When tool’s are no longer tools


One of my frustrations is that I don’t think I am a good small group teacher. Every week, I pour into a lesson, then the night comes, we go through the lesson, I ask some questions which students give answers too, and thats it. There isn’t a whole lot of conversation that comes from the lesson. But every week, with out fail, we close in prayer and say Amen, and then discussion starts about who knows what.

Last night, we got, somehow, on the topic of tracts. Now I personally am extremely against tracts. I think one of the reasons why I hate them is because of living in Lynchburg, VA the last 4 or 5 years, and just seeing how waiters and waitresses hated working on Sunday afternoons because the church folk would come out and instead of leaving a tip, they would leave a tract.

I think the main reason why I hate them, though, is because to me they symbolize the weakness of the american church when it comes to discipleship, because in essence, when most people give out a tract, they are saying to the person receiving it “Here, Go save yourself. Good luck with the rest of life.”

What’s frustrating about that is that the great commission doesn’t say “Go out and make converts” but rather it says “Go and make disciples.” Handing someone a tract is something that people do if they are trying to just get people saved and then they move on.

So I hate tracts with a passion.

But as I am explaining this to our students, my wife butts in to tell of how her Mother got saved because of a tract. But she also noted that it wasn’t just the tract that saved her, but the people who gave her the tract went through it with her, and invited her to church and to their home.

See for this couple that saved my mother-in-law, a tract served a purpose for their discipleship, it led to a further conversation. But for many who hand out tracts, this idea is foreign.

So it got me thinking about the idea that maybe its not necessarily tracts that I hate, but the fact that people don’t know how to use them that I hate. And that got me going on one of the buzzwords that has been going around youth ministry the last decade or so: Programs.

If you have read anything Youth Ministry related since 2000, you have read how evil programs are and we need to get rid of them. The Pizza nights don’t serve a purpose and aren’t making any converts or disciples. “What you save people with is what you save people to.” You know what I am talking about.

But if my mother-in-law got saved with a tract, shouldn’t she still be only reading tracts?

I get the notion of that saying, I do. But I also think, maybe we are just a little off with that sort of thinking. Maybe we need to realize that there are tools we can use to get people saved. But if something doesn’t have a clear purpose behind it to move that person to the next level, then yeah, we are just saving them to that level.

So if a tract has a purpose of starting a conversation to open doors for other conversations, then it has a purpose. If we just hand someone a tract and walk away praying “God let them see you in that tract” then yeah, maybe we have great faith, but we really aren’t being purposeful.

In that same way, If I am having a Pizza night to bring in students who don’t come to my ministry so that I can build a relationship with them and get them back to a regular youth service, then I think Pizza Nights are great tools. But if the Pizza Night is the end of the line, If I get up and think “this is my one chance to reach these kids, I better preach the heck out of them right now,” then I would say thats a bad purpose. I’m not pouring into them, I’m just hoping to get them to say a prayer and then maybe they will come back.

I don’t know if that resonates with you. But these are just the thoughts I get challenged with after hanging out with my students.

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3 Responses to “When tool’s are no longer tools”

  1. i have wrestled with these very thoughts for quite some time. I have long loathed tracts (especially when left for someone to read on their own). I have a friend that was left a tract that looked like a folded $20 bill as his tip. It really turned him off to hearing anything about God for quite some time.

    I like the point that the purpose needs to be to get students to a higher level, and not plateau. I have seen our weekly outreach program grow from something designed to just invite teens in when I arrived in our small town, to an opportunity to encourage teens to grow deeper and plug in to deeper opportunities that we have within our ministry.

  2. and just a fun thought: i do believe that Chick tracts should be obliterated from the face of the earth 😉

  3. Agreed about chick tracks. Lets at least try and get out of the 50’s. I like the way you summed it up better than I did, the purpose should always be to get students to a higher level, not a plateau. This is something I’ve been trying to instill in my leaders and in everything our ministry does. Thanks for stopping by

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