As we find rest from a busy season, how are we preparing to refill our cup?

June 27, 2014 1 3 comments
Discussion Topic

Looking for bible studies that focus on specific books of the Bible for teens.

June 18, 2014 0 0 comments

Try these four strategies for implementing Sabbath a bit more effectively.

June 17, 2014 1 2 comments

Telling others about Jesus does not have to be scary.

June 17, 2014 0 0 comments

I recently read an article that stated how important it was for youth workers to have patience. I immediately thought: “uh-oh, I’m in trouble”. Patience is definitely a virtue I did not receive in plenty.

June 6, 2014 0 1 comments

A young adult told me the other day that maybe we should look at the Sabbath differently. She said, “Instead of saying that the Sabbath is for the Lord and acting as if the rest of the week is for ourselves, maybe we should look at it as if the Sabbath is for humankind and the rest of the week is for our Lord.”

June 4, 2014 0 0 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

“Can you recommend a good devotional for teens?” “Good” is completely subjective: a devotional that connects with one teen ends up collecting dust for another.

May 15, 2014 0 0 comments

A video compiled remembering Jake Hiemstra

May 12, 2014 0 0 comments

The words we use to describe what we do has a direct relationship to how our ministry is perceived by the congregation and the people we serve.

May 5, 2014 0 2 comments

There is a room in God’s Kingdom somewhere in northern Alberta where His children tried something quite radical.

April 28, 2014 0 4 comments

Where to go with Doubt

   From time to time, everyone who has been taught or has embraced the Christian faith will go through periods of doubt. 
   One approach is to quit church, abandon Christian friends and plunge into a way of life that presumes God does not exist.  With that...

April 23, 2014 0 1 comments

My name is Ron deVries, and I will be your next Youth Ministry guide. I am privileged to walk alongside incredibly gifted Youth Leaders from across Northern Alberta, and have engaged in conversations about youth ministry with passionate people in many corners of the denomination.

April 17, 2014 1 2 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

Webinar recorded March 5, 2014. This webinar will explore the current youth ministry landscape and the challenges of developing a contextual approach to discipleship that is good for the local church.

March 5, 2014 0 0 comments

She can’t believe it! Relationships are actually work? How can this be possible. Love is, after all, an emotion… right? That’s what Google tells me.

February 11, 2014 0 0 comments

Hi! I am hoping to lead my youth group on a mission trip this summer in our city of Seattle (our church is in Shoreline which is 20 minutes outside the city). I have never lead a mission trip before, so I am starting to feel a bit overwhelmed with all the componants.

1) Does anyone have a...

December 27, 2013 0 1 comments

Let’s be honest: Youth Ministry has been messy. It’s a new focus in the life of a congregation, arising less than 150 years ago, gaining significant momentum in the last 50 years. Recent changes in culture are also redefining what it means to be youth pastors – social media and technological advances challenging even the simplest means of communication. So what is the way forward?

December 17, 2013 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

This is a very interesting film regarding Youth Ministry:

We don't segegrate in the Church based on race or sex (male/female) so where did the idea come from to segegrate based on age.  You don't find it in the Bible.

November 26, 2013 0 3 comments

The truth is, I don’t know what to tell them. I think “finding your identity in Christ” is a starting point, but the particulars of how that looks in everyday life are a very different story—which isn’t a very pretty, wrapped-with-a-bow answer to hand middle and high schoolers.

November 25, 2013 0 2 comments

What books reflecting the Reformed world-and-life view might you recommend for teens?

November 14, 2013 0 0 comments

As leaders, we often see that our youth have some head knowledge about God and the Bible and can often give the right answers. But as leaders, we want them to have more than just knowledge, we want them to experience Jesus not just know about Him. We are struggling with how to make youth group a place for the youth to grow spiritually...

November 14, 2013 0 4 comments
Resource, Article

Most of the youth I have the privilege of serving come with an edge of skepticism and cynicism. Where this comes from could be the data of a global study, but my context says that it’s a very real thing. “Why can’t I drink at the party?” “What’s wrong with sex before marriage?” “The Bible doesn’...

September 30, 2013 0 0 comments

There’s no doubt about it. Many youth in this generation are leaving the church. But what if we looked at this as an opportunity instead of an outrage? What if it’s not the person of Jesus Christ that these students are running away from, but rather the claustrophobic nature of our churches’ four-walled worship?

