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I am not going to tell you to go back to youth group. If the youth group can not feed you spiritually, then why bother? What I would say is that Jesus got angry too. He got angry at things that were wasteful, manipulative, condescending, etc. We also know that Jesus did not always sit on his anger. There were times when he expressed it in not-so-nice terms. It is not your job to "save" the youth group from itself. But maybe finding a way to honestly critique and express how you feel might be a way to shake the youth program into a more authentic group. Best wishes as you decide which is the best path to take. Thank you for the post...your blog is among my favorites.


I believe you are right on in many instances. There are somefolks who are going to come only for the fun stuff.There are many others who need the depth charge of regular study and worship. I think you have done something admirable to go forward with Christian Believer and Worship.
One of the next steps for the youth group at Del Rosa UMC is to find a few long-time members who are willing to 'host' a group of 6-10 youth on a night other than Youth Group Night to be able to bring the intimacy of sharing back home, along with the study aspects you speak of. My hope is that this will bring it back home for some of the youth for whom youth group has lost the depth and is just "too big".
Dunwoody has a history of doing youth disciple, and having a regular prayer service for the youth with depth and sharing. This was the case before my time, during my time and after. Maybe it is time for moving forward with something like that as well as the other.
All in all I applaud you for your candor and your sharing.


Christopher -- Thanks. I really I appreciate your thoughts. My honest critique in the past hasn't been too helpful. Quite the opposite in fact. That's what I had in my mind when I mentioned in the post that I realize that it is often very hard for those persons -- leaders usually -- who are deeply invested in the group to acknowledge and give creedance to a push in the 'right' direction. That's part of what led me to say, in effect, "I'm done with youth group for now."

David -- We do have Youth Disciple still (It's offered as a Sunday School class, and the way it's taught doesn't allow for much discussion at all. It's basically a lecture. Plus no one does/did the preparation for it anyway), as well as smaller gender-seperated "Bible studies" (I put that in quotes because, in all actuality not much sudying the Bible gets done. It's an excuse to go have dinner.) and Breakfast Club (which started out years ago as a prayer breakfast if I recall correctly. Not much praying goes on now except for blessing the food).

Th hosting thing sounds cool. But, if that got started I'd be the one who would have to pretty much carry it to fruition. And honestly, I've got so much on my plate right now with Annual Conference level commitments, that's not really an option for me. . . That's not to say that I won't do some serious thinking about how to start that up, though.



Hey Natalie -
I suspect that part of your frustration stems from having come from such a great summer experience, being in a a setting where you are given more responsibility, and then trying to transition back to a different world (as you mentioned somewhat in your previous post.) I remember working at a camp when I was in highschool and coming back home and feeling like I just had to get out of there and move on with my life.
I think you are wise to do what brings you meaning or challenge for now. You could work on the youth group change, but only if that's something you're passionate about.


hey natalie,

i suggest you give the new yaconelli book "contemplative youth ministry" a read as well as kenda creasy deans "practicing passion."

i think you might find them interesting, especially in regards to your thinking re youth groups...


its pretty frustrating. ask any "youth minister". we want to bring so much more to the plate and yet it often appears that so few kids really get it. or at best only one in the group is listening with two or three other "leaders" (cool kids who have all the social power) cut-up and distract everyone else. so what's the answer? dont know. but I will keep going back to the well to see who wants a drink of water.

Andrew Seely

Hi Natalie,
I found this post via Marko's blog (and I assume you'll be getting a lot of attention becuase of his blog).

As a youth pastor, let me say that there are a number of us working hard to create places where students feel they can engage Jesus on meaningful levels.

That is not to say that I haven't failed at being someone who does what is easiest at the cost of bringing people closer to Jesus.

I thank you for your complete honesty. We need more people like you to help us (youth pastors) figure out how we can best provide spaces for students to meet with God. We need honest critical feedback of what we are doing. Othewise I know, that I just keep doing what I think is best.

I encourage you to stay deep in your faith, and in your convictions.

It seems by your thoughts that you will not be easily swayed from your relationship to God. Though I do encourage you to talk with your youth pastor and share your thoughts.

Youth ministry will never fully become what it needs to be, unless students like you are willing to stand up and voice your concern and deep desire to follow Jesus with every fiber of your being.

Thank you again for your honest thoughts and your challenge to me and many other youth pastors to do something so we don't lose amazing people of God like you from our ministries.

David Alexander


As a youth pastor, I really appreciate your honesty and sincere desire to be a part of a community that challlenges you...

and you're right, you do deserve more... don't be afraid to say it!


As a youth pastor I too appreciate and respect your thoughts and feelings. I have been in youth ministry for over 20 years now and have played a lot of games, sang a lot of songs, and have entertained many students. In the last year God has shown me that there is so much more.

