“Hey, I’ve got an idea…”: A youth ministry’s honorable intentions

Washington Post: Church’s mock raid leaves teen traumatized

“They covered the teens’ heads with pillowcases and bound their hands. One man waved an unloaded gun, and another yelled, his face daubed with camouflage paint.”

All youth directors want to impact their youth. They attempt to prepare teens for the world they will soon face apart from their parents protective bubble. Many directors also desire to provide insight into a larger view of church, by informing the teens, that not all Christians can worship and discuss their faith as freely as they can in the US. Both of these objectives are honorable. However, how far should one go to introduce teens into realities many Christian in the world outside the US face on a daily basis?

Glad Tidings Assembly of God Church decided that a mock kidnapping would be an activity to help the teens see the world many missionaries face.  It did not go well. It “traumatized one 14-year-old girl so badly that her mother filed a report with the police, claiming her daughter suffered a busted lip and bruised knees.” The teens were forced at (unloaded) gunpoint from the church, their heads were covered, they were interrogated, yelled at, then released. The church has since admitted it was a bad idea.

Just like this director, many teen group directors have honorable intentions when designing programs and events to impact a teen’s world. They feel the pressure to compete with all the glossy media and gaming that are a large part of teen life. I would suggest trying two things. First display authenticity, a teen doesn’t need the next big thing to impact their world, they need to know how to authentically live out their faith with all the failures and triumphs. Second, (and closely related to the first) teach them their worldview. The majority of pre-teens/teens have no real clue how their faith connects to the real world. Teach them how to see and interpret the world through their faith. Show them how world events and their actions should be informed by their faith. Let their faith kidnap their heart. Give them lenses to see the world.


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