September 24, 2013 0 0 comments

What just happened? I thought I was just picking my kids up from baseball practice, and suddenly football is upon us? Seriously, hockey season is starting (this is awesome, says the fans)? Sure, we had two weeks off this summer, but I can barely remember those 14 days, let alone the laundry, the cooking, the slumber parties, and the day care schedules for 2013–2014. And then there are the school supplies. Will there ever be a day when we aren’t so financially strapped that I’ll be able to get Starbucks without a fight breaking out? And church is a part of all of that how?…

September 13, 2013 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Youth Unlimited has a new promo video out highlighting their work as a provider of faith forming experiences for teens in the CRC and beyond. Check it out at


September 10, 2013 0 0 comments



There is another aspect to the youth program that could help to bring in the entire congregation.   The most successful youth program is one that enlists the help and support of every single adult in the church.   By that I mean that the congregation needs to pray for the youth, teach the youth, encourage the youth in coming to Christ, and encourage the youth in faithful living for Christ.   No youth pastor or any other pastor can do that all by himself.   Every parent and grandparent needs to be taught how to do that, to help with that at home, on vacation, at school activities, in evening discussions, shared meals, and at every opportunity.  The preaching of the lead pastor should also be mentioning that from time to time.  The youth are the closest and most neighborly mission field, in which everyone can be a missionary.  

posted in: From The Shadows

Thought I'd give you an update on our monthly service projects.  Our first project for our high school students fell through as it was a bad weekend for illness and students being out of town.  Instead, my family and one other student and her family went out for dinner - which was a great way to get a better insight into the life of this student.

Our middle school group hosted a Trunk or Treat event on halloween night.  They were joined by some of the high school students and all of them did a good job setting up, making the neighborhood guests feel welcome, guiding them through the church (moved it inside because of the weather), and helped clean up.  Not sure if students were that impacted by this event but it was a fun, non-threatening way to get them started on the idea.

Last Sunday evening, I bought some Little Caesar's $5 gift cards, made up a note stating why were doing this and identifying our church, and took the high school students to a strip mall to hand them out to whomever was leaving one of the stores.  All the students were required to go up to person and say something like "Hi, I'm Ken from Southern Heights and I just want to give you this Little Caersar's gift card.  Merry Christmas."  Even the super shy student managed to do this and enjoyed it!  Afterward, we went to Steak N Shake and discussed the night.  They were surprised that about 1/3 of the people turned them down.  We also had a great discussion about how just about everyone who took the card couldn't believe they were getting something with no strings attached or that we refused any type of donation.  They're now looking forward to our next service projects.

Last night, I bought about 180 candy canes at the dollar store, attached a note that said "Merry Christmas from Southern Heights", and brought our middle school group to the same strip mall.  We divided into teams of 2 or 3 and went to various stores where the students greeted people with a simple "Hi, I'm Ken from Southern Heights. Merry Christmas!" as they handed them a candy cane.  We had talked in advance that some people might not take one, and that helped the students as about 1/4 of the people turned them down.  Once they got into the groove, they were so excited to see the smiles on people's faces and hear their surprised "Thank You".  Some people immediately reached into their pocket for a donation, but the kids were quick to let them know that this was their gift to them and they expected nothing in return.  One clerk from the bookstore we were standing at apparently had made a quick errand to another store and was heading back into the store when one of our young men approached her and said his piece and gave her the candy cane.  The look of pure joy on her face was priceless - and then she gave him a big hug while she thanked him.  I was interested in what his reaction would be to that and when he came back to the group his reaction was "She smells nice!"  Just as we were finishing handing out our candy canes, this clerk came back out with a cup of hot chocolate for this student and told him she was so touched because that was the first time in her life a non-family member had wished her a "Merry Christmas" just because - wanting nothing in return.  Other groups had stories of people who were so touched they also gave them hugs (all hugs were appropriate and leaders were right there for protection).  When we got back to church and shared our stories, I could tell the kids really got the concept of giving of themselves without expecting nothing in return.  We talked about how this student gave 5 seconds of his time and a gift that cost less than a dime, and how that impacted this person's life.  This group is now pumped to do more service projects.

I was amazed at how God used these simple ideas in such a great way.  He is so amazing in what He can do!