You are right, students want to go deeper, students deserve to go deeper. We must get away from the entertain me mentality that has defined youth ministry for so long and get back to what Jesus desires...sacrifice. He desires that we fully and completely seek after Him and serve Him with our lives. That is what I want my ministtry to be all about.

I agree with Darren, read "Contemplative Youth Ministry." I am also through it myself and it has challenged my thinking greatly.


hey natalie,

it's obvious that you are beyond some of our average youth when it comes to the spiritual & church life. heck, i'm amazed by the titles of books and authors you read all the time (sometimes copy your book list). i wouldn't suggest "contemplative ym" for you so much as for your youth ministers and church congregation. they'd be much more able to help you and the other youth find a deeper life with some of the practices found there. that said, when you enter into ministry yourself, do read it. catch you later




You rock. Great stuff here.

Two things for you:

#1. Be part of the solution. LEAD. It's easy to critique, it's hard to bring change. But it's worth it.

#2. Get outside of your church. I'm a UMC guy and most the UMC youth pastors I have experienced have left me lacking. Get outside your denom, see where other kids are going to church.

Don't missunderstand. I'm not saying you should leave your church. STAY and be part of the solution. But get to know the other youth pastors and see what they are doing as well.

Lastly, be encouraged. Your experience is shared by many. Welcome to the church...she's a beautiful bride.


I'm grateful you posted your feelings here. I hope that more youth leaders will read it and respond. I'm headed into my third decade of youth ministry and have witnessed everything you've said. Here are a couple of my thoughts:
First, the church is the ONLY institution for the care of souls. So you're right! There's enough time and space for fun, but not at the expense of the Gospel being shared and taught. The gifts and the commission given to the church to do this are awesome, extraordinary, supernatural and real. Shame on those who lead for being too embarrassed or ignorant to do what God has called us to do.
Second, as a youth pastor for so long, I know I've upset a few kids along the way; never intentionally (I think). So I want to encourage you and ALL other students who have their foundation of faith set firmly in Christ, but have found that Jesus is missing at church/youth group, to take the God-given maturity you have and visit with your leaders about it. I've scratched my head when someone in the church flags a problem or an issue because they were wise enough to see, but then they demonstrate little if any Christian maturity and grace in the way they deal with it. In other words, I know my doors are open to hear the concerns of my students, but they need to take some initiative to come to me.

Visit with your leaders, and continue to share your heart with others for the sake of His kingdom.

In His Grip,


I sit here and read everybody else's comments on your blog and I'm just amazed and thankful that I can claim ya and that instead of having to post I can just have a cup of joe! So, until then.....



I think I just read something that sums up one of my students feelings exactly (and has said some of things almost verbatim).

I think youth ministry is at a critical juncture right now trying to figure out where it's going. I've talked to many more students like yourself and the traditional model of youth ministry isn't doing it anymore.

I've also found that many of my former students who really weren't involved in youth group are involved in the regular life of the church than those who were heavily involved. I'm still sifting through that.

As a youth pastor (who will be soon not getting a paycheck for the first time in 9 years for it), I want to encourage you to be involved in the regular life of the church, as you are, but also to talk to your youth leaders about your feelings. I've challenged my students who feel this way to be involved in the change. It's hard work, but if no one is there to change it, how is it ever going to change?

I guess it's a question of whether or not you feel God is calling you to be that person. Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn't.

We are moving to a church, but not for a position. I am confused about a lot of things in youth ministry right now, so I feel ya'. You are an encouragment to so many of us. Keep blogging and let us know how things are going.


Hmm, interesting. What would youth group look like if we took seriously the grace of Jesus Christ and the story of scripture (genesis to revelation). That is the whole story as it reveals the grace of Jesus Christ. What if we seriously wanted young people not to say the sinners prayer but to totally refocus life through the story and grace of Christ. To completely re-evaluate what is important about life and living in the light of the death and ressurection of the one man who had the authority and right to completely reshape life and living... so he did!

kenda creasy dean

Hey Natalie--

I'm not sure you bargained on a million youth ministers responding to your post--I kept looking for responses from other teenagers (or other women!). I'm just here to join in the chorus saying (I hope you are hearing this), "You go, girl!"

I was a UMC teenager too (now a UMC clergywoman)--and I quit my youth group my senior year. Same reason. Different century...like, 29 years ago, actually...so the gears of change are s-l-o-w. What did I do? First, I tried the "cool" youth group in town, where they did church differently and we talked about things I won't put in print here...(it was the late '70s, what can I say?) The novelty wore off, and years later, what happened?...I wound up in youth ministry.

