Thursday, April 24, 2008

Church Tumors

Here is a great post by Tim Schmoyer about youth ministry's tendency to create awkward transitions for 20-somethings in the church community. I've been thinking about this stuff a lot recently, so Tim's post is timely. There is a trend that young people's transition into college also marks their transition out of church. Could this be because youth ministry has called them to be involved in the "youth group" and not the overall church body?

I think youth ministry can unintentionally turn youth groups into church tumors. The church is a body of believers building one another up. But the youth group can often be a disconnected-yet-attached growth on the church body, having its own youth leadership, youth services, youth small groups, youth worship team, etc. It exists in the context of the overall church, but never fully contributes to the greater community. When a high school senior graduates from the tumor, all of the habits and comforts of the tumor are gone as they attempt to integrate into the body. The tumor-graduate can't integrate very well; he or she has always been part of the tumor, and this new body has vastly different expectations and values.

How can we prevent church tumors in youth ministry? It requires a paradigm shift in how we view adolescents. Tumor ministry views them as a distraction needing to be in a spiritual holding-tank until they can finally be disciples as an adult ("let's give the youth their own service so the adults can worship in peace"). Healthy ministry views adolescents as active, participating disciples with enormous potential and leaders within the church ("let's graciously invite students to participate with the body, recognizing their value to church community"). 

I love being at a church that values the youth and invites them to serve and participate! The difficult part for me is helping students realize their potential and calling as disciples of Jesus--seeing themselves as part of the body and not just the youth group. We are slowly making this shift by inviting students to be a part of the greater body and participating with the overall church on Sunday mornings.


  1. WOW! I love this post. It is definitely something that my youth group goes through. My problem however is that youth view sunday morning services as boring and youth nights as fun! Either way, this is something that we have to work on. My names Juan, man! swing by my blog sometime. It might not be as insightful, but its something to read, lol. Take care, God Bless you!

  2. This is an interesting concept, one in which parents need to be incorporated as well as leaders in the overall body. How do you support worship vs being entertained in the mindset of our youth?