Our next project will be joint projects as our youth groups join our community in a community food drive.  We will drag boxes on carts around an "assembly line" where others will pack the boxes.  After we make a few rounds on the assembly line, we will then take several names and bring the food to families.  Seeing a community work together impacts the students, as well as the gratitude of the recipients. 

I'll keep you posted on how our events go.

Thanks so much for the support! One of the many challenges of ministry is breaking traditional models or understanding of church, and what you've said above tells me you understand how to approach the issue. Thanks again! 

No, they don't need a spouse who plays the piano.   They need to train their children to play the piano.   Even a child who only plays the melody, is still a greater gift than "buying" a pianist, because that child will grow and develop and improve.  And when that imported pianist leaves, then what?   Back to square one.   While the child who learns will be there longer.  Even in a small church with less than 100 people, it is possible to have six children learning to play, and others can play different instruments.   Music is a gift from God;  a gift to be used, not just to be listened to. 

Not that there's anything wrong with having a "spouse" who plays the piano, but concentrate on the children first. 

Hi Simon,

I've assembled several commissioning liturgies for a non-ordained youth pastor/youth director. If interested, send me an e-mail ( and I'll attach them as Word documents.

In Christ,

John Lee

Hi Simon

I have a liturgy we used to ordain our youth pastor when he became a ministry associate (now commissioned pastor).  I think that's what you're looking for.  I don't want to add it here if it's not what you're looking for, but if it is, let me know at and I'll send it to you as an attachment.

Bert Slofstra

Hi Simon, a few years ago I wrote a commissioning litany for leaders and teachers for congregations to use as faith nurture programs kick off in the fall. It's not exactly what you are looking for, but it may offer a helpful pattern that you can adapt. You'll find it posted here on the Reformed Worship website. 

A pet peeve of mine is when worshiip leaders include songs with reference to raising hands, and then they don't!  Better then to not use a song with those lyrics, lest this detail show us to be less than sincere.

posted in: Are You A Player?


Thanks for the question.  By commissioning I have in mind a moment in a  service when through a liturgy (i.e. prayer, responsive reading, charge to the youth director, charge to the congregation) the congregation will commission the person we just hired to fill the youth director position here at our church.  


Are you speaking in terms of "Commissioning" through classis? Or in terms of simply calling a youth director? If you're seeking ordination ("Commissioned Pastor) through the classis, you simply have to set something up through classis clerk. The process (as far as I understand it) varies from exactly how the process goes. But when I did my Article 23 (Commissioned Pastor), I had a mentor who guided me through the process in conglomeration with our congregations pastor (worked on my strengths and weaknesses together).


Does that help?

Great article, Ray! I would also question what we're doing outside of our "everyday youth jobs"? This is a challenge I've been forcing myself to do recently because it's so easy to get sucked into doing "youth work". Doing something volunteer without payment (the "service" work we always preach about) is different than leading a Bible study or an event or a praise team or a service project we're being paid to be present for. True volunteer time without your youth by your side I think is also a valuable tool for teaching, leading, and instructing students. The best teachers I learned from were mentors who told life stories, not metaphorical scenarios. 

Love the article!

posted in: Are You A Player?

My passion and focus at church is in worship and how we use art and liturgy in an instructive way. For me, in the worship setting, it's about treating people like adults and focusing less on the "show" and more on the content. Are we telling the gospel story in the art and liturgy we use during the service? Can I as an artist take liberty with a text or scripture to make a broader point that helps people connect with the sermon comming next? Can we provide context for the message? Like I said about memorizing "Bible facts", it isn't just about rushing though a few happy songs so we can get to the sermon. It's looking at the service through a comprehensive lens and helping people connect the dots through word and song and silence. Worship extends far, far beyond a set list of hymns and praise choruses!

Jonathan! You've hit the nail on the head and I'm happy you understand what I'm trying to communicate. I perceive from your comment that you're somehow involved in leadership which makes me curious: What sort of tangible ways you're carrying out the initiatives (living scripture in a palpable way) you've referenced above?

I think in your second paragraph you point out that it's more complex than simply calling millennials (I assume that's who you're refering to) a "60-second" generation. Our attention may seem to last 60 seconds at a time, but we can spend hours dedicated to those 60 second chunks. Also, as anyone who has tried for a perfect 3 stars on all levels of Angry Birds can tell you, those simple puzzles aren't always so easy.

