Youth pastor Tory Ninja pleads with Christian parents to get involved

Tory Ninja
Tory Ninja

This is from one of our regular commenters Tory Ninja.

I’m a youth pastor in a church in Canada and have worked with youth for the last 10 years. And I think my current position is almost pointless and a waste of funds. Actually, I think the position is pointless in most churches. This post is an explanation as to why.

The short answer is this: Parents.

The long answer is this:

When I came into my current church setting 6 months ago I quickly realized something had gone horribly wrong in the youth and children ministries (the same could be said for the church I was in before). No one knew anything about the Bible or Christianity. Now don’t get me wrong, every class has one or two super geeks. In the church I was in previously the geek had been the son of a missionary, in my current church it is a kid who knows more stuff than most college students on most everything and a young convert girl who used to attend an underground church in China. But other than these people, who had external reasons to know things, no one knew anything.

Actually, Christianity didn’t really seem to impact any of their lives beyond coming to church on Sunday and giving lip service to some sort of Christian/secular garbage morality. Their knowledge of the Bible is non-existent. For example, most people did not know the story of Noah’s Ark. Now, I don’t mean they were confused over whether it was a local flood, or a global flood, or a literary creation. Oh no, if only! Rather, they just didn’t know the story… at all. Most of these kids (14-17) had grown up in the church. So what went wrong?

The first place you would think is the problem is with the church. We must be some sort of hippy liberal, let’s talk about our feelings, never bring out the Bible because it’s old and outdated, type of church. Nope. We are actually quite a strongly conservative, very biblically based, and incredibly mission orientated denomination. To become a pastor in this denomination, (I’m not talking about ordination here, that’s even harder), you literally have to know the Bible and theology better than anyone in the pew would know. You get grilled. Most people fail when they apply, and many people who apply are graduates from the denomination’s seminaries. (They do let you try again, and most people eventually pass after lots of study).  I remember one of the questions I was asked was “Hmmm, you say in your application that you like history. Could you please explain to us the history behind the canon development of the Bible?” and many questions I answered were followed up with “are you really sure? Do you actually believe that? But what about these verses here, how would you respond to those? What is the context of the verse you just cited to us?” Etc. We have national Bible championships. We are actually growing as a denomination, and have never stopped growing since our founding. My church fits quite nicely within the denomination. We care about knowing our stuff.

So if my church is in a denomination like the one described above, how did my youth never hear the story of Noah’s Ark? Well, to tell the truth, they have probably heard it countless times. But they don’t care. For example, one day I asked my class what the Gospel was. I wasn’t looking for a fully orbed answer, just the basic “Jesus died for my sins” answer. No one answered. I then asked a youth who had taking the essentials to Christianity class TWICE. He said he didn’t know. I then said, didn’t you take the essentials to Christianity class? He replied, word for word, “Yeah, but I didn’t pay attention the second time”… Face palm. I wanted to say “well, what about the first time”?

So what’s going wrong? This brings me to my answer: Parents. They are not doing their jobs. Let me give an example. I also run the children’s ministry and thus get to talk to children quite often. Most of the children in my ministry who are over 6 and under 9 have seen “Saw”, and some have seen “Hostel”. If you don’t know what those movies are, they are basically torture porn. You see people tortured. Lots of it. These kids got access to these movies from their parents. The parents didn’t even watch the movies with them, they put them on and then walked out of the room. This isn’t just my church. This is in churches EVERYWHERE in North America. This is just one of many examples that tells me that parents aren’t doing their job of discipling their kids in the Christian faith.

Sending children to a youth ministry is pointless if the parents aren’t actively discipling their kids during the week. Christianity just won’t stick. For example, why do the kids of most immigrants lose the mother tongue of their parents? Well, because they spend at least 5 days a week, 8 hours a day, at school taught in English. All their friends speak English. All the media they watch and listen to is in English. The only time they even hear their mother tongue is at home. And unless the parents make a concerted effort to teach the language and to emphasize its importance, the child will lose the language. They may understand it. But they will barely be able to speak it, it won’t impact their lives, and they will most definitely not pass it on to their kids.

