family

There are some barriers to involving more parents in youth ministry.

Here are three of the biggest:

1) Parents are not mature Christian adults themselves.

2) Parents are feeling helpless when it comes to providing for the Christian nurture of their own children.

3) Parents are victims of their own schedule – they are too busy.

Chapter 6: Stacking the Stands The Power of the Extended Christian Family

Every teenager needs an extended family of Christian adults – adults who can be a part of the cloud of witnesses that cheers them on.  Church is where teenagers are exposed to these adults.  An extended Christian family is a community of believers who affirm and encourage growth toward Christian maturity.  Only church and family can provide Christian nurture from birth to old age – even death.

The extended Christian family can be equally as powerful in faith formation as parents, especially for those who come from non-Christian homes.  Research has found that when person reaches mature Christian adulthood they often will point to the influence of a godly parent or Christian adult who modelled what being an adult Christian was all about.  It’s important that teenagers are give opportunities to build connections with Christian adults.

When the church and family abandon their role of helping young people navigate passage to adulthood, the teenager becomes more susceptible to influence of friends, music and media.

Often it is the stronger youth programmes that weaken the chances that young people will remain in the church, because participation in the youth programme takes the place of participation in the church.

Four types of events to reach non-Christians

I like what Richard Perkins has done in his post on evangelistic events.  He has helpfully highlighted what the four main types of events that churches run to reach non-Christians are, and given two reasons why churches have a range of events in the first place.  Read the full post HERE.

Four types of events that a church can run:

1. Non gospel event – playing Frisbee in the park.

2. Cultural event – such as a quiz night with a short talk.

3. Apologetics event – where someone gives a talk to address a specific topic or objection to the Christian faith, like “Where’s God when bad things happen?”

4. Gospel event – an event at which a clear explanation of the implications of the death and resurrection of Christ takes place, with a call to repentance and faith.

Two reasons why churches put on a range of events:

a) They’re a concession to a lack of maturity as a church.

b) They’re a concession to a lack of interest in the world.