Speaking as a millennial and "technically-still-young" person, I think the obstacles we face in ministry sometimes have more to do with our frustration that old models aren't working anymore rather than anything. I think where in the past youth ministry has been more about the rote memorization of Biblical knowledge, maybe it needs to take a cue from these little puzzle games and be about helping young people make conclusions themselves about their faith. In stead of saying "Jesus wants us to do X, and here are three versus that prove it", it needs to be more like "what do these three versus tell us about how we are called to live as Christians in a complex and messy world outside the Church?"  Now if you'll excuse me, there's a squirrel and some shiny objects outside my window that need my attention. =)

Pete! That's an amazing story! And I totally agree that we are changed by every humble action we do for Christ!

Ken, I'd love to hear more about your mini mission trips! Being that this is a new venture for me personally, I'd love to hear from you more about a) what it is you are doing and b) how you think it's helping your youth. You can post it here (helpful to all of us), or if you prefer email:

Wholeheartedly agree with the "hands on" gospel.  The leaders of our tudent ministry watched a webinar by Greg Steir from Dare2Share which emphasized getting out there.  How to keep the "mission trip high" for Christ has always been an issue that we've dealt with.  So, we've decided that both our middle and high school student ministries will take one meeting a month to go out and be Christ's hands, feet, ears, etc. to the world - mini mission trips.  It's been proven that students draw closer to Christ through prayer and studying His word when on mission trips, so we're praying that these mini-trips will help draw them to a better and stronger relationship with Christ.  The students can't wait until the service meetings when they get to leave the building and be Christ's church in action.

Ken VanderLugt


I'll never forget the first service project I led to inner-city Chicago in 1985.  As the students went behind three locked doors and had to sleep on tables to stay away from the cockroaches, they started asking serious questions like   "how come I have a clean bed and a safe home and these people don't?"   As we painted and cleaned that weekend, I talked alot about grace, sin, and the mercy of God.    We all came back changed and humbled.  Doesn't that happen everytime we serve from the heart?

-Pete Byma


Thanks for the excitement, passion and desire to continue and bridge the gap that many times as leaders we fail at; Reaching in both directions we will bridge that transitional gap easier....God bless you as you continue to experience what He has laid on your heart to proclaim without shame!!!!!

Every so often, I think it's a good idea to take a look at how you are doing your youth ministry.  We did that this year with the premise that our vision is good; however, are we doing ministry in way that is in line with our vision?  Then we approached it with the mindset that not only is this a new year, but how would we do this ministry if it was a brand new ministry.  After a good discussion and tossing out quite a few ideas (some wild) we ended up making some significant changes while keeping parts that were effective and will help the students feel continuity from last year. 

It was scary, as a leader, to ask my team these questions, but I'm glad I did as it not only gets us closer to our vision but also gives ownership to the rest of the volunteer team. 

posted in: Why Ask Why?

Jason: Great is not usually so Black & White because there are so many factors that effect those changes; to stay ahead of the culture trends, over the last 30 yrs, I believe in the 7 year rule; that is it averages out to 7-10 yrs a new generation evolves with different, likes, goals, visions, technology etc. etc. etc. So making a goal of every 7 years keeps you ahead of the average trend. HOWEVER, if you are honestly "tweeking" your program/curriculum, when you get to that seventh year, not only will you very close to the next generation changes, but it won't look like the changes are that drastic. Also, you are not tweeking the moral foundations/fiber that your beliefs are built on, only the presentation that makes it understandable and easier to chew.The bigger question is "How do we keep youth Ministry worker/pastors to stay at any one given location for more than 3 years. That statistic is a true one, and if yth workers are not staying, they can't even come close to successful ministry in these terms. I'd even be thrilled if that statistic doubled. Also training them to create programs that can be passed along to the next one in line. So the answer to some of that is better training for both employed and volunteer yth minitry workers...

posted in: Why Ask Why?


Thanks for sharing your wisdom on this - very practical information!

My question is this - while "tweaking" programs is important, what happens when it comes time to complete overhaul?  How does a leadership team know when it is time to go "back to the drawing board"?  How do we discern the difference between "tweaking" and "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic"?  In other words, sometimes our congregational cultures can be prohbitive in terms of the "model/strucutre" of our youth programs - how do we know when it is time to challenge the perceived knowledge of "the way things have always been done" without throwing the baby out with the bath water?

posted in: Why Ask Why?

