Youth pastor Tory Ninja writes about the importance of parents

This was a comment to one of the posts on tithing and the church. I had argued that pastors should only be paid when they produce.

Tory Ninja wrote this:

I’m a youth and children pastor. I include “apologetic” minded material in everything I do. Even when the topic isn’t apologetic I bring out some apologetics (for example, if I am teaching Christ dying for our sins, I spend some time talking about objections to that idea). We are currently going through the Hitchens/Wilson debate documentary.

Sometimes we have good dialogs. We even go out into the community sometimes and do social justice. But the sad thing is is the Christian faith isn’t taking hold. As soon as they graduate, they’re gone. No one reads their Bible. People don’t remember what was talked about 5 hours after class, even if they participated! People are texting all the time, playing games on their phones/ipods, and just aren’t very engaged. Parents buy them the most messed up video games, let them watch the most messed up movies uncritically, and pay for their life sucking WoW [World of Warcraft] accounts. Last week a 9 year old boy, the son of an elder, told me his favourite type of movies were horror movies and he loved Saw.

To be honest, I feel kind of like a failure. I feel a little guilty taking money from the church. I’m giving it my all and trusting the Lord, and that’s what keeps me going, but the youth and children of today just have so many distractions. Also, not to mention the fact that parents do almost nothing to disciple their kids. I can’t do everything!

Anyway, I agree with you. A pastor shouldn’t demand his wages. But the church shouldn’t put him into indentured servanthood. I think a church should pay a pastor enough for him to do his ministry properly without having to worry about putting food on the table and clothes on his children. I’m happy that the church treats me well.

This comment was all over the place. I guess I just wanted to say that the future doesn’t look bright.

I think his point that parents have to work together with the pastors is a good one.

UPDATE: More from Tory Ninja. And I changed the title to make more sense! My fault.

So I thought I would add some more context to this comment.

For starters, I am in Canada. I’m not sure how different the church culture is from Canada to the United State so everything I say may not be representative of what you experience in the States. I am again a little over the place. Also, I apologize if the tone seems negative. There are of course positives in today’s youth and children ministry but that is not the topic of this comment.

Their are two major things that I have noticed a change in over the ten years I have been doing youth ministry. The first is that everyone is connected. When I started doing youth ministry texting wasn’t quite in yet. But now it is like there is a symbiotic relationship between teens and their texting. I have contemplated doing a no texting and gaming policy but I hesitate as it is such big part of their life and also because sometimes the texts are important and I rather them take a text then a phone call. Also, many people have their Bibles on their phones now. I know during sermons I will often check the greek on my iPhone, look up commentaries, and various other things based on what the pastor is preaching. So I know they’re legitimate ways for people to be using their phones.

Usually though, when I see someone doing something on their phone, that is when I will ask them a question about what is being taught at the moment. This strategy has kept texting down to a certain degree since I started doing it but it is still there.

Also, as soon as I am done teaching, or their is a break in teaching, bang! Out comes the video games. PSP, DS, iTouch/iPhone. Of course, these are all jail broken or hacked so they all have 100s of illegal games on them.

No one is ever where they are. They always need to be connected elsewhere. The sad part is is that when they aren’t at church they are never at church if you know what I mean.

The second thing is that parents are even less engaged with their children now then they were ten years ago. The reason for this is technology. Parents haven’t kept up. Kids get away with so much stuff because they know their parents don’t have an inkling of how to keep tabs on them. Even if you put draconian measures on them they still find a way to outsmart the parents. For example, Facebook. I am still surprised at what youth and my youth leaders will put on their Facebook pages. It seems like they forget that I can see them. Even the people who seem most devout and engaged at church will have Facebook profiles of nearly naked women, constant swearing, positions on issues that are noticeably non-Christian, etc. They will create a separate Facebook page for their families and parents and have one for their friends. Parents often aren’t engaged in their children’s life enough to find these “secret” pages.

Youth are also up late at night playing video games, talking online, or texting. Some parents are able to stop these things by removing the computer and cell phones from the room, but not all. One reason youth are barely engaged in church is because they are up till 2-3 on a Saturday night playing Starcraft 2 or Call of Duty.

