Scum of the Church 2: What churches should learn from ‘80s youth ministry

Many churches are struggling to reach young adults. The conversation on Out of Ur for the last two weeks has wrestled with this problem. Brian McLaren believes we need to be asking different questions of those who've grown up in the church and left. Mike Sares, pastor of Scum of the Earth Church in Denver, sees a clash between the values of the Boomers and today's young adults.

In part two of his post, Sares describes how his church tries to accommodate the styles and values of young adults. He believes the same strategies used in the 1980s to reach teens need to be employed today - rather than putting up cultural barriers we need to be as winsome as possible and connect with the young adult crowd.

At times we at Scum of the Earth Church are criticized for having church on Sunday nights as opposed to Sunday mornings. The fear is that we are turning a blind eye to the things that happen in clubs and bars on Saturday nights, thus enabling lifestyles which may be contrary to the gospel. That is not our intent. We just want to make it as easy as possible for people to come to church. Boomer churches understood this concept when they chose to dress casually for church on Sundays compared to the formal attire of their parents' churches.

We've taken that a step further. Eric Bain, my co-pastor, got some flak from a Christian-college-educated young man when Eric wore an MTV t-shirt while he was preaching and used an illustration taken from "Punk'd," one of the network's popular shows. According to the young man, Eric was silently promoting a television network that would be injurious to people's spirituality.

While Eric acknowledged that everything on MTV may not be beneficial, he was attempting to connect with the crowd. He was being winsome.

The same is true in the style of our services. We are extremely laid-back. People ask me if we scream punk-rock hymns and have a mosh-pit during corporate worship. Others want to know if our style is more Industrial, Techno, Heavy Metal or Hip-Hop. In truth we are more "Emo" than anything else; but we wouldn't have a problem with any church adopting the styles mentioned because we realize that those can be used in legitimate expressions of faith.

I see it all as ?80s youth ministry grown up. The emerging church movement is as varied as the youth groups of the 1980s. Youth pastors tailored their ministries to the kids God put in front of them. The Presbyterian Church in the suburbs had a totally different tack than the inner-city storefront church. Youth pastors adapted a missionary mindset depending on the "tribe" of kids they were reaching. Those various tribes each had their own music, slang language, dress codes and even moral codes so each youth ministry looked different.

August 24, 2006

Displaying 1–4 of 4 comments


September 04, 2006  10:29pm

I think this article misses the point. I'm a young adult (23) who has been going to church all her life. I have struggled with my beliefs and the question of whether God really exists for almost ten years. The reasons for this struggle have nothing to do with the style of preaching or music played in the church; I simple have not connected with God. Reading the Bible and praying everyday hasn't helped, nor has going to church every Sunday. I find that a huge problem is that other Christians I have met cannot answer my questions. They simply say it's God's responsibility to come to me because I'm doing my part and trying. Most people of the my generation and younger are realists. I think the majour reason young people do not stay with a church or go to one at all is because we are unable to find a connection to God there.

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August 29, 2006  6:11pm

Jesus said, "If I be lifted up I will draw all men to me." If we lift Him up, those who have an ear to hear will be drawn to Him regardless of whether we wear a suit and tie, a tatoo, use a power point presentation, a guitar, an organ, drink latte or coffee, meet in a home or a newly built cathedral. Many a grandma has led a twenty-something to the feet of Jesus. Our biggest job is to be willing vessels for the cause of Christ and to remember that when the message of repentance from sin is preached, the world just ain't gonna love us.

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Chad F

August 29, 2006  6:40am

Just an interesting side note. Did you know that Solomon's Porch and many other "emerging churches" are actually part of larger denominations? While there is a lot of reaction against mainline denominations within the conversation, there is also a great deal of respect for what is good and beneficial for the whole. The emergent conversation tries to not fall into the same trap as the reformation in that they do not want to throw away everything in order to reinvent themselves.

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Richard Dennis miller

August 27, 2006  6:26pm

Dude, There is NOTHING beneficial about MTV. Jesus connected with the crowds in two ways. One way was when He met people's physical needs. Whether He was feeding people, healing them, or producing some really great wine, he attracted a crowd. The other way was with his message. That He is God, and we are sinners, and that we need to repent and believe. Of course, that's what got him killed. I hope that after you have winsomely connected with the crowd, you have the courage to give them His message.

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