JAson: Great way to begin a new Blog.....that is how I began! When I started at my present job (thankfully in the Summer months) my first task was to construct a Mission Statement, a Vision Statement, a Curriculum Overview and then everything and ideas that support it. By doing this I have a birdseye view of where I am going -  a road map, per se, of where I'm going with my approach throughout the year. Do I have detours - Sure, Do I have Road blocks - Absolutely, Do I need to plot a different course - Many times, but it allows me to (1) see my feet in front of me, (2) look down the road and not fall off the path (a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path) and (3) Evaluate it more clearly when I've arrived. At the end of each School year we sit down with our yth and evaluate what went well and what didn't. We correspond this with a Parent Survey to see what their parents see valuable/invaluable about the program. If you do this for 3-4 years then down the road you will have a program that you can use over and over again and just tweeking it a little each you use it to stay up with the times. Also, it creates a program for someone new who may step into the youth ministry position down the road. Always make sure that you are picking issues that are relevant to the times and to the kids; that's one of the biggest benefits of a year-end POw-Wow. MAking sure you're on Target!

posted in: Why Ask Why?

Thanks for the welcome and encouragement, Albert.

I'm definitely "in" for the CYWC and I hope many other Canadian CRC youth workers are able to attend as well - it will prove to be a rewarding and helpful event and the discussion with other CRC youth workers sounds excellent!

Welcome Jason! You are no fraud if you are involved in youth ministry in any capacity....Love the passion, the enthusiasm and the excitement....keep your seatbelt on and and strapped in at all times for the YM roller-coaster ride! at times times scary! You might want to look into attending the CYWC conference in Nov/Dec.

.....we're trying to plan a session of Youth Ministry brainstorming with just the CRC YM leaders....might be extremely beneficial as the new "guide"

Glad to have you aboard!

Thanks, Paul. I hope you'll continue to share your wisdom in this section and across the site.

Well done, Paul.

Thas for your commitment....many times the catalyst us quiet Dutchmen/women need to stand up and shout out!!!


Thanks for your leadership and wisdom over the past year.  You're leaving big shoes to fill!



We've all enjoyed working with you and following your posts on this network week-by-week. I hope you won't be a stranger and that we'll see more of you in the future as you enter "guide retirement." 

The posting of this blog article highlights the fact that if four blogs are posted in one day, they will no longer be identified on the "latest blogs/articles" box on the discussion page.  Henry Hess informed me that if you go to the "top 10"  link at the bottom of this page, that you can find the ten latest comments and ten latest blogs.   For those who do not want to subscribe to all the blogs, this is a useful way to check if you have missed some comments or blogs you may be interested in, especially if you only check in once every two days or less. 

posted in: Just A Minute

Bernard: You are right on both accounts and I apologize for any remarks that may have caused inappropriate assumptions. I was wrong in making those statements that may have been perceived as critical. I, in no way, was trying to attack you personally and at the same time, I am glad that we can have an open and free discussion without mixing in hurt feelings. By your response, I do understand, now, I think, where you are coming from by offering the article as citation for Bill's comment. I may still not entirely agree with Bill, I do still think we need to be cautious and aware of teaching to the younger generations a watered-down version of theology, just because we/they think/say it's outdated. God bless you and I am relieved that I was wrong about the church issue; we are becoming less in numbers and need to stand firm side-by-side in faith with one another.

Albert:  your response can only be characterized by what in intro philosophy we learned was one of the weakest of arguments: ad hominem.  Attack the messenger when the message cannot be swallowed.   But, to answer the attack:  my wife and I attend every Sunday--I take it that this website is now presenting what one thought was information gathered for confidential purposes and like many political polls the answers allowed are too limited and confining so one picks what might apply given how one reads the poll.  We do not attend CRC churches which is how I understood the question to be posed for statistical purposes.  I can write much more on my street cred on this but it would likely be self-serving sounding.

Now:   I did not do the research, write the book, or put it in Christianity Today as the cover story.  You need to address the author, who apparently has been in the field for quite some time, and address the editors of Christianity Today.  

Bill Wald made a point and having just read the article thought that it in some way supported the point he was trying to make before that point was swept away in a tide of homogenous opinion.