Now I realize that most of these problems existed before technology. I stayed up late playing games and talking on the phone when I was in high school. Especially Saturday night. But it was more challenging and less “church” people did it. We also had a more reasonable schedule during the week and thus weren’t as dead tired on Sunday. But social media type technology has totally changed the game.

Christianity has always been on the cutting edge of technology and social movement. The codex, equal rights, social justice, the printing press, music, etc. But we have totally lost that edge in this new age. It’s been on the decline for the last century but we have totally lost it now. The way we promote issues aren’t engaging. I’m not talking about numbers. It’s easy to get numbers to a certain degree. Bring live camels with tigers jumping through flaming hoops to your Christmas pageant and you’re likely to get numbers. I’m talking about creating disciples of Jesus Christ that are engaged and want to grow Christ’s kingdom. We just don’t know how to do that yet.

We even do apologetics wrong. I’ve shown kids William Lane Craig debates and they almost always think he loses. They usually think he had better arguments, but they always find what the non-Christian says to be more convincing. Non-Christians know how to engage the audience with the issues that are close to them. While the Kalam cosmological argument may be great, we need to figure out how to present it in a way that engages the heart.

Youth will even acknowledge that what I say or the Bible says is right but they just don’t care. They don’t want to follow it. Not that they don’t want to be Christians or not that they won’t tell others they are Christians, but rather on issues they disagree with they will just not follow it. Oh yes pastor, I know getting totally wasted is wrong but I just don’t think you understand my context. Oh yes pastor, I know piracy is wrong, but I just don’t care.

Anyway, I apologize if this seems overtly negative. Also, not every single youth is like this. There are good apples. There are parents who are discipling their kids. I’m also not saying that I am free from blame here. As a pastor I have a responsibility to disciple those entrusted to me and I have definitely made mistakes in this process. I’m not saying this to shift blame off of me. I’m saying these have been my observations over ten years.

The earliest Christians knew how to engage their culture. No one was really lukewarm about the Christians. Strong emotions, either pro or con, were caused by these Christians. They knew how fight the good fight. I think we are losing that fire. I think apologetics is key, but I think we need a new way of framing the material. What the way is however, I’m not so sure. Maybe someone here can paint some insight or point me to people/books who do!

If anyone else has experiences like this, send them to me. But you have to have a good alias like “Tory Ninja” or “Wintery Knight” or I can’t print it. Kidding.

12 thoughts on “Youth pastor Tory Ninja writes about the importance of parents”

  1. It’s a total group effort. You cannot influence a child’s behavior with 1 hour of church a week and the occasional missions trip. Everyone has to be involved. The kid, his parents, his friends. That’s how it works. I teach Sunday school and run the youth program and I’m always surprised how parents just outsource religious upbringing to the church. Many of them don’t even come themselves, but send their kids. Once the kids are adults or 15 or so parents stop making them come and they “graduate” to the wonderful world of porn and drugs. I can educate kids in theology, apologetics and Christian ethics but I cannot police their behavior when they are not at church or a church program. I understand the responsibility that comes with being paid to run a youth program and I take that seriously and do the best I can but there is a limit to what I can do with kids not being the one who calls the shots on their home lives.

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  2. So I thought I would add some more context to this comment.

    For starters, I am in Canada. I’m not sure how different the church culture is from Canada to the United State so everything I say may not be representative of what you experience in the States. I am again a little over the place. Also, I apologize if the tone seems negative. There are of course positives in today’s youth and children ministry but that is not the topic of this comment.

    Their are two major things that I have noticed a change in over the ten years I have been doing youth ministry. The first is that everyone is connected. When I started doing youth ministry texting wasn’t quite in yet. But now it is like there is a symbiotic relationship between teens and their texting. I have contemplated doing a no texting and gaming policy but I hesitate as it is such big part of their life and also because sometimes the texts are important and I rather them take a text then a phone call. Also, many people have their Bibles on their phones now. I know during sermons I will often check the greek on my iPhone, look up commentaries, and various other things based on what the pastor is preaching. So I know they’re legitimate ways for people to be using their phones.

    Usually though, when I see someone doing something on their phone, that is when I will ask them a question about what is being taught at the moment. This strategy has kept texting down to a certain degree since I started doing it but it is still there.