I teach this stuff these days at a seminary, and all I can say is that God's hand is on you, Natalie. You've got guts and passion--and from what I can see, you're exactly who God is looking for. Your youth group time has not been wasted...in spite of, or maybe because of, the shortcomings, you have come away with a clear vision for the church. I don't think that's an accident. My bet is that you can help the UMC follow Christ to a new place. And--wow--do we ever need you.

You've obviously hit a nerve with a lot of us, and for that, I thank you. CS Lewis said somewhere, "If you want a comfortable faith, I certainly don't recommend Christianity." You give me hope that, with leaders like you out there, we might actually get a clue.

Hang in there. Be God's. Have a great year.


You are wise beyond your years....I have served as the Youth Director at an Episcopal Church and will soon be serving on a Steering Committee for a youth ministy resource community called The Center For Youth Ministry...Thanks for your candid observation that is so true. I understand and your feelings are legitmate...


If you're ever in Austin,TX please come by. You are the kind of student we are trying to 'grow'. If we could gather some others like you together, you could be a powerful force in making change. Although I grew up Southern Baptist, my experience was a lot like yours...now I'm in full time student ministry.

Passionately pursue the dangerous gospel of Christ. Remember that God loves you and has a difficult plan for your life. But what else is there besides selling out to Him? Nothing else satisfies.

Be blessed, girl!

Dr Chuck Pearson

I have nothing to add besides "thanks for a great post that slapped me several ways upside the head."

Be encouraged, you are not alone.

Brian LePort

Very well said.

Mike Croghan

Hi Natalie,

Well, I'm not a grizzled, veteran youth minister like a lot of these folks - I'm a greenhorn rookie who's just beginning as part of a (so far, very small) team hoping to journey together with the youth of a (fairly large) Episcopal church. I'm really grateful for your perspective, timely as it is. I hope the kids I'm ministering with will be as open and honest with us as you have been here, and I pray that we'll listen.


Joseph Pittman

Hey Natalie,

I know what you mean. I remember experiencing the same thing when I part the youth group at my church. Youth groups have become more of a hang-out on wednesday nights rather than an in-depth worship service or Bible study. There is nothing wrong playing games or acting out skits. The whole focus of the "Youth Group" is to not only fellowship with other believers but to also grow in your relationship with Christ. I think that Youth leaders are wanting to keep the attention their students and "entertain" them. They are always trying to think of new catchie things to grab a new person's attention and keep them coming. They dont want the youth group to be "boring". More times than not when they try to balance fun/cool things with worship/Bible study the fun-side usually wins.

I enjoyed going to youth group every wednesday. I know what it feels like to want to speak out. There were times when i did. When some of my peers would start to act up or goof off and not listen to my youth minister then I got up and told them Hey you guys we are here to worship, listen to Doug, and to grow! Dont be afraid to speak out. I do like the fact that you are waiting to cool down and collect your thoughts before you do say something. If you dont say something then it will remain the same. Atleast if you speak out maybe you will grab the attention of some of your fellow peers or maybe even some of the adults. I see that you are not attending youth group right now. Plug in somewhere. It doesnt have to be at a church. If your school has something then plug in there. Go to a Christian Coffee house. Fellowship is important. It is nice to know that you have friends that maybe going through the same personal or even faith based problems. Dont give up!

God Bless,

Big Mike Lewis

I haven't read all the comments yet, so bear with me if I repeat something.

I had a girl and guy who were dating decide that they were "too old" for the youth group. (There were mostly Jr. High at the time). What they did was kill the youth group. There were no mature leaders. There was no one to answer tougher questions and help the group go deeper.

Let your youth leader know your concerns and let him/her know that you are willing to help bring all this to a higher level. Participate and be an example. You see things that many youth leaders wish were happening in their groups, but can't get it to happen because too many kids are too immature to step up to the next level.

Your group may not be there yet.

Big Mike Lewis

Oh. If I might say one more thing. Don't become too "self-righteous". These kids I am talking about were. They were really immature, but they thought they knew it all. I am not saying you are doing this, but just guard yourself from this attitude.

I am in a group now that IS taking it to a new level of depth. We've read NT Wright and Dallas Willard. You don't hear that much in youth groups.

Amanda Mae

Well I already told you how Brilliant youa re, but I wanted to let you know, I feel your pain. It's hard to be in a youth group your denior year when it's more oriented toward fellowship than decipleship. What I've done about it is tried to work with Denise to try to start the process of changing what's going on to have a deeper more Christ-centered Ministry. I know that you may not be in a position to do that so easily, but i would encourage you to continue to be a leader and an example among your peers. I love you, and I'll be praying for you.

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    Welcome to my blog; make yourself at home and leave a comment or two! There's not much about me that you can't gather from reading these pages: I'm a United Methodist student making my way through the joys and trials of college life, while looking forward to the future's possibilities in my life and Church. --Natalie Stadnick


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