OK, so you're pointing out an article in which they claim that the organized church (a big generalization, since all denominational frameworks are different) has adopted, as a whole, the philosophy of the younger generation. Namely, that we need to be entertained and feel good about our theology, and that there is no solid, theological underpinning; and then in the next breath you point out that there is overall disagreement amongst theologians concerning this point. Coming from a self-proclaimed non-church attendee, that observation seems translucent since (1) how can you evaluate something you're not a part of and (2) it is a self-defeating statement and looks like it's just tossed into the discussion to muddy the waters. If however, you are taking a stand and have facts to back it up, then I challenge you to do so.....BTW, I would not agree with the statement that all churches have this attitude; Some denominations strive to even discourage this type of thinking. I would agree that there are good number of churches have fallen prey to this type of thinking because they have been trapped into thinking that numbers is the answer to a successful church, thus making the vision of the church unclear and difficult to define. The mandate of the universal Church should always be clearly understood. That of the Great Commission! The success of the Church depends entirely on the obedience to that command!

I suggest you either read the book, published by Eerdmans 2012,  or perhaps read the most recent Christianity Today where this was the cover story, titled "When Are We Going to Grow Up." The author is professor of ministry and missions at Huntington University . Three individuals were tasked with reviewing the professor's book, and when one drills down beneath what might be their biases based upon their own vocations, one finds they are hard put to disagree.

Bernard: Please expand on what you are trying to point out here....


The Juvenilezation of American ChristianitybyThomas E. Bergler, reviewed by Robert Hosack in The Banner 

Jun 22, 2012 — In this critical but constructive study of the intersection of Christianity and youth culture, Bergler explores a “quiet revolution in American church life.” Teens and their youth leaders have convinced churches that “the religious beliefs, practices, and developmental characteristics of adolescents” are now “appropriate for adults.” While these changes have breathed life into four major American church traditions over the last 75 years—African American, evangelical, mainline Protestant, and Roman Catholic—white evangelicals have led this revolution, resulting in adults “embracing immature versions of the faith”—with consumerism and self-centeredness popularizing a feel-good, theologically ignorant faith. As Bergler notes, “at least some traits that should be included in Christian maturity have been decoupled from adulthood in post-1960s America, encourag[ing] [a] . . . juvenilization of American Christianity and the emergence of the new immature adulthood [that] have mutually reinforced one another.” In sum, “we’re all adolescents now.” (Eerdmans)

WOW! not sure where this came from....worship as entertainment isn't even mentioned; I agree that worship is an obligation that God requires of us to glorify Him - and BTW that's not legalistic - but it shouldn't be done with stone-cold stoicism. While I appreciate your wisdom, I also think God wishes us to bring "pleasing" sacrifices or worship to His feet and ears. You may be referring to those churches who confuse what worship is really for - and, yes, therre are many out there - but, God also demands that we don't hide our heads in the sand, just because there are new "tricks" - or rather ways to worship - to learn. Make the connections with those younger generations, get to know them better, and you'll be surprised, I think, how you each have in common, in furthering God's kingdom and homoring His majesety. You may even bee pleasantly surprised that there is a mustard seed of desire to left in you to be a part of it in some god-glorifying way. 

I was hoping that was being assumed already, but maybe not, in which case it is a good point to insert.

I have to say to  Paul who initially started this discussion.  I am not seeing a lot of room for the Holy Spirit to work.  Too much emphasis on contemporay/traditional, church plant/established.  We need to set all of these personal preferences aside and allow the work of the Holy Spirit to do wonderful things in our denomination/congregations

Thank you all for the replies. I know it is a new world out there. At 72 years, I am set in my ways and don't want to be a part of it. In my mind, worship is an obligation, not an entertainment. I'm a legalist at heart.

In  the OLD old days the pagans understood that a popular entertaining civil religion kept the population under control. Maybe the CRC should try public sacrifices and fighting (for Jesus) in the arena. That would be an interesting test of the first amendment. After all, the Rastafarians can now deduct the cost of sacrificial chickens from their income tax.

It's important for both the seniors and the youth to get to know each other better; Although, I know this happens in many churches, I honestly believe it's due to a great disconnect chasm between seniors and youth. In our church we try to do some events together that gets both generations building relationships and bridges to each other. A deeper understanding goes a long way, and spills over into other areas like respect for gtraditiona/ and contemporary styles of worship...

This is an excellent idea. Especially when the pastor - especially in the CRC denomination - is making special efforts to coordinate all aspects of the worship experience to blend as one experience.

