Is The Tide Turning?

Albert Mohler alerted his readers yesterday of an interesting story in Time Magazine about the turning tide of youth ministry. In the current issue of Time, writer Sonja Steptoe was suggesting that evangelical youth ministry is “trending toward substance and away from what it calls a ‘sugarcoated’ approach.”

Youth ministers have been on a long and frustrating quest of their own over the past two decades or so. Believing that a message wrapped in pop-culture packaging was the way to attract teens to their flocks, pastors watered down the religious content and boosted the entertainment. But in recent years churches have begun offering their young people a style of religious instruction grounded in Bible study and teachings about the doctrines of their denomination. Their conversion has been sparked by the recognition that sugarcoated Christianity, popular in the 1980s and early ’90s, has caused growing numbers of kids to turn away not just from attending youth-fellowship activities but also from practicing their faith at all.

Whose ministries were specifically being looked at? None other than Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Although this is exciting, we need to remember that it may not necessarily be true — but I am leaning towards the understanding that Christian teenagers in this age are moving towards substance, towards a deeper faith in Christ. They are searching for something that has meaning and “meat” instead of entertainment or “baby’s milk.” Many churches and youth groups are not doing a good job of growing young believers to become leaders in the church. Instead, they entertained so much that they lose focus on the main things, the important things, and when it is time to leave they desire to stay in their comfort zones within the youth group. Youth pastors and leaders need to get their young people out of their comfort zones and begin to help them grow spiritually mature — otherwise, they will not stay.

In keeping with the thought of young men and women searching for substance and great teaching, I stumbled across an article by Rebecca Hagelin, writing about Salvo Magazine.

“Salvo is a quarterly publication, and you can subscribe or secure a copy of the autumn 2006 premiere issue, which covers everything from euthanasia to evolution,” she wrote. “The Salvo team presents the moral side of these issues so skillfully that young adults who might normally tune out a stodgy lecture will find themselves absorbed — and beginning to realize there’s another side to these issues — namely, a moral perspective that works. A quick trip to is certain to whet your appetite for more.”

And even more evidences of a changing generation can be seen through Regenerate Our Culture, the Rebelution movement, Teen Pact, Communicators for Christ, NCFCA, and many other organizations. The tide very well may be turning.

8 responses to “Is The Tide Turning?”

  1. David Peyton says:

    All the glory be to God if the tide genuinely is changing!

    Tim, it would seem that you are indicating that entertainment has led to the weakened state and decay of the Christian youth? (Certainly, in South Africa this is the case in mainstream churches). It is interesting that the origin of this entertainment in the church stems from entertainment in the home/social life. Perhaps, as you seem to indicate, this is being, and needs to be seriously looked at.

    For God’s glory!

  2. Tim says:

    That very well may be that the origin stems from the home. Usually much of what we see in our society today begins with an improper understanding of relationships — relationships to God, to wives, to husbands, to fathers, and to mothers. When we ignore the portions of Scripture on that, it is the first step towards theological liberalism and decay in our churches. And some of that decay is from candy-coating the gospel.

    The family is the heart of a civilization, and when it is destroyed, I would daresay that is the root of many problems we see in our nation.

    Yet the bottom line is obviously one thing: sin.

  3. David Peyton says:

    Interesting that you mention that, Tim. The other day, while discussing the concept of biblical manhood with us, our pastor raised a very interesting point (along similar lines to what you have just said):

    In a book by Tedd Tripp that he had read (not sure of the title), he noted that Tripp describes 3 spheres of society which are all underpinned by a very important foundation. The 3 spheres are: civil government, family government and church government. Underpinning them all is self-government.

    Interestingly too, having just been going through Tozer’s “The Knowledge of the Holy”, his final chapter has the following insightful statement:

    “We Christians are the Church and whatever we do is what the Church is doing. The matter, therefore, is for each of us a personal one. Any forward step in the Church must begin with the individual.”

  4. Agent Tim says:

    That’s very true. I believe we all forget, or just can’t wrap our minds around the idea that the individual decisions that we make affect our family, which affects our culture and our churches. It doesn’t really seem real that our mistakes or our success will really and truly change the world around us, but it does in some way. It is the first step towards change, whether that be good or bad.

  5. Detective J says:

    I agree with Mr. Mohler. We as teens are not looking for a watered-down Christianity. Because Christianity has been so watered down in the past, many teens have become muslims. A real faith will attract many faithful disciples.

  6. Kirk says:

    I’m part of a Christian group at the college I go to. Some of the students have mentioned how they really enjoy hymns and songs that are more intellectual rather then emotional. And a lot of them are studying the Scripture and some are getting into theology as well. Although college students are older than teens, I think one could say the apparent trend toward substance is holding true there too.

  7. Palm Boy says:

    I read that article yesterday, in Time. It was a pretty encouraging article, realising that the people/youth want meat, not sugary milk for their teaching, so they have something solid to stand on.
    If they can’t defend their faith amongst friends, then to whom can they defend it?

  8. Detective J says:

    I wrote an article about this on my blog. The article also talks about how to live your faith.

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