The same thing goes for Christianity. If the parents aren’t actively, every day, teaching and discipling their kids in Christianity it’s content and its importance then there is almost no point in sending them to a youth ministry. If the parents aren’t every day praying with their kids, teaching them how to share their faith, giving them good reasons to be Christians, etc. they are not being good Christian parents. I take this very seriously. For example, my one year old daughter (almost two) already knows how to pray. We can’t eat meals without praying otherwise she will start screaming at us to pray. She will say amen after worship songs at church. We read the Bible to her EVERY night. As she gets older, we are going to take an active everyday role in teaching her the precious truths of the Gospel. She will memorize Scripture. She will learn about other religions and worldviews and how to interact with them. Will this guarantee she will be a Christian when she grows up? No, not at all. If we don’t do it right, she might even rebel because of our training! But if she ceases to be a Christian it won’t be for a lack of knowledge, or a lack of critical engagement, or a lack of seeing her parents treat Christianity as something important.

If parents aren’t actively involved in their child’s faith, sending them to a youth ministry will be pointless, even destructive. Now some of you may be saying “But pastor, don’t you have children and youth with non-Christian parents? If youth ministry is destructive for youth with Christian parents who don’t live like Christians, wouldn’t that be the same for youth with non-Christian parents?  Yet it is clearly better for youth with non-Christian parents to come to church so they can at least hear the gospel some times even if they don’t hear it at home. So wouldn’t it be the same for youth with Christian parents who are failing at discipling?” Good question. And the answer is no.

Here’s why. It has been my experience that the youth with non-Christian parents are often much stronger Christians than those youth who have Christian parents who are failing as Christian parents (which is most of them). See, a youth with non-Christian parents has a good reason for why their parents don’t disciple them in Christianity: they’re non-Christians! Thus, the bad example of the parents only reinforces in the youth that they need to use their own initiative to learn about the Christian faith. But if a youth has Christian parents, and the Christian faith isn’t the most important thing in the parents lives, the youth is going to learn that Christianity is really not that important. If the parents never read their Bible, the youth is going to think that is acceptable. If the parents emphasize school more than Christ, the youth is going to think school is more important, no matter what the parents say about Jesus. If the parents emphasize sports more than Christ, the youth is going to think sports are more important, no matter what the parents say about Jesus. The hypocrisy of the parents will destroy their child’s faith.

Which leads me to the whole point of this post, Why are youth pastors in many churches pointless and a waste of funds? Because youth pastors aren’t in charge of the single most important thing in a youth’s walk with Christ: the parents. The senior/main pastor is. The youth pastor actually has zero control over the constituency that he is suppose to shepherd. Thus, it is becoming my conviction that having a separate pastor for the youth in most churches is a waste of resources. Until a church has a senior pastor who is actively promoting and discipling adults to be good parents, and actually seeing results from that discipleship, there is no point in hiring a youth pastor. A youth pastor will not solve the “youth problem”. If anything, given that most youth pastors know very little about the Christian faith, and also usually have much lower requirements to be in that position, they will probably do more harm then good. Why waste thousands of dollars on a youth pastor when an educated lay leader would almost certainly be better? Use that extra money for buying good educational resources, or use it for missions/outreach, etc. Don’t waste it on a youth pastor. He will not solve the problem. That needs to start with the senior pastor and the parents. A youth pastor can be incredibly effective, but only if the senior pastor and the parents are doing their jobs.

I am currently half way through my one year probation at the church I am at. The church has taken quite the financial burden in hiring me. They know the youth and children ministries need help, because very few of their youth and children remain in the faith after high school, many drop out before graduating high school. But I can’t even begin to help with the problem until the parents start doing their job. And that’s not my job. Sure, I have met with parents one on one. But it is hard to flat out tell parents they have failed at parenting one on one to their face when you have only talked to them once or twice before. That will just close them off to you. And when I tried to give a parent seminar, almost no parents showed up. Thus, given my new convictions, at the end of my one year probation, I may very well step down as youth pastor. Until the entire ethos of my church changes, and people start taking the raising of their kids seriously, I am a total waste of funds. It is better to just have an educated lay leader do my job, or one of the other pastors to take my load.

