i have had this conversation a few times.. why do we have youth groups? have we created our own subculture that is "youth group?" to the later question, i'd have to answer, yes, we have created our own subculture in the "youth group" and partly that is to blame on culture itself. this whole age level learning is something that is a cultural norm (certainly it goes back a number of years) that starts somewhere around the end of the school-house. learning happened amongst the ages and at all times, older children practiced skills while working with the younger ones. i could go on about this one, but it's the same point.. i move on.. the subculture that is dangerous for us now is that we seperate the youth from the rest of the church. you have youth & young adults growing up with their only positive experiences to church drawn in the framework of a "youth group." this framework consists of multiple retreats, mission trip, high energy everything (even the pens are high energy), poppy music, & some lessons from the bible... sounds great! however, if we forget to teach our youth how to integrate themselves into the church then years down the line when they are young adults all they know is, you guess it, "youth group." so they want to be a youth minister, volunteer, sunday school teacher, whatever.. sounds great! trouble is, they never leave the subculture become disenfranchised with the overall working of the church and start what is a big "youth group" church.. my friend sally likes to say that vineyard churches are "youth group" churches. sounds not so great....???
so why do i like youth group? youth group really is a testing ground for our young people to figure out where their fit is. we give them these opportunities to try out things like mission trips, youth council, choir, etc.. they come to find their "indentity," as eric erikson would say. the "youth group" is this young testing ground for God's fumbling disciples to get it right, get it wrong, try again, and maybe get it right the second time. there is forgiveness in the "youth group." another aspect i like about youth group is the unique community. i like to say as Christians we all belong to a unique community. however, youth because of the days of life it occurs in, there are more special bonds that generate within this unique community. it's a special time for those who get to experience that Christian community that is "youth group."
"i am confused?" you ask. don't be, i didn't contradict myself there. youth group is a positive ministry for the church. we must be vigilent to make sure that youth group doesn't become a subculture within the church, but only a part of the body of the church. frequent interactions with the congregation that is not a regular part of the youth group, teaching youth how to pick sunday school classes, sit on committee's, encourage to sing/play in adult choirs, etc. it's not rocket science, not even profound.. but i think it's worth saying every now and again.