Youth Groups and Relational Church

Certainly children benefit greatly from interaction with adults other than
their parents, and in environments with other kids that are learning to
share their journey together.  And undoubtedly a youth director is one way
that might be facilitated, but I do think it is one of the least effective
ways.  Let me tell you three stories in that regard:

First, a long time ago when I used to help in leadership with one of those
things many often mistakenly call churches, we had 30 year old electrician
approach some of us in leadership saying that he wanted to invite some high
school kids to his home on Friday nights.  We said great!  Within a year
more than 100 kids were packing out his house on Friday nights eating,
sometimes singing together, and often sorting out some Scripture together.
It was awesome and transforming for kids.  Two years later when he said he
felt like that time was over for him, some of our leadership wanted to hire
a youth director to take on his work.  We eventually did, and what had begun
as a genuine expression of relationship became a machine that lost its
effectiveness with kids.  Now they had something to go to if we could make
it fun enough.  The naturalness of life was devoured by an attempt to do it

Second, in my daughter’s senior year of high school when we were sorting out
things in a house church, my daughter expressed her desire to have more
contact with high school kids.  We told her to ask God about that and see
what he might provide.  After going to a number of youth groups that she
didn’t like because of how religiously manipulative they were with kids’
performance, she grew discouraged.  As we continued to pray, however, God
began to connect her with a number of high school kids at her own school.
Some of them came from various congregations, and some had never been to a
place called ‘church’, but all of them were tired of youth groups. They
began to hang out together on Friday nights in various homes and started
sharing their spiritual journeys.  There were no leaders, no sponsors, just
some hungry kids loving Jesus together.  It was the best thing my daughter
could have been involved in, and the night of her graduation 30 of them
spent all night on a mountain, singing and praying for each other and how
God would lead them into their uncertain futures.  Amazing stuff!

Third, I’ve been staying in a home on Vancouver Island this past weekend
with a family who has about 30 or 40 twenty-somethings hanging around it.
These kids come over in irregular waves.  They come for dinner, come to fix
their cars with coaching from the man of the house, come to ask questions
about their lives and futures.  Less than 10% of these probably know Christ
personally at this point, but all of them are asking questions, especially
why the family seems so passionate about Jesus but do not attend a local
religious establishment.  It has been a BLAST hanging out with these kids
and seeing what God is doing among them. When this man was asked once how he
gets so many kids to come over, he simply answered, “You just have to show
them that you care and kids will fall out of the trees to be with you.”
They regularly talk and pray with the kids who want help.  Many of them
don’t have a full set of parents, or some of them have absent parents.  But
they have found a safe place to hang out, be loved and sort through their
questions.  They never have a ‘meeting’ of the kids, but simply share an
ongoing conversation with them that eventually gets around to the life of

I have had the occasion to be around scores of youth programs over the years
and have never seen anything as effective as people learning to love others
the way they’ve been loved and spending time with the kids God brings their


Wayne Jacobsen

Gleaned From a post of Wayne Jacobsen on the House Church Discussion List

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