Why Some Homeschoolers “Just Say No” to Youth Groups
a lesson from biscuits & quilt pieces
by Mrs. Patty Ramsey, Used by permission.
Butch and Patty Ramsey are editors of Seeds for the Sower.
By making the decision to home educate, we homeschoolers have already shown that we are a free-thinking group. So not surprisingly, within the homeschooling community, we are very diverse concerning our values and family lifestyles. While many parents place their home-grown children in church activities and youth groups, others of us choose not to participate.
Before I describe some of the factors that influenced our family's decision to refrain, let me share with you a lesson I learned from making biscuits.
I love the perfect dough my bread machine makes for biscuits. It's the ideal texture to roll out and cut. It doesn't stick to the rolling pin or on the counter. However, there is one small problem. After making my initial cuts with my round biscuit cutter, the scrap pieces don’t want to stick together to make a new ball. When describing this problem to a friend, she shared the uncomplicated solution. She was taught by her mother to roll the dough into a rectangle and then simply cut the biscuits into squares. You're quickly done with no scraps to deal with. What an easy solution! I felt silly that I hadn't thought of it myself. So simple...except, I still don't do it. Why? Biscuits are round! At least in my family they have been round as long as I can remember.
Sometimes we fail to see a solution or implement it because it's not the way we're used to doing something. Since biscuits have always been round, ft seems almost unpatriotic to even think about square ones. Similarly, since many of us grew up in youth groups, it almost seems sacrilegious to question the role they should play in our children's lives. But for the length of this article, let's try to look at this institution from a different perspective.
Quilts can also keep us on track as we consider the usefulness of youth groups. As a young child I remember being taught the importance of cutting out quilt pieces only from the pattern. Never cut out a piece from a previously cut out piece. Over time, the very minute variation in size will make a difference in how the overall quilt will come together.
Not only should we not accept youth groups as the status quo because our church has always had one, we must also remember to evaluate the youth group's usefulness using the Bible as the standard. In other words, when we use man's standards (participating in an activity because that’s what is expected, worrying about “socialization,” wanting our children to fit in, etc.) we have deviated from using the original (the Bible) as our template.
The Bible and Youth Groups
With Strong's Concordance in hand, it doesn't take long to look up all the verses containing “youth groups.” There aren't any.
While the church is given very detailed instructions for dealing with older women, younger women, widows, young men and older men, there are no specific instructions for teenagers. Why? After all, first century Christians also had children who were in their teens. What is the church's responsibility towards them? Since the Bible appears to be quiet about this subject, we will have to use other Biblical principles to decide this issue.
Three possible answers are:
1. The times have changed. The church of the past may have been able to disciple teens into strong Christian leaders without the benefit of youth groups, but they are a necessity for youth today.
2. Since the Bible did not give specific instructions to the church concerning youth, each church is free to determine on its own how best to teach young adults.
3. The Bible does not give the church specific instructions about youth because those responsibilities had already been delegated to the parents. (Ephesians 6:4; Deuteronomy 6:6-7) How you answer this question will be the foundation for how you view youth groups.
Our family recognizes that it is the parents' duty to train the child. We have decided not to delegate that responsibility to others. Before going into our reasons in detail, let me list them here quickly: 1. We do not want to have the children's father replaced as the spiritual leader. 2. Youth group leaders usually do not meet Biblical standards. 3. Youth activities tend to teach selfishness rather than service. 4. We don't want our children to be peer dependent.
Father replaced as spiritual leader.
Like suggesting square biscuits, I know that any criticism of church programs will upset some people. After all, we must acknowledge that those involved mean well. I personally grew up in a youth group and I know the amount of time and effort individuals give to keep it going. But good intentions aside, is this the best way to disciple our young—the next generation of church leaders?
Our country is currently involved in making decisions about how to fix the welfare system. Designed to be a safety net, welfare has now become a trap that has snared a countless number of families in a cycle of dependency, Caught within the trap, many children have grown up without any concept of what a father is or what his role should be. They have never witnessed the family's leader headed off to work to provide for his family.
Similarly, Sunday School was founded as a safety net to train unchurched children about the basic elements of faith and proper church behavior. It’s easy to sometimes forget that the Christian faith was passed on for almost 2,000 years without the benefit of children's programs. Sunday School was not begun for churched children. It was generally understood that the parents were directed by God to instruct the children. Upon joining a church, the father might even be questioned about how he was fulfilling his responsibilities with regards to discipline his children.
Over time, Christians were included in the programs and now in our day, they are considered to be the norm. However, we need to take a step back, drop our preconceived notions, and examine the perhaps unintended fruit of these efforts.
Ponder these questions:
§ Has the family been strengthened or weakened by youth groups?
§ Is the father and his biblically given authority being replaced by a youth group
§ Look at youth group materials and the subjects they are dealing with. Will issues like dating, sex, drugs, relationships with parents, movies, etc. be dealt with best within the home or within a youth group? Will a youth group leader be able to reinforce the standards of each family represented within the group?
§ Could we be creating the “'generation gap” by telling our youth they need someone besides Dad to instruct them—someone closer to their own age who is more fun?
Leaders do not meet Biblical standards.
