As a youth pastor I receive a lot of mail promoting various youth events and conferences. I wonder at the millions of dollars that must be spent on these mailings, and then the billions of dollars coming out of church, and family budgets to send their youth to these events, and then I wonder what do these events produce?
Today I received an invitation to "Fusion Youth Conference 2009" held at Indiana Wesleyan University. The invitation was certainly beautiful and eye catching. So I opened it up and read it. There was not a single scripture reference on it, nothing that even mentioned the purpose of the conference. It appears the featured speaker is Darren Whitehead from Willow Creek, and the blurb about him lets us know that "Darren is committed to reaching the high-tech media-driven culture of the next generation." The concert portion will be done by Pillar, Nevertheless, and Connersvine, I am only familiar with Pillar. While I am not out and out against Pillar, I do not find their music producing much more than a mosh pit, and head banging, holiness and righteousness... well they mention those things... subliminally at best.
Anyway, I receive things like this at least twice a week if not more, constantly asking us to send our kids.
I sit back and scratch my head... we went to ATF Battlecry when I was not in charge 3 years ago, and while the kids had a great time, the messages were not bad, but the atmosphere was so impressive that within 5 minutes of the end of any message the kids had already forgotten what they heard. It was a frenzy for sure, but a move of God? Maybe for a few. I contend that if every leader who took a group to that or any of these events would have instead taken their youth to a campground, or a retreat and had a weekend of bible study, gospel preaching, and genuine fellowship there would have been a far greater movement of God, and millions of dollars could have been saved.
I am so tired of this belief that we need to have so much media to have an impact. It is a lie, a lie that destroys small churches that cannot afford it, and a lie that puts out the candlestick of the big churches that can. I am not saying media is bad, there is some great stuff on youtube see "Lane Chaplin", and there is nothing inherently evil about power point, it is useful, but at the same time none of it is necessary. Yesterday I preached the gospel to a group of 24 students 20 of whom do not attend any sort of worship on a weekly basis. The gospel was preached in the small chapel of our church (a pretty formal setting). No powerpoint, no cute stories, none of that. Yet you could hear a pin drop in that chapel, and trust me these are middle school kids who have just sat for 6 hours at school, they do not just sit still. However, when the gospel is preached authoritatively, correctly, with much love, but with much conviction, God can do a mighty work. A bunch of 6th 7th and 8th graders sitting quietly is supernatural (I am not trying to make a joke). The Gospel leaves them spellbound, and the silence speaks far more to the power of God than amens, and raucous excitement.
If you are a youth worker reading this, I implore you: study the Gospel, practice preaching the Gospel, pray that God would empower the preaching by His Spirit, and go and preach to your youth. Do not waste your time, or your churches money on these big conferences designed to stir your kids up into a frenzy just to leave them spiritually hungover the following week.
Now, I'll be honest, we play games. We goof off. We do things that are silly... but we preach the Gospel, not a little bit of God here and there just in order to sanctify our good time.