Saturday, November 17, 2007

Priorities

This is my first attempt at blogging something of substance, so bear with me as I tread into dangerous territory.

Why is it that churches coming to Hume are having more and more trouble filling their spots?

The number one reason I hear is that the cost is too high and students and parents just can't afford it anymore. A few youth pastors tell me that they feel they can do something "almost as good" for a lower price. And still others just say that camp's not as popular with teens anymore.

A few thoughts...

#1 - STUDENTS CAN AFFORD IT. How many teens have the newest iPod, a decent car, a Wii AND an X-Box 360, and finally the new iPhone, all while carrying a data plan for the iPhone while buying all the newest songs on iTunes?

#2 - PARENTS CAN AFFORD IT. What do they pay monthly for each kid to have a cell phone, cable or satellite tv in every room, high speed internet, gas & insurance for the kids' cars, and who knows how much more per month?

#3 - CAMP IS STILL EFFECTIVE.

Conclusions...
  • Today's youth actually have MORE disposable income than any generation ever has. (I have no statistics for this, but it's gotta be true.)
  • While the cost of camp has indeed gone up over the years, it's still affordable.
  • There are so many more things competing for the disposable income of teens today than there were 10 (or even 5) years ago.
  • Kids are too busy. Not only is there so much competing for their money, there's way too much that's competing for their time.
  • Sports is king. Students and parents alike are lost in the delusion that they'll become the best in the particular sport & get scholarships to pay for college and give them a professional career.
  • Ultimately, to the majority of parents today, spiritual things take on the lowest priority and they'd way rather spend money on sports or band camp, than invest into their kids' eternal future.
What do we as youth workers do?

Maybe it starts with my own priorities. Perhaps I, as a leader, have put a lot of faith in the lies of the world, and am not setting the example to those following me that Christ is it, and nothing else matters. Maybe we, as youth leaders, need to be more aggressive in communicating with the parents of our students, and truly partnering with them in their kids' spiritual growth.

Maybe...

I want to hear from you people reading this. What's next? Where do we go? Can we do anything? What's God doing through all of this? How can we, as Hume & the Church, partner together more effectively to reach this generation?

4 comments:

Kyle said...

Cliff, it is good to hear your thoughts on this. It would be great to talk to you in person about this because I'm still a young-un and have some crazy ideas of my own but sometimes lack the big picture. I'll be up for the Root's wedding so I'll see you then.

glen. said...

Maybe, but it depends on what you're target for ministry is too. Is your target teens who would normally want to go to camp or is it teens who would otherwise never be caught dead at something even vaguely Christian? How many of the churches do you have kids who do come because a) they love Hume and/or Christian camping or summer camp as a whole; or b) have Christian parents who want their kids to love Jesus and would bend space and time if they could get them to a place which might help in facilitating that no matter where in the spectrum that child happens to be (ie they hate Christ, way into drugs/sex/baal; to love Christ, they flew to camp they had so much faith).

The effectiveness of camp, I agree, but how much of it is to kids who are already given a chance to receive Christ every time they walk in and out of the front door every morning. I'm not say that the Lord isn't persistent, nor that because someone has Bible Action Fun bedsheets they shouldn't be given yet another chance, but my church recently pulled out from going to Hume because (ta-da) we couldn't fill our spots. PS. This was after none other than Jeff Lilley himself offered us 20 full-ride scholarships. And I don't think it's being overzealous either. It wasn't like we had 100 and couldn't fill them. We are practically standing at the highways inviting people (in some ways almost literally) to the wedding supper, but no one feels like changing their clothes. We offered camperships and ways to pay for camps, and many did. Some kids didn't buy the iPods and worked to the bone, and came to camp. Some parents paid. But hands down, our church couldn't financially pay for the spots and still be evangelistic (and when I say evangelistic, I mean, being able to invite their friends and not say "oh yeah, and it's only $400" to come). We're going to have to try and do something "'almost as good'".

Bear in mind, I agree with you. I tried to start a discipleship group in October having students meet at the church before school to study the Scriptures and discuss the spiritual disciplines. We had to ultimately table it because I found out quickly that we had so many non-believing parents, that logistically, they wouldn't support their students getting to a church thing. But even if that weren't the case, try starting a prayer group for anything, and you'll see spiritual priorities quickly. You'll have a lot of people week one, but three months in, you'll be lucky to have more than the host.

My Internet is going to cut out in about nine minutes, and I'm sure you're going to tell me how wrong I am, so I'll let you go at it. I had more to say. Stuff about co-opting an event based youth ministry philosophy which leads to burnout and other crap. But don't dismiss me because you'd label me a post-modernist. Whatever that means. Or I'll send you copies of NT Wright's talks on why Modernity is just as bad or worse than Postmodernity. Or I'll just send you so Modernist writing (like "The God Dellusion") and see if that chimes any bells.

The Ousdahls said...

A few thoughts:

1) As far as "almost as good" goes...I say good luck to any youth ministry trying to come even close. Obviously, God doesn't need Hume-like awesomeness to do His work, but the creativity, resources, and overall top-notch programming at Hume makes it an incredible tool...and one that's hard to recreate at that.

2) I agree that the problem has nothing to do with money (except for maybe with the "unchurched" friend who gets invited). To me, the time issue seems to be a much bigger culprit. Students today are WAY busier than they have ever been before. SIDE NOTE: The church has a lot of blame in this. The youth ministry that I am a part of right now literally has some sort of programming on every night of the week except Mondays...basketball night, small groups, our "fun" night, volleyball night....it's ridiculous if you ask me.

3) Maybe I don't understand the culture in CA anymore (since I have been on the East Coast for 8 yrs now), but I can't imagine students not wanting to go to Hume. It was always the highlight of my year.

If students are no longer caring whether or not they go to Hume, I would be amazed. What better thing do they have to do? Even from a completely non-spiritual point-of-view...Hume is a blast.

Nothing deep, I know, but these are a few thoughts.

adamandjeremy said...

well said. me and melissa are youth leaders at our church, and they complain about money all the time, but they dont know how to prioritize.
i've always come from the perspective that camp is as cool/fun as you make it. there is only so much camp staff and church volunteers can do to make it the "entire experience" it's supposed to be.
If you ask me how to convince them to believe that, unfortunatly I am still trying to figure that out.