Gasp! I know—youth group leaders are as all-American as Mom, apple pie and round biscuits. I also have heard the expression, when you point one finger at others, three are pointed back at you. So I'll go ahead and confess up front. My husband Butch and I were youth group leaders for a short period of time and yes, we did not meet biblical standards.
What are the standards for a youth group leader? Since the Bible does not describe a separate ministry for children, we will have to use the requirements given for other positions of church leadership. In 1 Timothy 3 we find the requirements for an overseer and a deacon. One requirement they both share is that they manage their family, specifically their children well. We are told their children must not be wild for how could a man manage God's church if he can't control his own household?
Sadly, many churches esteem youth and excitement rather than maturity and wisdom when selecting youth leaders. Young married couples, often with babies and toddlers are selected to lead the youth. The reasoning behind this is usually that they can “relate” to the teens better since they are barely out of their teens, and that they have the energy and enthusiasm to keep up with all the frantic activity.
Once again, I am condemning myself with these words. We took the role of youth leaders, not realizing that we had not yet proven our ability to lead. Our children were toddlers. While God promises to gently lead those with young, we were taking on unnecessary responsibilities for other people's children before we had even proven we knew what to do with our own. No one was able to examine our fruits. What knowledge did we have about raising teenagers?
Some questions to consider:
§ Does your church use biblical standards when selecting youth group leaders?
§ If not, why? Has man's wisdom (we know better what teens need) replaced God's instruction?
Selfishness or service?
Have you ever stopped and tried to answer in one sentence, “What is the purpose of the youth group?” Is R to entertain the youth? Keep them out of trouble? Provide socialization? Minister to others? Do we expect the youth group to take over our responsibility to teach the ways of the Lord to our children?
More questions to ponder:
§ Are non-stop pizza parties, amusement park trips and camps the best way to prepare our children for a life of Christian service?
§ Why are the youth, the ones with all the vitality and enthusiasm, using their energies on themselves rather than perhaps helping the sick or aged in the congregation?
§ Are we setting up our youth to be adults who are self-centered, always looking for a bigger thrill and more excitement?
§ Will a young lady who has been trained by the church to be a self-pleaser, naturally accept her role as a Titus 2 woman - busy at home, content to love and care for her family?
§ Will a young man used to freedom from responsibility naturally accept his role as the provider for a family?
§ Could we be tempting our children to desire irresponsibility? What about the youths’ responsibility to his family?
§ Should the parent's role during the teen years be to chauffeur and provide money to the always busy teen?
I know this sounds like a gross exaggeration of what the end result of weekly youth activities will be. However, don't you personality know of many families that are being neglected because the father feels it is his “right” to indulge himself in golf, fishing, computers, work, etc. to a degree that is excessive? How about the wife who harms her family by her need to shop, visit friends, play tennis and the like. Of course none of these activities are wrong in and of themselves. However, many adults today are not able to develop relationships and spend quiet, simple times with family. For many, this hyperactivity could be traced to childhood and the teenage years.
I don't think I need to explain much about peer dependence in a magazine for homeschoolers. Most of us already recognize the benefits our children have received from not growing up in an age-segregated, peer dependent environment.
We recognize that our children will be negatively impacted by the behavior and morals of other children in a school setting. However, we are tempted to rationalize that they won't be affected by others within the church crowd. “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” (1 Corinthians 15:33) Notice there is no disclaimer, “unless the association takes place within a church setting.” (See also Proverbs 13:20)
I personally grew up in a very conservative church. Our youth memorized large amounts of scripture, performed musicals for other churches, ministered at a nursing home, as well as many other activities. Among the teens, professions of faith were made, youth were baptized and church attendance was very faithful. However, within that group I was exposed to teens involved with drinking, drugs, promiscuity, profanity, abortion, sibling incest and even armed robbery.
These children were not bussed in from non-Christian families. Rather, their parents were the teachers, deacons and leaders in our church. I learned from this experience that youth groups are not safe. Everything is not always as innocent as it appears. In fact, because parents trust the youth group as a wholesome place for their child, these activities often place our children in vulnerable positions; i.e. lock-ins and camps.
If we are going to pray to our Heavenly Father “...and load us not into temptation...” can we do no less for our children?
Churches today are losing the next generation. We can follow the crowd and watch our children destroyed, or we can learn from others’ mistakes. In his booklet A Generation Which Knew Not the Lord, Pastor Joseph P. Camilleri states, “I am afraid many Christian parents are losing their children to the ‘fundamentalist system.' Although many parents are grieved over situations within the body of Christ, they fee/ that if everyone else is doing it that it will be a// tight in the end. Unfortunately, those parents of the children that are 'doing it' will not be around on those sleepless nights because it didn’t ‘work out OK in the end.’' That brother or sister who compromised on convictions that were once held by the majority of God's people is not accountable for our wayward child We must give an account. The unfortunate thing is that you can only lose a child once.”
The Perfect Youth Group
What type of group would we allow our children to join? One where the leadership had biblical authority, where servanthood was presented alongside fun, where association with “fools” was limited or closely supervised, and where the discipleship method of teaching the ways of the Lord was implemented.
As you may have guessed by now, they already belong to such a group. It's called our family!
(To receive a copy of A Generation Which Knew Not the Lord, send $ 3.00 to Old Paths Bible Baptist Church, P.O. Box 169, N. Greece, NY 14515-0169)