Industrial & Technological/digital revolution has played a huge part in that; Air travel, communication and digital advanced have reduced the size of the planet and reducung the distance barrier and have sped up our daily routines; Whether good or bad, that is the world we live that is always changing. Although God's timeless LAW is never changing, the world will ALWAYS be changing and we need to accept change, not for change itself, but for application and implementation of God's Words, so that others around us can understand it. It's just like the facebook issue. My dad constantly complains that my son doesn't respond to him when he emails my son. My dead doesn't have fb. What my dad is missing is that anyone under the age of 21, is NOT using email anymore. txting & fb are the only modes of communication for young people today - or at least 95% of them. I totally understand that being in youth ministry. Here's a great example....If I call up to my son on the 2nd floor to do something for me, I get a "yeah, dad!" and I wait, and wait, and wait. However, if I txt him to come out and help me, he's outside within minutes. It sounds crazy, but that is how they are connecting.The older generation thinks they are being rude when they are not responding, but really the issue is that they are NOT GETTING THE MESSAGE! We need to make sure they are getting the message before we can accuse them of negative actions. Just a thought....


As denominational loyalty recedes, the church will go to great (and sometimes foolish) measures to retain youth and young families. You're probably frustrated that many churches have began catering to the demands of young people while neglecting the preferences of older folks. What this creates is older people who are loyal to the CRC but also feel betrayed by their churches for the sake of the youth. And on the other end of the spectrum, the youth come to a church where many of the older people don't/can't sing and there is a feeling of disunity during worship (especially while the praise team is blasting the latest Christian radio hit). I have visited over a dozen CRCs in the past few years and this tension has been evident in too many of them.

What I encourage is for you to talk with your elder or pastor about the importance of a song's 1) singability and 2) lyrical content. If you find that your church is singing several that don't fit both criteria, you might have a problem.

I totally agree with John's main point that relationships will connect young people to a church or a lack thereof will send them somewhere else.

Regarding worship styles, I'm a big fan of talking throughout the service about why we do things, why we sing a certain song or even why there's a sermon every Sunday. This usually means that I spend some time every couple weeks reminding people that the most important part of a song is the lyrical content. Sometimes I'll read the words of the song before we sing it so they can sink in a little bit. Our church is very traditional in the songs we sing because of that factor. If a contemporary song has great words (we sing lots by the Gettys) we'll use it. I think that this helps the older people appreciate a new song and it helps the younger people appreciate the older ones.

I'm not sure if this approach will grow or shrink our youth group, but the passion for congregational singing at our church is quite high. If the people in the seats are passionately engaged with the Living God, young people will want to be there no matter the type of music.

For 300 years in the US and Canada there was very little change in worship format. All of a sudden, last 20 years, the youth tail is wagging the dog. What happened? 

JOhn: All good points and we totally agree although we've approached the question differently. Definitely, relationships play the biggest part of what is going to engage the youth. Thanks for pointing that out! Don't totally disqualify the issue of worship styles with those who are "unchurched" or not necessarily steepping into the church except for that one night a week of youth group. The Wosrship style is contagious and so needds to be embraced by all.....even those future believers who don't know they're saved yet... LOL! 

On a lighter note, I've been in your church and know people who attend there. I grew up in the Propect Park CRC which is now the Unity CRC (PP & 2nd CRC combined). You've found a good spot to begin your roots.

It sure seems historically that youth have been the driving force behind the change to our contemporary style; or like in the majority of the churches....the "blended" style. However, I think you would see, if you did a study, that every generation pushes the worship envelope in a new direction....and the definition of "traditional" is ever shifting. I don't think a church's success or growth is necessarily tied directly the the style of worship. Sure there are disagreements within churches as to what is the most glorifying, but even within youth there is no common denominator as to what is "more" glorifying; there certainly are criteria of what non-glorifying songs would consist of - mostly focusing on which words/meanings are used - , but within the god-glorifying framework there is a universe of diversity. I know many churches that thrive on traditional hymns alone. Granted, they are probably more conservative than the CRC (eg. URC and Dutch Reformed). The bigger question is, "Are these differences splitting the visible and the invisible church". Many times we see splits over this issue which hasn't changed since I was at Calvin in the late 70's. A healthy use of tolerance is allowing for others to express, engage and embrace God's relational presence through music, even if it doesn't "seem" God-glorifying to them (but fits into a god-glorifying framework). It's easy to be stubborn on this issue; I think the hardest thing for a church is to accept that there are other styles of worship in the universal church. If it's a thorn and causing us to stumble there are methods for trying to work together at it. Sometimes, it even leads to a deeper and richer worship experience that you have never felt before. Sometimes it means disagreeing and worshipping somewhere else. It's like a marriage; we don't always agree; in fact many times we disagree. But usually we come together somewhere in the middle, sometimes closer to my side, sometimes closer to hers, but our efforts ALWAYS produce something so much BETTER than we could have produced on our own as individuals. When disagreemnt in worship occurs....throwing up our hands in the air in frustration and quitting NEVER leads to that point where something better can have the opportunity to evolve.  I don't believe that youth ministry is inihibited because of the worship's more because of our inner selfishness and stubborness of what we (youth & elderly and everyone in between) define worship should be.....well, then it is no longer god-glorifying, but Man glorifying. Focusing it inward only enhances man; focusing it outward enhances only God. God gives us that freedom to embrace many styles; let's not trap His glory in a defined, little box. Rather let's lavish Him with all types of styles that enhance His Awesome Nature!


