What really works me up is when the institutions that provide all these activities are so focused on themselves, they don’t have the time, energy or focus to give students what they really need.
And youth groups aren’t immune to this institutional selfishness.
Here’s how Chap describes the process:
- Adults have come to believe that supplying endless activities (like soccer, dance, summer camps and even youth group) and driving their kids to said activities is all it takes to love and nurture their children.
- Youth organizations and institutions themselves are no longer concerned with developing and supporting young people, but rather their own survival and growth. For example, youth tee ball coaches aren’t under pressure from parents to help their kids develop character. Rather, they face tremendous pressure to create a winning team.
- Because institutions are focused on their own self-protection and self-promotion, youth learn “they are only as valuable as their ability to contribute.” It is also “increasingly difficult for even the best teacher, coach, or youth worker to ‘waste’ the time it takes to walk alongside an individual adolescent.” (p. 47)
The same can be true for youth pastors. When we are so focused on planning this week’s meeting and fundraising for this year’s camp that we don’t have anything left to build solid relationships with students, something is not lined up right.
Many youth pastors also face tremendous pressure (from parents and even senior pastors) to do all the things that keep them from spending time with students. That is a tough place to be. Do you face that type of pressure?
What happens when a youth group is focused on making the youth group bigger? Students feel used. They’re herded as leaders try to “mass produce” discipleship. With no place left to turn (parents don’t give the love they need and now the church isn’t available for the relationships and support they long for), drugs, alcohol, and a godless lifestyle is the next place they look to fill the gaping hole in their heart.
Have you seen this happen? How have “self-centered institutions” impacted the students you know?
This post is part of a series I’m writing as I read the book, Hurt: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers by Chap Clark. You can view the entire series here.