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Youth Workers' Dirty Little Secret

There is a dirty little secret that all youth workers aren’t telling teens.  Do you want to know what it is?  Lean in.  A little closer.  That’s right.  Get really close to that computer screen and I will whisper it to you.  You ready?  Here it is, youth workers don’t study the Bible.

What a relief to get that off my chest.  We are free brothers and sisters of the youth worker persuasion!  Free at last!  Free at last!  Thank God Almighty….sorry wrong context.

The only problem is…this isn’t a problem.  I mean it’s known by youth workers, students who pay attention, parents, pastors of all variety and typically anyone who talks to a youth worker longer than 10 minutes.  It’s joked about in the occasional YouTube video depicting the stereotypical youth pastor.  It’s even made reference to in youth worker conferences and workshops.  But that’s it.

And youth worker resource ministries, like the one I’m a part of, aren’t helping the issue.  We see it as a service in the name of Jesus when we do the hard work of studying a text and writing commentary lite intros in accessible language for youth workers.  We put out an endless parade of products that make it simply easy to regurgitate the work of others.  Some youth workers even put freebies out on the day before Sabbath to help you cut down on your weekend prep.  I say all this to say that I’m just as much a perpetuation of the problem as anyone.

Now I am not saying that youth workers don’t read the Bible.  It would be unChristian if we didn’t read the Bible.  Right?  Some even read our daily bread worth of devos on the Bible.  The more committed youth workers might read those commentary lite leader’s guides in prep for a lesson.  Youth workers are clearly devoted to a plain reading of God’s word.

What I am saying is that youth workers don’t cut out the space to dig into the scripture.  We don’t saturate our minds with rigorous studies of the text.  We don’t allow the text and multiple commentaries to take up residence in our imagination for days.  We don’t allow the word of God enough time to read us in order that we might properly read it.  In the end, we neglect the meat of God’s word for the milk of Biblicism.

And here is the kicker.  When we neglect the greater thing, our students see less than God’s intended way for us.  In other words, they see our sin.  They can see right through our shallow appropriation of a parable.  They can peer into the murky puddles of our devo reflections.  They could care less what we have to say and sometimes they could care less with what God has to say because of it.

Here’s the thing.  I am not condemning anyone here.  I’m not without sin in this place.  What I want to say is that I’m owning this one.  If I don’t confess any other sin this Lenton Season then fine.  But I’m owning this one because it is a reality that God deserves more than trite remarks on his glorious revelation.  God deserves my all when I come to the revelation of the Word in the word.

Here is the challenge to all three youth workers who will read this post.  Own it.  If you have done it then own it.  Lets begin praying that God will allow us to repent together.

May it be so.  

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paul@nph.com'
Paul Sheneman is an author, speaker and youth pastor. He serves with the Macedonia Methodist Church in Ohio. He drinks way too much coffee for his own good. His main interest is exploring Christian formation. You can follow most of his ramblings on his blog at www.discipleshipremix.com or on Twitter @PaulSheneman.