Here is a fictitious story I gave to one my classes to discuss:
Brenda is a vibrant girl who comes to youth group ‘most of the time’. One day you are phoned by Brad, the youth leader at a neighboring church. Brad asks you about Brenda, he says “What’s the deal with Brenda? Lately she’s been coming to our Friday night youth events. I hear from Donna at the local Baptist church that Brenda also regularly goes to their monthly worship night. I thought she went to your group! Which youth group does she actually go to?”
You meet with Brenda and soon find out that she ‘goes to three youth groups’. She tells you that she likes the fellowship at your group, the fun stuff at Brad’s and the worship at Donna’s. When you speak with Brenda’s parents about this you are told “I don’t see the problem—when we were young we went to every youth group in town. We want our daughter experiencing Christ from as many places as possible.”
Well, what do you do?
Well, what do you do? This is the second part of my thoughts on whether or not going to two youth groups is a good thing (I’m wrestling with using the term ‘two-timer’. So far I have resisted the urge).
From my vantage point, it seems that most youth leaders, parents and any others have little or no problem with Brenda going to multiple youth groups. They don’t even see what the problem is – they wonder why be so uptight about such an issue?
But let’s take just a bit of a closer look, as it is my feeling that this common practice can actually be quite harmful to all involved in the long run.
We need to begin our thinking with some fundamentals: what is youth group about… who are you running it for… and, why are you running it.
If youth group is a drop in center for youth who come for various reasons (good and bad) but there is no commitment expected, then it is not a problem for Brenda to go to multiple groups. In fact, it is not even an issue. However, if youth group is run to be a community of believers and this community has some degree of commitment to each other, suddenly there is a problem. Add to that the fact that it is your hope that this community seeks to reach out to their friends, then youth group hopping becomes a problem. It is hard to build a community out of youth who don’t see commitment as a priority.
One of the central issues here is community. Can you really have a community built around youth who are not all that committed to your community? I know this may sound a bit stark, and some will say “But Brenda is committed to community, lots of them!” I dare say this sounds reasonable in theory but I have rarely (if ever) seen it in practice.
Finally, if youth group is run for people who are really focused on their own well-being and what ‘works for them and blesses only them’… fine, they can go to multiple groups. However, if it is all about Brenda, and what she wants, then it is all about Brenda! This means that you must support whatever else she wants to do from ice skating to school musicals to whatever—even if they mean she must drop out of youth group(s) altogether. This now becomes a bit of a double-edged sword doesn’t it?
We also have to wonder what kind Christian Brenda will be in the long-term. Will she be church hopping as an adult? Committing nowhere, serving nowhere, giving nowhere and taking non-believing friends nowhere.
Next time we’ll think about how multiple youth group attendance affects us where it really hurts—evangelism.