Please continue the conversation on this post, but I thought you might be interested in seeing what the readers of the Youth Specialties’ blog are saying about this post here.
Now that I’m getting back into youth ministry again, it’s been an interesting process to get brought up to speed with some of the many new resources that are out there. Of course there are always going to be really great resources and ones that are just lacking. And naturally, there will always be some resources that certain people have theological issues with. But it seems like every now and then, you run across parts of resources or curriculum that are just simply inappropriate and should not be used in youth ministry.
YouthBytes has provided one such video. I don’t know much about YouthBytes or Chad Daniel, who seems to be the man behind the operation. YouthBytes is meant to be a discipleship tool to help fight one of the great enemies of the Church: “teenage boredom with the things of God.” And apparently for Chad, that means producing videos like this:
I have some problems with this video and I’ll briefly describe them below.
It’s distasteful & promotes violence
Sure they might be shooting watermelons in clips on the film, but the amount and diversity of guns in a clip that is about discipleship is disconcerting. What is the need for the gun imagery? Why, in a post/9-11 world and a world in which youth commit many violent crimes with weapons, would a youth ministry organization purposely choose to discuss discipleship through the use of guns. It makes no sense to me. Is this the way YouthBytes has decided to fight “teenage boredom with the things of God?”
It appropriates militant imagery and violence to discuss “spiritual” warfare – blurring the lines for youth.
I’m not going to deny the possibility that there may be spiritual wars being waged today. I have known enough people who have shared story after story of some pretty intense stuff (exorcisms, demons, etc), and while I’m still cynical about their physical manifestations, I’m not going to say they don’t exist just because I haven’t personally experienced them.
But I don’t think that talking about “absolutely wiping out the enemy” is the best way to go about discussing some of these issues. Add the very aggressive, militant language to all of the images of guns and firearms, and you have the potential combo for some very troubling messages to be sending to our youth. What’s to keep a youth from seeing all the guns and thinking to him/herself, “Yah, we really DO need to take out the enemy – and now I know how to do it.” I have to wonder if Chad even paused to think of Columbine or the shooting at Virginia Tech. In light of these recent events, putting together a video like this to be used in a youth ministry context seems inappropriate and a poor choice.
It reinforces the idea that the Bible, the “name of Jesus” and worship can be used as weapons.
At the very beginning of the clip, Chad says, “God’s given each one of you weapons…tools you can use…He’s [sic] given you prayer, He’s given you the Name of Jesus and He’s given you Worship.” Jesus as a weapon? Prayer – communion with God – as a weapon? Seriously Chad? That’s the best you can do? That’s the way we need to be talking about discipleship with our youth?
What you can do
I believe this video is completely ill-suited for use as a discipleship tool for youth ministry. I think it sends youth the wrong message about spiritual discipleship, promotes violence and is inappropriate for use in our society today, considering the rampant youth violence with guns.
I will be writing YouthBytes and letting them know about this blog post. If, after watching this video and reading this post, you have similar feelings, I’d encourage you to send YouthBytes an email by contacting them at firstname.lastname@example.org and emailing Chad Daniel at email@example.com. Let them all know what you think of this type of youth discipleship and what effects these types of videos might hvae on our youth today.