    Also, as soon as I am done teaching, or their is a break in teaching, bang! Out comes the video games. PSP, DS, iTouch/iPhone. Of course, these are all jail broken or hacked so they all have 100s of illegal games on them.

    No one is ever where they are. They always need to be connected elsewhere. The sad part is is that when they aren’t at church they are never at church if you know what I mean.

    The second thing is that parents are even less engaged with their children now then they were ten years ago. The reason for this is technology. Parents haven’t kept up. Kids get away with so much stuff because they know their parents don’t have an inkling of how to keep tabs on them. Even if you put draconian measures on them they still find a way to outsmart the parents. For example, Facebook. I am still surprised at what youth and my youth leaders will put on their Facebook pages. It seems like they forget that I can see them. Even the people who seem most devout and engaged at church will have Facebook profiles of nearly naked women, constant swearing, positions on issues that are noticeably non-Christian, etc. They will create a separate Facebook page for their families and parents and have one for their friends. Parents often aren’t engaged in their children’s life enough to find these “secret” pages.

    Youth are also up late at night playing video games, talking online, or texting. Some parents are able to stop these things by removing the computer and cell phones from the room, but not all. One reason youth are barely engaged in church is because they are up till 2-3 on a Saturday night playing Starcraft 2 or Call of Duty.

    Now I realize that most of these problems existed before technology. I stayed up late playing games and talking on the phone when I was in high school. Especially Saturday night. But it was more challenging and less “church” people did it. We also had a more reasonable schedule during the week and thus weren’t as dead tired on Sunday. But social media type technology has totally changed the game.

    Christianity has always been on the cutting edge of technology and social movement. The codex, equal rights, social justice, the printing press, music, etc. But we have totally lost that edge in this new age. It’s been on the decline for the last century but we have totally lost it now. The way we promote issues aren’t engaging. I’m not talking about numbers. It’s easy to get numbers to a certain degree. Bring live camels with tigers jumping through flaming hoops to your Christmas pageant and you’re likely to get numbers. I’m talking about creating disciples of Jesus Christ that are engaged and want to grow Christ’s kingdom. We just don’t know how to do that yet.

    We even do apologetics wrong. I’ve shown kids William Lane Craig debates and they almost always think he loses. They usually think he had better arguments, but they always find what the non-Christian says to be more convincing. Non-Christians know how to engage the audience with the issues that are close to them. While the Kalam cosmological argument may be great, we need to figure out how to present it in a way that engages the heart.

    Youth will even acknowledge that what I say or the Bible says is right but they just don’t care. They don’t want to follow it. Not that they don’t want to be Christians or not that they won’t tell others they are Christians, but rather on issues they disagree with they will just not follow it. Oh yes pastor, I know getting totally wasted is wrong but I just don’t think you understand my context. Oh yes pastor, I know piracy is wrong, but I just don’t care.

    Anyway, I apologize if this seems overtly negative. Also, not every single youth is like this. There are good apples. There are parents who are discipling their kids. I’m also not saying that I am free from blame here. As a pastor I have a responsibility to disciple those entrusted to me and I have definitely made mistakes in this process. I’m not saying this to shift blame off of me. I’m saying these have been my observations over ten years.

    The earliest Christians knew how to engage their culture. No one was really lukewarm about the Christians. Strong emotions, either pro or con, were caused by these Christians. They knew how fight the good fight. I think we are losing that fire. I think apologetics is key, but I think we need a new way of framing the material. What the way is however, I’m not so sure. Maybe someone here can paint some insight or point me to people/books who do!

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    1. It’s not just church groups either. Teachers at public schools are struggling with this a well. Tired kids in class who didn’t do their homework and know why they should but just don’t care.

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    1. Thanks for the question Mara! I mean going out into the community and doing acts of justice. Feeding the poor, washing people’s cars, etc.

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  3. “William Lane Craig debates and they almost always think he loses. They usually think he had better arguments, but they always find what the non-Christian says to be more convincing. ”

    Athiests say people should look at reason to find the truth.Yet despite the kids above conceding that Craig has better arguments and logic , they dont get impressed by it.How does that work ? It thus seems the emotional aspects (pain and suffering , religious wars , etc..) that athiest arguments touch open are more effective.Irony ?

