Archives For Youth

Gospel Thoughts for High School GraduatesEarlier this week I posted a version of the letter I share each year with graduates. I asked for your input and it was such a great help that I made my most extensive revisions to the letter ever. It is a little longer, but it still fits on one page of a Word document with 1″ margins! Here is the 2014 version (with lots of links to follow).

Dear Graduate:

Congratulations on your accomplishment! We are so thankful for you.

For the last 20 years I have thought about what I would tell graduates on one page.  Each year I refine this letter a little more even as I refine our philosophy of youth ministry. Here is the 2014 version. It is my prayer for you.

  1. If you have not already, Give Your Life to Jesus Christ Who is the only King.  On the Cross He paid the penalty for His people.  Receive the gift of eternal life by believing in Him and your sins are forgiven.  The alternative is unthinkable (John 3:36). This is the Gospel (or the Good News of Christ) and it should shape every area of life. Christ is God– – He is not just a name we chant to help us cope. We must be His. It is not enough to be “moral” (Romans 3:23).
  2. Be sure you really are a Christian (2 Cor 13:5, James 2:17). Many think they are Christians and they are not. The worst words that will ever be heard in human history will be when a group of people stand before Christ thinking they are Christians and find out that they are not (Matt 7:21-23). What scares me most as a pastor is the thought that some of our people may be in that group. Be sure of your salvation! If you have any questions, talk to me, or someone who understands the Gospel, soon.
  3. Grow in wisdom (Philippians 1:9-11, Romans 12:1-2).  Wisdom is skill for living.  It is the saw we use to cut our way through life. We need a sharp saw to make quality decisions. We sharpen the saw by remembering that the fear of the LORD s the beginning of wisdom and by being in Word-centered local church. Don’t think you can simply put church on hold for the next few years. During that time, you will make decisions that affect the rest of your life.  Make wise decisions amid being involved in a good church and vitally connected to other committed Christians. If you move, or go to college, make it your first priority to find Christian fellowship. This is especially critical the first three weeks of college.
  4. Follow Christ and be super excited about a blessed or “happy” life.  For Christians, everything doesn’t always fit together as neatly as you would like in the short run. Our culture is increasingly hostile to Christianity. But Psalm 1 is true.  The person who walks with God and delights in God’s wonderful Word is the one who will be blessed.  Pursue the joy of Christian life. God promises that you won’t be disappointed (Hebrews 11:6). Christ is both right and best. Remember: there are two ways: a broad road or a narrow one. There is no third.
  5. Be warned: the way of the sinner is hard.  Please don’t be deceived.  Don’t buy the lie that you can make wrong choices and not reap the consequences (Galatians 6:7-8).  Choose to sin, choose to suffer (1 Corinthians 10:11). (Do not choose to suffer by dating unbelievers! Hate, hate, hate pornography!)
  6. Tell people about Jesus – Regardless of where God leads in life we are called to be Christ’s ambassadors (Matthew 28:18-20, 2 Cor 5:19-2). Jesus gave us the mission of making disciples.
  7. Be assured: the people of the Red Brick Church love you. When we get to the Heavenly City, we want to know you will be at our meeting spot: 5th tree, right side of the river, facing the throne. We will be there soon. In the mean time, I am a pastoral resource available to you!

In Him,

 

Pastor Chris Brauns

Allie High School GraduationWhat am I missing? On one page or less, what reminders should we give high school and college graduates? I have been working on the below document for the last 20 years. It has been revised many times. But I still think it can get better.

Dear Graduate:

Congratulations on your accomplishment!

Since I was a youth pastor, I have thought about what I pray our graduates will remember from our church.  During the last year (2014), I have reviewed our philosophy of youth ministry in a renewed way. I deeply pray that you will always remember these things.

