That time when the youth pastor tired to cast demons out of a young person… and went too far.

A few years back I received a message at 4am from a young person totally freaked out. His youth group and two full-time youth workers tried to cast ‘demons of legalism’ out of him by screaming at him as he lay on the floor for an hour.

The young lad had come from a conservative Anglican background, which meant he was quite different to others in the youth club. His questions and worship style was apparently symptomatic of legalistic demon activity!

So cold, dark and rejected he was yelled at ‘in the name of Jesus’ while on the floor for an hour.

As much as I totally believe in deliverance ministry, this experience was just insane. The fear, exposure and humiliation of such an event was quite simply wrong. This was a black-and-white case of spiritual and institutional abuse. A safeguarding nightmare and totally inappropriate.

It’s hard to think of a clearer example of how poor theology leads to poor practice.

It’s not like his church was known for being a particularly hyper-charismatic church; but the youth leaders had a very selective church exposure and even narrower training. That young lad is now an adult, those two youth pastors have moved away, and the youth club has been all but decimated – who knows with what kind of baggage. They have not been able to rebuild a working youth ministry.

I spent some years working with him after this terrifying experience, but I imagine that it will be with him for the rest of his life. It will colour his experience of Jesus, and will probably come out in social situations through anxiety, fear and rejection.

Youth ministry is never a game, and it’s never a power-trip. We are curators of an enormous amount of influence. We rely, of course, on the grace and mercy of Jesus; but lets do all we can to temper raw spirituality with considered theology. Let’s do this in a carefully cultivated community – a safe, compassionate, diverse, tolerant and open environment for young people to meet with their Father in heaven, who abundantly exudes all of these traits.

Seven helpful ANCIENT books for youth ministry.

So here’s an odd post! In the youth ministry world we’re always looking for new, fresh ideas – things straight out of the packet with a long expiration date. However, there is nothing new under the sun, and sometimes the older ways say it best.

Here are a few relatively straightforward and massively helpful books on theology and practice that have genuinely and seriously informed how I approach my work with young people. Some are older than others, and none of them actually tell you how to do youth work. They do, however, tell you how to relate to God and how that should be expressed among his people.

I think they’re all pretty readable too, although granted they’re not necessary Dan-Brown-styled page-turners! Some are just sections – but well worth it!

(nb. I’ve included links, but most of them are available for free as pdfs online.)

Have an ancient(ish) blast

  1. St. Athanasius, On The Incarnation
  2. Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections
  3. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion Vol. I (Book one, Chs. 1, 2, 6, 12, 13; Book two, Chs. 9, 8, 12-17)
  4. Karl Barth, The Word of God and the Word of Man
  5. Søren Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity
  6. Thomas a’Kempis, The Imitation of Christ
  7. The Bible – Cheesy ending to the list but genuinely the ‘timeless’ classic! Read it over and over and over again! I try and spend twice as much time in the Bible as any other book – hard, but oh so worth it. … … Go Bible!