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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Thursday, March 03, 2011
1071: Youth Ministry?
The first ministry I was ever officially involved in was a youth ministry. I loved it, though at first it terrified me. Yet through that ministry I saw several young adults mature in both body and faith, and I will always have a paternal concern for those whom I had the profound privilege to minister to. I love those kids - even though most of them are married and have their own families now.

Notwithstanding, "Youth Ministry" is entirely bunk.

Let me qualify that a little. To start with I believe that when a child enters into puberty, he or she is entering into adulthood. I am not suggesting that the newly pubescent person is mature, or fully an adult. I only point out that such a person is no longer a child. Historically it was puberty, and not necessarily one's age that determined when, say, a young man entered into a trade. It was then that he began to have real, adult, responsibilities, and with these responsibilities real, adult consequences. I am convinced that one of the greatest social failures of our age is that we routinely and artificially postpone adulthood putting off adult responsibility until our young adults are fully mature.

Adults are designed to bear responsibility, yet we routinely deny our young adults adult responsibilities on the grounds that they are still "children". Thus in the formative years of adulthood these same are inundated with the message that they are not fit to be responsible until they reach a certain age. By the time society finally recognizes these adults as such, they will have already spent years being forced to remain perpetual children. The time when these ought to have been growing confident in their new maturity has been replaced with the psychologically shunting message that they are too immature to take responsibility for themselves. Couple this crippling mindset to the fact that our public schools are preaching self esteem to them from the cradle, and who will wonder that each generation is more immature and narcissistic than the last?

So the first reason I think youth ministry is bunk is because I don't recognize the notion of "youth" as valid. Post-pubescent people are adults (albeit young adults) who should be being ministered to no differently than we minister to any other adult. If there is no such thing as a youth, then there is no room for a youth specific ministry.

The second reason is more important and relevant than the first. If it is clear that the notion of a youth ministry is demographically invalid, how much more is the notion spiritually artificial?

The Holy Spirit did not lead anyone to write anything in scripture about separating the body of Christ into age groups, and ministering to these age groups individually and even differently than we would minister to any other group. In my home family worship is informal, when we break bread together as a family, I will often bring up some passage in scripture and discuss it with the family. I direct questions at my children: what does that passage mean? How are we to live in the light of this verse? We don't sit there for three hours pouring over the scriptures together every night, but we do discuss the reality of God in our lives and how scripture forms that reality. It isn't limited to the supper table either. I speak of these things when we rise up, when we sit down, when we walk about - whenver I can in fact. I am not perfect in it, but I am not ignoring this ministry either.

Imagine then the absurdity of trying to model the ministry I do in my home after the typical model employed by many churches. When I rise up in the morning I take one and only oen child aside and minister to him with puppets and pizza, and with the older twins, I can take them together to a show, because they are close enough in age, and minister to them over a soda after a show, perhaps the others I find some other novel, age-specific way to share the reality of God with the because, God forbid I speak to them all at once! That would be nuts, and we all know it. Why then do we do that in the church?

Stop and smell the roses for a second.

Did you not notice that God created the concept of family? We didn't have to have families you know. God could have created us so that we grew from trees, and lived alone our whole lives. He could have planted each of us on our own earth, living our lives entirely alone, or perhaps as the sole caretaker of that planet.

Consider that God has gone out of His way to not only create families, but to paint all things concerning Himself in the hues of family. God is the Father, Jesus is the Son - the church is the spouse, who themselves are adopted into God's family. Did not our Lord ask, "Who is My mother and who are My brothers?" We do well to take instruction from his answer: Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother. It is the Lord who said, "Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." When Christ ministered, He ministered to crowds that included children. Did not our Lord feed the masses with bread and fish that a child had on hand?

It is clear froms scripture that our Lord in His ministry, ministered to whole families, and not just the men, or the women, or the elderly, or the young? Is God's way flawed? Can we improve on it? If we minister according to some other model, what does that say about our opinion of God's way?

I want to make sure then, that you won't misunderstand my second reason for rejecting the notion of youth ministry: It isn't only that I find no support for it in scripture, rather it is that I find an abundance of support against the idea.

The notion isn't merely unbiblical - it is contra-biblical. If it isn't in scripture, and scripture gives us a better way, why do we do it? Well, to answer that, we shoud ask where the notion of segregated teaching comes from.