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    1. Yes, it’s interesting to note that in debates about God’s existence, people like Hitchens really have no arguments at all, except that if God existed, that would put a damper on their amoral pursuit of fun. That’s the argument for atheism.

      It’s not about truth. It’s that they want to get drunk and have sex, and arguments about universes beginning and being fine-tuned cannot be allowed to trump the drinking and the having sex. It’s basically about wanting to have fun by being immoral. That’s all atheism is.

      Atheist Aldous Huxley explains what atheists believe about morality and why they believe it:

      For myself as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation.The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality.We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.

      I guess one other reason is that they want to be thought of as “smart” by their peers, and professing a relationship with God, and standing up for him, is considered to be damaging to their pride and their careers. They don’t want to have deal with God’s demands on their lives, including the demand to study how to defend him. They take whatever position gets them the most adulation and popularity. And in our day, that means atheism. It’s determining your beliefs based on what your friends will let you get away with. Determining your worldview based on the need to have a feeling of being liked by other people. And the feeling of being able to look down on another group and think you are smarter than they are, without really understanding anything about why they believe what they believe.

      Atheism is just the denial of objective moral duties, and objective relationship-with-God duties.

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  4. I think it starts early. I think kids are so conditioned from a very young age to have their desire for entertainment pandered to (and this includes Sunday Schools), that they have expectations of entertainment that are difficult to combat in the teen years. Everything gets dumbed down for kids. Ever notice how desperately educators (from teachers to kids’ TV) try to be hip that they effectually teach kids nothing? The trend is to act illiterate and make everything 90% entertainment with 10% substance in a desperate bid to be thought “cool” by kids. So instead of teaching kids how to think clearly, the aim is to be thought cool. In competing with marketers, adults employ marketing techniques, which rely on impressions, rather than substance. But this also perpetuates a culture of competitive “coolness” in fighting for their hearts and minds. This makes things an uphill battle when trying to reach them in their teens with more serious material.

    I want to encourage you, Tory Ninja. I like your concern for the lack of spiritual depth in the lives of the youth you work with. I’d be interested to know: have you told these teens how seriously they worry you and how dangerous the stuff is that they’re doing? If so, what was their response?

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  5. Hi Mary. Thanks for the encourgement! Yes, I’ve told the youth how much they worry me. I don’t say it in such a negative context. But I do live in a smallish university town and I constantly remind them of the onslaught on their beliefs they are going experience once they graduate. So I constatnly beesech them to use their critical thinking skills and I try to expose them to the most common and powerful anthetical worldviews to Christianity that I can and giving responses to these worldviews.

    The problem isn’t usually intellecutal though. I’m happy to say that I’ve never had a “fallen” youth of mine say they left for intellectual reasons (that doesn’t mean they haven’t. It just means they haven’t told me that is the reason) Rather, it is always the heart. Often, they get to university and they want to belong so bad that they just stop being Christian. They live in the here and now. They may even say they still believe but in reality their actions say something else. The only thing I can point too is that Jesus Christ has not become a reality in their lives. They haven’t been transformed by the Spirit but rather have been taken in by some sort of moralistic deism that is so often talked about. One they hit univeristy, they don’t like the morals they were brought up with and jump ship.

    I think we need to do a better job in conveying that Christianity isn’t just about morals, though that is certainily an element. Rather, it is a complete worldview and a relationship with our risen saviour. And I am trying and praying everyday for the Lord to teach me how to teach them that awesome truth!

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    1. I am curious if you have meetings with parents about Christian parenting. My daughter takes a lot of heat for “living in a bubble” from kids at her “Christian” school and at our church. I for one would like to scream from the pulpit at the other parents that if MTV and other filth aren’t blocked (forever) on their TVs (among other things) how can they claim to be maintaining a Christian home. It is so hard for our daughter who is trying to live a faithful life to have to tolerate such taunting from “Christian” kids. I want so much to encourage you, but I can’t imagine how I would reach today’s kids. I will say don’t ever discount what they hear or remember. They may not remember the “details” of the arguments for the truth of being a Christian, but they will know they are there (thanks to you) and if they come to a point they need to know more they will know how or where to look. God bless you for the important work you are doing. It takes a special person.

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