Never forget:

  1. Jesus Christ is the only King.  He paid the penalty for His people.  Receive the gift of eternal life by believing in Him and your sins are forgiven.  The alternative is unthinkable (John 3:36). This is the Gospel (or the Good News of Christ) and it is not something just for isolated parts of life. It should shape how we live in every area. Christ is the center – – He is not just a name we chant to help us cope.
  2. Many people think they are Christians when they are not (Matthew 7:21-23). The worst words that will ever be heard in human history will be when a group of people stand before Christ thinking they are Christians and find out that they are not. What scares me most as a pastor is the thought of some of our people being in that group. Be sure of your salvation! If you have any questions, talk to me, or someone who understands the Gospel, soon.
  3. There is a need to grow as a Christian (Philippians 1:9-11, Romans 12:1-2).  Wisdom is skill for right living.  Wisdom is the saw we use to cut our way through life. We need a sharp saw if we are going to cut our way through decisions. We sharpen the saw by being in God’s Word with a local church. Don’t think you can simply put church on hold for the next few years.  During that time, you will make decisions that affect the rest of your life.  Make those decisions amid being involved in a good church and growing as a believer
  4. The Christian life is the blessed or “happy” life.  For Christians, everything doesn’t always fit together as neatly as you would like in the short run. But Psalm 1 is true.  The person who walks with God is the one who will be blessed.  Pursue the joy of Christian life. God promises that you won’t be disappointed (Hebrews 11:6). Christ is both right and best.
  5. And the way of the sinner is hard.  Please don’t be deceived.  Don’t buy the lie that you can make wrong choices and not reap the consequences (Galatians 6:7-8).  As believers you must make God honoring decisions or you will face the consequences of wrong choices.  Choose to sin, choose to suffer (1 Corinthians 10:11).
  6. The people of the Red Brick Church love you. When we get to the other side, in the Heavenly City, we want to know you will be at our meeting spot: 5th tree, right side of the river, facing the throne of Christ.

In Him,

 

Pastor Chris Brauns

Balance is the temporary moment when one swings from one extreme to the other. Having thought about youth ministry for almost 25 years, it is my impression that balance is needed in the below areas. Both ditches must be avoided.

In what other areas of youth ministry is balance needed?

Left Ditch

 

Right Ditch

Worldly – No different than secular culture. “Amish” – Totally isolated and not salt and light.
Teens isolated by age group / de-emphasis of family No youth ministry / family and church seen synonymously
Games only Non-engaging and irrelevant teaching
A “decisionist” approach with little or know structured curriculum or teaching “Programmed conversion” / formalized spirituality through confirmation etc / no recognition of revival
Complete para-church approach A refusal to ever cooperate with other churches

See these posts:

Listening to Young Atheists: Lessons for a Stronger Christianity

Emphases for Graduating Seniors

The New City Catechism

A Key Principle for Youth Ministry

Youth Ministry In Crisis

Chris —  May 5, 2014

Youth Ministry is Taking a DiveChurches are losing their youth at an alarming rate. Michael Horton and the White Horse Inn have started a new audio series that is highly recommended for parents and church leaders. Horton encourages catechetical teaching – – that is teaching through a structured series of questions and answers.

You can listen to the White Horse Inn series here. The series introduction reads:

According to the most conservative estimates, over 60 percent of those raised in evangelical homes end up leaving church at age 18. In some cases the estimates range as high as 90 percent. So what are we doing wrong? Why are we failing to pass the faith on the next generation, and what should churches and parents do to address this crisis? To help answer these questions, I’ll talk with J.I. Packer, Christian Smith, Thomas Bergler, Kenda Creasy Dean, and others as we introduce our new series on Youth Ministry.

According to the most conservative estimates, over 60 percent of those raised in evangelical homes end up leaving church at age 18. In some cases the estimates range as high as 90 percent. So what are we doing wrong? Why are we failing to pass the faith on the next generation, and what should churches and parents do to address this crisis? To help answer these questions, I’ll talk with J.I. Packer, Christian Smith, Thomas Bergler, Kenda Creasy Dean, and others as we introduce our new series on Youth Ministry. – See more at: http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2014/05/04/whi-1204-youth-ministry-in-crisis/#sthash.X9x8qSVw.dpuf
According to the most conservative estimates, over 60 percent of those raised in evangelical homes end up leaving church at age 18. In some cases the estimates range as high as 90 percent. So what are we doing wrong? Why are we failing to pass the faith on the next generation, and what should churches and parents do to address this crisis? To help answer these questions, I’ll talk with J.I. Packer, Christian Smith, Thomas Bergler, Kenda Creasy Dean, and others as we introduce our new series on Youth Ministry. – See more at: http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2014/05/04/whi-1204-youth-ministry-in-crisis/#sthash.X9x8qSVw.dpuf
According to the most conservative estimates, over 60 percent of those raised in evangelical homes end up leaving church at age 18. In some cases the estimates range as high as 90 percent. So what are we doing wrong? Why are we failing to pass the faith on the next generation, and what should churches and parents do to address this crisis? To help answer these questions, I’ll talk with J.I. Packer, Christian Smith, Thomas Bergler, Kenda Creasy Dean, and others as we introduce our new series on Youth Ministry. – See more at: http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2014/05/04/whi-1204-youth-ministry-in-crisis/#sthash.X9x8qSVw.dpuf