Paul - Thank you for your provoking questions.  

I am a director of music at a CRC in New Jersey.  I also am the co-leader of our church's young adult ministry.  In the past I have been a leader in our youth ministry.  And in a little more distant past, I was a participant in youth ministry (after all, I'm only 25).  So I think I have a pretty good perspective on the subject.

Let me address your comment about having a healthy, successful youth group and it's ties to the congregation.  In most youth groups I have been a part of, the youth group can basically be divided into two groups: kids who's families already go to the church and kids who's families don't go to that church (or any church).  For those who already go to the church, worship "style" is not going to inhibit them going to youth group, since they are already familiar with that style.  For the kids who don't go to that church, most likely they are never going to experience the worship style of the church anyway.  In most churches, those kids are basically going to come to youth group on [Friday/Wednesday/pick a day] night and most likely not walk into the church building again during the week.  So I think that "worship style" doesn't really effect them either, since they never really experience it.

As far as church plants/growing churches go, let me preface by saying that I absolutely hate the terms "traditional" and "contemporary".  It's like someone drew a line somewhere around 1982 and put songs on either side of that line.  All songs that are considered "traditional" today were "contemporary" when they were written.  The only difference is that with today's "traditional" songs, the grand filter of time has weeded out most of the bad songs and we are left with the good ones.  Whereas with the "contemporary" songs, we operate on a "throw it at the wall and see what sticks" method.

That in mind, I don't know that there is any good evidence to suggest that there is a correlation or causation between worship styles and church growth.  Let me throw out there some anecodtal evidence to suggest the contrary.  I went to a  Christian college in the midwest where about half of the college students there were from out of state.  The area that the college was in had a wide variety of churches to choose from.  Of my friends there, as well as other people I had spoken with over my time there, most people's experiences were similar.  Initially, when "church shopping", people started with the churches with the cool praise bands.  But, in most cases, the decision on what church to attend regularly came down not to what church had the most contemporary singing time.  It came down to which church engaged them the most on a relational level.

The church I chose was a church where I felt welcome, where I was offered meals, where I was invited over to people's houses to fellowship with them.  It wasn't the church with the most impressive praise band.  In fact, the church I attended the most was, in fact, more on the traditional end of the spectrum.  Style of singing, in most cases, has nothing to do with growth of individual churches.  Churches that grow the fastest are the churches where the people in them make an effort to build relationships with others.

Just some food for thought.

John Van Buiten
Director of Music
Covenant CRC, North Haledon, NJ

I appreciate the  many thoughtful comments in this discussion.  I can only add what has been my experience both as a pastor, a Navy Chaplain working essentially with "young people," and as a father, whose two children were taught at a formative age by a wonderful youth leader who shared and passed his excitement with theology along to them.

The problem is not the young people; they are asking and willing to think deeply about important questions of faith.  Many of these young people will dive into biblical and even sysytematic theology if anyone is willing to challenge them to do so.  The bigger problem in my view is that our youth are all too often growing up in churches where their parents, adults in general, and pastors in particular are disinterested in historic Christian doctrine, and their knowledge of and ability to defend essential doctrine (e.g., the Trinity) is so spotty, that it is far easier to assume the kids just want to have fun and feel loved. 

We've been too lazy, ignorant, and/or timid.  But, then, it's hard to start our young people on meat and potatos when we haven't yet been weaned.