That that introduces the third reason why I reject the notion of youth ministries in particular, and all age segregation in general: Age segregation was invented by people, not God. To be sure, it finds its origin in recent times (the past 100 years) where the public school system used it to solve problems that do not exist in the church.

In recent decades, the aping of this practice has become not only vogue, but almost univerally accepted in the church. Somewhere, someone with a pragmatic mindset decided to apply what seemed to be working in the secular world to the church, and voila! Churches adopted age segregation en masse. Sure, the invention of Sunday school helped that along - but you get the idea.

Do you not know this?: Youth ministry is failing.

Oh I don't doubt that there are pockets of success here and there, but the latest statistics I hear quoted are that between 70% - 88% young Christians fall away from their faith in the first year of college. These numbers are not shrinking, by the way, they are growing. By and large, targeting youth for segregated ministry isn't helping the problem - it may even be part of the problem. If God designed us to learn one way (in the family setting), and we insist on setting that aside in favor of our own inventions - can we really be surprised when our invention isn't as effective as God's design?

I propose, reader, that if you are farming out the godly instruction of those young adults (who are presently maturing under your paternal care) to some youth group, that you are failing your son(s) and/or daughter(s). I contend that time spent socializing and eating pizza with other young adults does absolutely nothing to encourage young adults to draw near to God, and if God is injected into such a social program, He becomes the excuse, rather than the reason for getting together.

That isn't to say that people who are ministering in "youth" groups are all bent on corrupting the young adults you relinquish to their care. When I was running a "youth" group it was all bible and worship - no pizza, no "events" no flimshaw. The studies were deep, biblical, and purposeful. Yet for all that, I think these young adults would have spent their time better in a study where they were not a demographic peer group. We did things like travel to other churches to attend their prayer meetings, and pray with their congregation. We took our bible studies on the road, so that these young adults were being instructed in the presence and company of other families in our congregation - and this because I was already certain that youth groups were flawed in their artificiality. Whatever things I implemented to try and reign in the beast, I still feel it was too little, too late.

So while this post necessarily poo-poohs youth groups in general, my goal is not to point at your youth group and say that you are bad because you have one, or because you send your own "youth" to one. It is to give you pause, wherever you happen to be in the spectrum. Is this something that we are doing because we have always done this, or is this something God really intends us to do. Is this just the standard bovine-headed, checkbox mentality, that amounts to empty busy work because we believe that we should be doing something for our "youth" (just like the other five churches on our street), or this something God has told us to do?

My concern is not that there is some ministry that targets young adults in the world. It is that such a targeting is goes beyond the concept of "unnecessary" and into the realm of "counter-productive". God's way is good and perfect. It cannot be improved upon. If Christ did not segregate the church into groups, then guess what? Doing so is worse than doing it Christ's way. The question then is, if we know this doesn't work (look at the statistics), and we know this isn't biblical, and we know that the biblical model is that whole families be ministered to together - why oh why do we try to "improve" on that, if we know that we cannot improve on God's way?

Think about it. I dare you.

Labels: ,

posted by Daniel @ 9:36 AM  
5 Comments:
  • At 10:22 AM, March 03, 2011, Blogger Daniel said…

    My apologies Kjos, I couldn't squeeze it into five paragraphs.

     
  • At 10:27 AM, March 03, 2011, Blogger Daniel said…

    When young adults are forced to attend youth group - and some are - it further denies them the opportunity to be responsible for themselves, so that some will, in rebelling against being treated like children, include religion amongst the things they rebel against.

     
  • At 10:55 AM, March 03, 2011, Blogger David Kjos said…

    Sure, you could have. Just don't use the Enter key so much. Besides, I didn't set the five paragraph limit.

     
  • At 4:52 PM, March 03, 2011, Blogger Bryan said…

    The problem goes deeper then youth group, it goes right to Children's church where a second track of church is begun. Youth group is only the continuation of it. It then end with the re-invention of "church" every generation since the youth were never brought up in church, only in this strange mirror of it, so when they reach the end of that mirror and are forced into the church they re-make it in the image of what they have grown up with.

    And I think only Jonny and Myself are married

     
  • At 5:34 PM, March 03, 2011, Blogger Daniel said…

    Bryan - I agree, it starts right at the beginning, and the end result is exactly as you say - reinventing adult church when you grow up so that it reflects the almost church of your youth.

    You and Jonny were, for the most part, the driving pair in the group. When I speak of fond memories, and paternal feelings, I am pointing at you two. lol.

     
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