NOTE: I wrote this on August 24, 2010. As we prepare to head home from Bible Quiz Nationals 2016 on this first day of May, it still reflects my opinions and, sadly, the state of affairs noted has only gotten "worse." Read it with grace...
I had a phone call from a guy who has been involved in youth ministry and Bible Quiz Fellowship-style quizzing (www.biblequizfellowship.org) for almost as long as I have (for me, since 1977; to include almost two decades of directing three leagues in
New York). He was concerned about an individual trying to “fix” quizzing and virtually undermine years of work…
In that discussion we approached many subjects from our vantage points of guys who had been hands-on-involved for such a long time.
As I mediated after our conversation…several things surfaced:
· It is possible (probable?) that quizzing as we know it is dying…primarily because of two factors. (1) the overall “busy-ness” of teens…a reflection of a culture that has, for the most part, said to our school system, “Take our kids, occupy them for at least twelve hours a day, so we can work our two jobs and provide for our family what we need/want; (2) the apathy and, well, laziness of Christian adults.
On this second point…it is so hard to find adults to invest the time, energy, and treasure into volunteering to help with Bible quizzing. It is such a tremendous ministry, but like most genuine ministry…it takes lots of time to do effectively.
So I pray the Lord would raise up adults who see Him as wondrous, serving Him as a combination of duty and pleasure, and students as worthy of investment.
Philosophies of Ministry
We also discussed different philosophies of the various ministries involved
in Bible quizzing. Though we both love the National tournament, we both concur that, in our minds, Nationals should not be the focus of a local ministry. When I directed in
New York I repeatedly told our staff, volunteers, and quizzers that we would not be focused on Nationals; but rather on the local leagues. Therefore, unlike many, we quizzed locally into March, and then put together our Nationals teams.
There are some ministries that basically put their teams together at the start of the year, dividing material, etc. Others cease local quizzing shortly after New Years in order to focus on Nationals.
This is not “wrong,” but not my friend’s and my perspective. It is more important, in our minds, to keep students in the Word for a longer period of time, rather than spending all the time focusing on the relatively small percentage of quizzers who want to compete at the National tournament.
We laughed as we recognized that, at Nationals, some leaders seem to always take their students to an amusement-type place…miniature golf, go karts, etc. My philosophy was to take the students to something unique to the host city…whether a zoo, museum, one-of-a-kind dining experience, or whatever. Anything that was "different" from what they could do at home.
An Ugly Reality
We did not laugh as we reflected on accusations heard over the years about certain directors and coaches “cheating.” We knew of coaches who signaled students by hand motions in clear violation of the rules.
We both had heard of directors who “stacked” the local competition in favor of their own children or perceived “favorites,” arranging it so “their” teams would compete against lesser teams in an unbalanced way compared to other teams. I was accused of this once in New York so, as much as I dislike “committees,” I formed a small group of volunteers to assist me in putting together schedules and so forth to ensure I wasn’t playing favorites with my own children.
The Bigger Picture
Since we are both, ah, advanced in years; we also wondered what the future of our types of ministry would be. I hate the term “parachurch,” but that is what we are labeled.
A great thing seen over the years is that (finally) churches and schools started treating youth ministry as a “real” ministry; not a stepping-stone to a genuine ministry. Many concur that youth ministry could be a life-time calling.
A sad thing observed is, like the rest of the Body in the
United States, the gospel is sometimes rarely seen, heard, or modeled among youth ministries. It is all about numbers, decisions, activities, programs, personalities…but little growth and little awareness of the demands of discipleship.
Gloom and Doom?
Second Timothy 3.1-5 apply. But the light always shines the brightest against a dark background. Gratefully there are people working across
America to impact young lives with the gospel. “Parachurch” ministries are plodding along seeking to assist local churches in reaching out to, encouraging, edifying, and building disciples rather than Christian groupies.
Yet the reality is that we need volunteers to come alongside and assist in a wide variety of ministry venues. We need funds (in all the ministries with which I work the staff have the privilege of trusting God as they raise their own support as home missionaries). Of course we need prayer.
And we need full-time staff…adults young and not-so-young who are called to pour their lives into youth.
Maybe that’s you?