Years ago, as a youth minister, I had a gentleman from a denominational organization call me and want our group to come to a denominational youth rally. He promised games, prizes, entertainment, a great concert with the latest bands, and that our youth group would be “stoked” to “be on fire for Jesus.” I politely declined to which he pressured, “Why? Don’t you want these things for your youth?”
We absolutely want our kids (and adults) to be fully invested in their faith. However, we would all do well to remember this timeless truth: what you win them with, you win them to! That is, if concerts and entertainment and freebies and self-serving approaches are all that we ever give our kids in spiritual matters, what happens when we tell them that it’s time to get serious about work and service and sacrifice and commitment? They leave and go somewhere else. Why? Because they were
never really disciples of Jesus—they were only disciples of the entertainment (ie. self)!
When Jesus fed the 5000-plus in John 6, He did so because of His great compassion for the people (Mark 6:34). However, this miracle was seen by the people as the “gravy-train” and they wanted to make Jesus king by force. Because, “Hey! If I can have free bread with no commitment—sign me up!” Jesus knew this and when He taught about the commitment it took to follow Him, many people turned back and followed Him no more (John 6:66). Jesus was not content to allow them to be won by bread, He wanted them to be won to the Bread of Life.
There is a place for entertainment and fun and games in youth work, but inasmuch as they happen, they need to happen in the larger context of equipping saints for the work of ministry. We are grateful for deacons, skilled Bible class teachers and parents who are not content with our youth just having fun, but rather, becoming fully invested, life-long disciples of Jesus (1 Cor. 3:10-11; Matt. 7:24-27)!