The first person that Horton interviews is Christian Smith. Smith is the sociologist who coined the term “moralistic therapeutic deism.” See this post: Christian Smith Helps Us Understand Our Teens and Young Adults.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is . . . about providing therapeutic benefits to its adherents. This is not a religion of repentance from sins, of keeping the Sabbath, of living as a servant of a sovereign divine, of steadfastly saying one’s prayers, of faithfully observing high holy days, of building character through suffering, of basking in God’s love and grace, of spending oneself in gratitude and love for the cause of social justice et cetera. Rather, what appears to be the actual dominant religion among U.S. teenagers is centrally about feeling good, happy, secure, at peace. It is about attaining subjective well-being, being able to resolve problems, and getting along amiably with other people.” Christian Smith

Horton interviews a wide range of thinkers including J.I. Packer, Marva Dawn, and Will Willimon. They stress that we should think of teaching our teens about the Christian faith in the same way that we would teach them a second language. That is, they need to learn a new vocabulary and way of thinking.

At the Red Brick Church we work on our philosophy of youth ministry in an ongoing way. You ran read some of my thoughts on youth ministry on this post: Reflections regarding Youth Ministry.

Also recommended:

Listening to Young Atheists: Lessons for a Stronger Christianity

Emphases for Graduating Seniors

The New City Catechism

A Key Principle for Youth Ministry

See You at the Pole Stillman Valley 2010This is a working document. There are, doubtless, many typos and gaps. But it shares some basic foundations of youth ministry.

Sunday, I am hosting a P.I.E. event with our teens and their parents. The goal will be for us to grow in the shared vision for teens at our church. Given that we are limited for time in any one meeting, here are some points that are basic to our understanding of youth ministry at The Red Brick Church.