As a final point, I’m not saying youth or children ministry is pointless. It is incredibly important. Let me say it again: youth ministry is incredibly important. But there is no reason to spend thousands of dollars hiring a youth pastor in a church that doesn’t already have parents doing their job. Until that happens, save your funds, and use dedicated lay leaders.

And that is why youth pastors are usually pointless and a waste of funds.

His previous post is here. Some days, I wish I had gotten married and had children. I’m sure I could do a better job leading the children than these bad church parents have done. And I’m sure I could do a better job of leading the parents than these lame, feminized pastors.

37 thoughts on “Youth pastor Tory Ninja pleads with Christian parents to get involved”

  1. I know it’s a bit off-topic, but in today’s increasingly secularized world, we often hear from atheists like Daniel Dennet or Richard Dawkins about how teaching children is child abuse. Do you know of any good answers/resources which could be used to respond to this challenge?

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    1. Well ultimately this claim just begs the question. Why is the way they raise their kids not child abuse? Especially if Christianity is true!

      Thus, before the claim that raising your child to be a Christian can even begin to be considered child abuse one needs to first establish that Christianity is false. They have in no way accomplished that feat.

      And even if they demonstrated that Christianity is false, don’t we live in a free society?

      Also, as Wintery Knight said in a previous post (I forget exactly which one), if you take away the parents freedom to raise their child the way they want to parents will stop having them.

      Ultimately, Dawkins and Dennet realize that religious people have children and non-religious people don’t. There are of course exceptions, but on the whole, atheism leads to a lack of “baby making” in the literal sense (look at Europe). So the only way they can control the worldviews of the next generation is to control every aspect of a child’s raising. All this talk about child abuse is just hand waving.

      Now, don’t get me wrong, they probably think to raise your child as a Christian is child abuse. And in that sense, they feel it is their moral obligation to promote that idea. But consciously or not, the real reason they promote this idea is so that only their worldview is taught to the next generation.

      As for resources, I’m not sure. But Wintery Knight has some good posts on child and family issues. Just look through the archives.

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      1. Excellent response, TN! And your post was very good and thoughtful too. It really highlights the importance of super-involved parenting. Thank you.

        I have been arguing with some men (yes, WK, MEN) who think I’m completely over the top and horrible in wanting to tell my children what is wrong and what is right and to raise them in the faith. Apparently, I’m supposed to expose them to both sides of the argument (this part I agree with), but not make any comment on it myself because that is totalitarian (I strongly disagree with this part). They espouse a laissez faire form of parenting which is disasterous.

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          1. Thank you for the acknowledgment. :)

            Note that I said SOME men. I didn’t launch into an “all men are useless and evil” tirade.

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          2. You implied it very strongly. The way you just put it is much better and I agree with that criticism.

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  2. Quit with the “feminized”. The problem is that they’re weak-willed, indecisive, popularity-hungry, and stupid. All of those are sex-independent failings.

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    1. Oh no he didn’t!

      Dang.

      Yes he did.

      Maureen, I thought we had him trained out of this “Me Tarzan (strong) you Jane (weak)” derogatory-towards-the-feminine thinking. Guess I was wrong. Shucks.

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  3. I have to admit this was a disappointing to read. Mainly because I volunteer with the high school group at my church, and I have to teach them for the next 10 weeks. It is true that many of the youth daze off into space, or doodle on their handouts while I’m talking. The majority, however, pay attention.

    The majority of the youth come to church without their parents, and they are more interested than those who already have church going parents, though we only have a few who don’t care, and those indeed are the kids of the nominal parents. Those kids won’t be in church in 10 years.

    I can see how the pastor wants to give up, but I have to believe that you need to keep going. That is the only way. And who knows, maybe there will be a Sandy who will bring the next William Lane Craig to a meeting, and who will devour what the guy wants to teach.

