I recently had a discussion with a parent who informed me their student would not be attending youth group for a while until (s)he learned the merits of good decision making. This caused me to ponder a certain phenomenon I have yet to figure out. This weekend as I was on the tractor baling hay, my mind began to think about this idea at length. Here are some things I concluded.
First of all, from a ministry standpoint, grounding a student from church because the student has made bad choices, goes against all logic. In high school I struggled through algebra. When I failed an algebra test, my mom did not forbid me from doing more math homework. It was quite the opposite. My education-minded mother brought me to school early so I could spend time with my teacher learning what I had not yet mastered. So why would a parent whose student is not making good decisions deprive that student from an institution that I believe is set up to help them make good decisions? Here are three possible reasons.
1. Parents do not perceive church youth programs to be relevant, life-changing institutions that truly have a positive impact on their son or daughter's moral development. As youth workers, we know why we got into youth ministry, and it wasn't for the astronomical salary and benefits. It was to see students lives changed as they become molded into the spirit of Christ. However, from the outside looking in, it may be very accurate to say that parents perceive our youth programs as another social function where kids play "chubby bunnies" and have concerts and lock-ins, but do little to shape the spiritual lives of teens.
2. Church youth programs are not relevant, life-changing institutions that truly have a positive impact on their son or daughter's moral development. While some people who have not spent any time in a youth program may not have a clue what goes on, the fact remains that some of our youth ministries are not doing the work God has called us to do. Many of us as youth workers have bought into the "amusement park tour guide" mentality that it is our job just to make sure the kids are too busy to get into "sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll". If our programs are not doing anything to mold the spiritual lives of our teens, maybe our parents are justified in grounding their kids from church.
3. Church members in general do not perceive the church to be agents of divine change in the world. If a parent does not perceive the youth group to be an important part of a student's spiritual and moral growth, it may be because the church is not an important part of the parent's spiritual and moral growth. This will depend on the individual and the church. But I would dare say that for many church members (including those with teenage youth), the church is another social network, a place to make business contacts, or it serves another menial role other than being an agent of change in the world.
So what would you add to this list? Do your parents ground kids from church? If so, why do you think that is? I'd love to hear your thoughts.