  1. The Vision is being together in the presence of Christ in the Heavenly City. See 5th Tree, Right Side. But until then, we pray that we will live together in Christ-centered community, growing together as family, and reaching out into all the world. See Jonathan Edwards was as High on Heaven as He Was Hot on Hell.
  2. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. All ministries to all people must be Word centered and this includes youth. Our children should hear the Gospel, in particular, at church, at home, and at youth group. The preaching of the Word must be particularly valued. If we are not Word-centered now, we lose our children forever.
  3. Likewise, our youth ministry must be explicitly gospel-centered. Studies in recent years have repeatedly demonstrated that a large number of young people, who consider themselves Christians, ascribe to what Christian Smith called “moralistic-therapeutic-deism” rather than the Good News of Jesus Christ.[1] It is not enough to be up-standing citizens. We must be all about the Gospel of Christ. See also Emphases for Graduating Seniors. What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? (Matthew 16:26). See also How can a person be sure of his or her salvation?
  4. God’s primary and foundational means of the discipleship (following Christ) of children and youth is through families. The church’s central way of building into children is by the discipleship of parents. Pastors and local churches must encourage and equip parents to impart the faith to their children when they sit at home and when they walk along the rode, when they lie down and when they get up (Deut 6:4-9).
  5. Having said that, our central allegiance in life is to Christ and his bride, not the family (Luke 14:26). Some forms of the home church movement have been misguided and exhibited a poor ecclesiology. Of course, it is fine for a church to meet in a home! But it must be a local church. Our central program strategy for youth will be in our local church. As our staff situation allows, we are open to cooperating with other local churches periodically for events like See You at the Pole. However, our programming will not focus around cooperative events which can, in the extreme, distance young people from their own church. Such efforts are also confined to a “lowest common denominator” of theological truth.  Our primary energies will be in integrating youth into the life of the church. See Where the church and the family are concerned, to which error are you prone? and On Excusing Ourselves from Church in the Name of Family
  6. We will never accept that it is okay or acceptable for children to walk away from the faith. Jesus warned that many think they have eternal life when they do not (Matt 7:21 ff). This is sobering. Our goal is that all of our young people will continue in active fellowship with a Christ-centered church without interruption. Eternity is at stake. We love our children and will persevere in identifying ways to better minister to them. The reality is that our church has lost our young people at an alarming rate. This cannot continue. See What Scares Me Most as a Pastor.
  7. Quite the opposite of leaving the faith, our church prays that all will follow Christ and that some will be called into Christian leadership, either vocationally or in their local churches as elders, deacons, CE Committee members etc.  Unto whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:47-48). We have a tremendous opportunity to disciple our young people to go into all the world to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). See I’m Asking My Wife and Children to Watch This VideoTeens and babies at the Red Brick Church
  8. Children and youth should not be solely compartmentalized by age group or distanced from the family of believers. The church as a whole should be seen as extended family and love should be evident. Relationships with adults in the church are as important as relationships with peers. Indeed, the relationships between youth and adults are more strategically important than peer-to-peer relationships given the biblical emphasis on older people teaching younger (Titus 2:1-15). See the best parts of being a pastor. See also, A Key Principle for Youth Ministry
  9. Consequently, children and youth must learn to be in the worship service at church. Indeed, the first Sunday morning priority should be for teens to be in the worship service.On some level, corporate worship is an acquired taste. We must learn the joy of singing together, praying together, and hearing the Word preached. The goal should be for young people to be here for both hours on Sunday. If only one hour works, then young people should be in the worship service. We should not be surprised when young people check out of church if they have never learned to worship.
  10. In a fallen world, most young people in our culture do not live in homes that are Christ-centered. Even as younger people are more open to the Gospel than those who are older. Churches must make strategic decisions about whether or not they will simply leave those teens to be on their own, or, if they will seek to reach out to young people who are searching for answers. While some disagree, most evangelical churches in our culture believe that one means of reaching out to young people is through a youth ministry. Our church will strive to engage our community and to actively proclaim the gospel to those who are lost.   See for example this video on Team Sunday.
  11. Further, even teens from Christian homes rightly desire to grow in Christian fellowship with their peers. This does not mean that families can be marginalized (see #2), but rather the point is that it is legitimate for teens to have friends their own age and social events where they enjoy one another’s company. Our church believes that we should offer events with a vision of Spirit-filled teens speaking to one another with Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:18-20). Teens who do not experience Christ-centered fellowship with peers often satisfying their thirst for those relationships in unhealthy ways. See Chapter 6 of Bound Together, “Bound Together for Joy”
  12. Leading Youth Ministries Requires A Different Sort of Training and Expertise than children’s ministries.­ To use a simple analogy, in our particular context, putting together Children’s Ministries is more like connect the dots or paint by numbers; Youth Ministries are more free form. AWANA and Children’s Ministries have defined structures and methods. For AWANA, we know what we are going to do, the curriculum we are going to use, when they will meet, and the personnel required. Youth ministry on the other hand requires greater flexibility and more diverse expertise. It demands more intellectually (the questions get tougher). It requires more diversity in leadership.
  13. Our programming philosophy will involve events at several levels of time and effort. We will encourage small, simple, spontaneous get togethers, planned meetings with leaders, fun events, and also major events such as camp or a missions trip. Programming will be simple, and the organization of games will be largely up to the teens themselves. See Is it Wrong to Have Fun at Church?Teens Leading VBS at the Red Brick Church
  14. There must be recognition that progress in spiritual growth requires intense effort. We have to dig for wisdom as though we are looking for treasure. See Do We Grow by Our Effort or God’s Grace?, See Dig for Wisdom Like It’s 1849
  15. Our methodology will intentionally leverage social media. Youth ministries cannot operate most effectively in the 21st century without interacting with young people through web sites and social media. This requires expertise, time, and money. But it is essential. See For Those in Favor of the Telephone, 700 Billion Minutes, and Build Digital Relationships or Die.
  16. JH and SH Teens are in markedly different places of development. Hence, not all events for JH and SH can be combined.
  17. As a church, we are not going to be tossed about by every wind of change in philosophies of youth ministry. There is a tendency in our age to lurch from one youth group theory to the next – – – In the last 40 years, there have been various trends which include: big event youth ministry, small group based youth ministry, Christian schools, homeschools, no youth groups, separate church for youth, etc etc . We have learned from many of these trends and emphases. But we are looking for a steady, long term philosophy of youth ministry that stresses the centrality of the local church, the need for the Word to be proclaimed, the importance of the family, etc.
  18. Youth Ministries should target using a large team of volunteers who are plugged into their areas of giftedness.
  19. Those navigating youth ministry in the 21st Century find themselves navigating between extremes in a number of areas:

Left Ditch

 

Right Ditch

Worldly

 

“Amish”
Teens isolated by age group / de-emphasis of family

 

No youth ministry / family and church seen synonymously
Games only Non-engaging and irrelevant teaching
A decisionist approach with little or know structured curriculum or teaching (see Keller, “The Need for Gospel Renewal”) “Programmed conversion” / formalized spirituality through confirmation etc / no recognition of revival
Complete para-church approach A refusal to ever cooperate with other churches

This all comes together to envision our church where parents are biblically challenged in an ongoing way, where people relate to one another as extended family. For youth ministry, in particular, we envision a team of adult leaders, each serving in their areas of giftedness, who build vital relationships with young people.

 


[1] Christian Smith et al., Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011); Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).

A Swarm of Kids at VBS

Chris —  June 12, 2012

One of the most exciting times at our church in Stillman Valley is Vacation Bible School. Our church is represented by people from Rockford, Cherry Valley, Byron, Oregon, Davis Junction and many other communities. So even though our town only has 1,100 people we have around 175 children and workers here each day this week.

How to Thrive at College

Chris —  May 21, 2012

Alex Chediak:

College should be a temporary season of academic preparation and personal growth to propel a lifetime of effective service to God and neighbor. It should be a launching pad into all that goes with responsible Christian adulthood. Yet for some it’s a time when they abandon the Christian faith, displaying that they never really belonged to Christ (1 John 2:19). For others, their faith remains intact, but they waste their college years with video games, partying, and other frivolities — an expensive vacation funded by Mom, Dad, and (often) debilitating student loans.

Today, seven out of ten high school graduates immediately go on to college, but about 30% will never become sophomores, and almost half will not have graduated even six years later.1 Many who do graduate move right back home with their parents, assuming little responsibility and armed with little ambition for Christ.

Own Your Faith

I’m convinced that you should not just survive college but thrive at college. Don’t just maintain your faith, but really come to own it — growing thick, strong roots (1 Timothy 4:12). Don’t just perpetually visit churches but find one to join— one that clearly proclaims the gospel, practices vibrant worship, and welcomes you into authentic iron-sharpening-iron community. You need a good church off campus as much as you need strong Christian friendships on campus.

Don’t trifle with sin; stay clear of impurity (Ephesians 5:3). God is not mocked; we never get away with anything (Galatians 6:7–8). Be quick to repent when you stumble. Practice being deeply satisfied with all that God is for you in Jesus and the pleasures at God’s right hand will overwhelm the deceitful siren calls of sin (Psalm 16:11). Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life (Proverbs 4:23).

Walk With the Wise

Preempt loneliness with a strategy to find Christian community on campus, particularly at secular schools . . .

Read the rest here.

Christians are willing to publically profess faith in Christ.  I wonder if the “Bricks” would look through the below pictures.  And, if you see one of the young people from our church family – – pray for him or her, and let our young people know that you are thankful for their stand for Christ.

DSC_0033

Christ said in Matthew 10:32-33,

"So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.(Mt 10:32-33)."

Few things excite me more as a pastor, then to see our young people willing to arrive early at school, and to be seen singing, reading Scripture together, and praying, when their peers comes to school.

DSC_0070It is especially encouraging to see junior high boys willing to lead and take a stand for Christ.  Amid all the chaos of the age, young men being prepared for leadership is so encouraging. 

 

Watch a slideshow of more pictures below.