    For me, last week was the Kalam and the Moral Arguments. This week is logic and relativism. All you can do is keep plugging away and hope it takes.

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    1. Hi Mysterious C, thanks for the comment!

      I think you may have misunderstood exactly what I was saying. I wasn’t saying youth ministry is pointless. I tried to make that clear in my conclusion. Rather, what I am trying to say is that a church shouldn’t waste resources on paying for a youth pastor when they aren’t currently in a state to have one.

      It’s not that I want to give up. Rather, it’s that my church has taken a heavy financial burden bringing me on. They don’t pay me much more than what is required to live where I am and feed my family. But that is still a strain. So I need to ask myself: is it worth breaking the bank of this church when a dedicated lay leader could do the exact same thing I do? Is it worth breaking the bank when the parents actions are working against the best efforts of the youth pastor?

      I’m not sure. I think the churches that need youth pastors the most are those churches which either have no youth and are trying to reach that demographic, or are churches that already have the parents heavily involved and on board with raising their kids in a Christ like fashion. Otherwise, why spend the money? Why not just use a dedicated lay leader?

      If the youth pastor comes for free, that’s something else. But most require funds of some sort. I’m largely talking about a stewardship issue here.

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      1. I appreciate where you’re coming from. You see how the church struggles financially, and you doubt if your efforts have, or will have, any impact in relation to this.

        Perhaps we can think of this in terms of a threshold, where the costs have outweighed the benefits by too great an amount. Only you can judge this ratio. On the other hand, the church does want to sacrifice to have you there, so they consider you to be worth the resources. If you don’t think so, and you don’t feel good about yourself, then I agree that your solution would be right. I guess before you make a drastic move you could always ask the church if they think you are worth it. (That would be a strange conversation, indeed)

        I was coming from a different angle, it’s true. I have a hard time knowing when my efforts are not useful. I hold out hope that they will affect someone. Since I’m not as heavily involved, the sense of overwhelming negative inertia isn’t as great.

        In any case, I enjoyed your post. It is good to get a realistic perspective on the state of things. Perhaps in the next one you can tell us about how best to reach and support those youth that are unchurched and that come to church. For the children of Christian parents, it is harder, since the parents, by their apathy, ingrain in their children the idea that Christianity is not for adults, and thus is not important. They will be the lost ones once they leave home.

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        1. I’ve commissioned him to give us one post a month at least. I wish we could hear more about the experiences of Christians in academia. I have a dream of one day going back to do a Ph.D and helping out the Christian kids on campus by being a role model.

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  4. It is an insult to be called feminine – if you are a man. Just as it is insulting to be called masculine if you are a woman. Since most pastors are men, he was correct.

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    1. I am think of postmodernism, moral relativism, inclusivism, anti-intellectualism. I identify those things with female Christians because of my experiences dealing with women in the church who shunned objective knowledge, objective morality, exclusivism, and apologetics when I was trying to introduce apologetics, etc., when I was younger. I guess a lot of men are doing it too, though. The women I know from church are opposed to true/false knowledge, exclusivism, knowledge, and especially apologetics. What can I say? I’ve never met one good one in church or in a campus club.

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      1. [begin sarcasm] You’re making generalizations again… Want me to join in? I’m really good at it because I’m a postmodernist, moral relativist, inclusivist, anti-intellectual. This of course goes without saying because I am a female Christian who goes to church and belonged to a campus Christian club. And ALL the men I have met are of course totally rational and aren’t into postmodernism at all. I never have to explain to them why apologetics is good and helpful even though they think it’s unhelpful. [end sarcasm]

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  5. Men and women think differently. I have seen it develop naturally in my son and daughter. Women are more gentle and nurturing and men tend to use the tough love method.
    Men demand justice and women just want everyone to get along. The problems develop when the nurturing woman wants to nurture the wrong people – terrorists, criminals, drug addicts, rebellious sons, promiscuous daughters, etc.

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        1. Sometimes wives need a little “nurturing” themselves. I thought it was their husband who was supposed to give it to them. If all the husband can ever be allowed to be is firm and disciplined, how is a woman supposed to get the loving, gentle attention she craves? From her own children? From her mother? From her girlfriends? None of those options seem entirely healthy.

          Sometimes a woman needs male affection, not just male discipline and firmness. Actually, I would claim she needs it quite often. I think we can all agree she shouldn’t be getting it from a male that is not her husband.

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          1. Well said, Francine.

            Is a husband going to embrace his wife in a “firm, disciplined, goal-oriented” way? Sounds more like a straitjacket.

            I also think that a combination of moral strength, outspokenness, and gentleness (especially with those weaker than himself) is very attractive in a man. I don’t want a wuss and I don’t want a bully. And yes, there are such men in the world.

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          2. It’s bullying! Men are such bullies. They shouldn’t be allowed near children and should be replaced with taxpayer-funded welfare checks, taxpayer-funded day care, taxpayer-funded health care, taxpayer-funded public schools, taxpayer-funded social services, taxpayer-funded restraining order enforcement, taxpayer-funded IVF, etc. But how will we get wedding pictures and baby pictures before sending the man to the nickel mines and the children to the state-run day cares.

            Men are bullies, though.

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          3. “Men are such bullies. They shouldn’t be allowed near children and should be replaced with taxpayer-funded welfare checks, taxpayer-funded day care, taxpayer-funded health care, taxpayer-funded public schools, taxpayer-funded social services, taxpayer-funded restraining order enforcement, taxpayer-funded IVF, etc.”

            Well, you’re doing a splendid job of convincing women that it’s a good idea when you associate Christian women with “postmodernism, moral relativism, inclusivism, anti-intellectualism”. I doubt that there are many sensible Christian women who are hankering after being married to men who associate them with such things. The way you talk about women makes women WANT to be married to the state instead of a man. We get accused of it en masse, so we might as well earn the criticism!

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          4. Well, it’s on a case by case basis – none of the women I am planning to marry would be like that, and they would all hate those things. I think Rob Bell is feminized, along with a huge percentage of church men.

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          5. I can only talk about my life experiences.

            Men do it too, but I don’t notice them because I just avoid the men who do it. I think that since I need validation, I only notice when women are like that. Do you really think though that women are as much in favor of excluding beliefs with logic and evidence, or making moral judgments, and of reading all kinds of apologetics books and reading the non-fiction work of Christian scholars as men are? I just don’t see that. I would like to see it. And when I find women who are like that, I am very kind to them. The others I ignore.

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          6. I wouldn’t want to make an assertion about “as much” without evidence to back up my statement. What I do know is that there are in favour of reason and logic and men who are not, women who are in favour of reason and logic and women who are not.

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          7. I know the men are there and very bad, but somehow I don’t think of them. I see men in the gym watching ESPN and I get angry at them since they should be morally and spiritually leading, but then I forget somehow. I should write a post about men and sports.

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          8. I have no problem with sports in moderation. It’s a healthy hobby. There are far worse forms of entertainment for men to spend their time on.

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  6. The man/woman topic seems to be very popular. I think that basically, everyone here is in agreement. To Mara: it is not the presence of a nurturing attitude in men that is bad, but the absence of the necessary authoritative attitude that is harmful. A 2 year-old who accidentally spills a drink needs understanding and a 15 year-old who gets drunk on stolen beer needs the authoritarian response.

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    1. Heaven help the child of mine who gets drunk on stolen bear at 15. I’d deal with that with quite and authoritative attitude.

      When I act this way, does it make me masculine and therefore bad?

      Please don’t get in the way of me disciplining my child by putting masculine and feminine in such rigid and tiny boxes. I can be and have been authoritative and a disciplinarian without the testosterone and male parts some around here seems to think is needed for the task.

      Don’t assume because I can nurture with the best of mommy’s that I can’t lay down the law and command respect from them. I can, I have, and I still do.

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  7. I believe you, but do you represent the average woman? I am dealing with generalities. From my experience, (48 years old)the average mother of the drunk 15 year-old would worry about why the kid drank; where did I (mother) go wrong, etc.

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