There is a panic in some parts of the church over the mass exodus of young people. 20s and 30s are one of the hottest demographics, and niche market churches are targeting them to bring them back into the flock. Sparing no expense and pulling out all the stops, church plants are springing in every color, shape, form and fashion designed to lure this demographic back into to the kingdom. It has spawned a whole new epoch of churches — house churches, biker churches, churches targeting only men. But maybe the kids have good reason for leaving. Maybe youth ministry as it has been conceived, marketed, packaged, and sold to churches, youth ministers, and DCE’s over the last half century has actually failed them. That is what a new documentary suggests, according to the Christian Post:
A group of pastors and former youth ministry leaders suggest that today’s youth ministries should be disbanded, calling the common practice of separating congregations by age for worship and Bible study “unbiblical.”
The church leaders state their case in the documentary film, “Divided: Is Age-Segregated Ministry Multiplying or Dividing the Church?”
The film is produced by the National Center for Family Integrated Churches in association with LeClerc Brothers Motion Pictures. The producers released the documentary earlier this month online, and have made it available for free until Sept. 15.
Before we pursue every new fad or experimental church method or model, before we throw more programs and gimmicks at our young people, maybe we need to take a long hard look at why they are leaving the church. Panic sets in because there is a justifiable fear that if we do not do something, they will be lost forever. It does not feel right if we do not do something to get them back into the fold. Giving into the fear and panic leaves us open to manipulation. And the folks that are in charge in our churches right now are the parents of this demographic that is causing such worry and consternation. Who would not open their wallet to support the next best thing if it meant the salvation of their child or grandchild’s soul? Slowly but surely, we are drawn away from the Word. And yet the makers of Divided point out that it is the Word and the Word alone that is sufficient for our ministry to youth. They argue that we need to abandon the segregated, small group approach to ministry that turns the faith life of our youth over to youth ministers, taking it out of the hands of fathers and the family.
“The whole point of ‘Divided’ is that God has spoken clearly about the discipleship of youth in the Bible,” (Scott T. Brown, Director of National Center for Family Integrated Churches) explained. “Scripture is sufficient. It’s time to get beyond the age of modern, systematic age-segregated youth ministry. We need to put it aside.”
“I look back and realize I did more harm to families than I ever imagined,” (Boyd) Dellinger says in the film. “I see that more as I look back because I was usurping the authority of parents, especially fathers by having their children’s hearts turn towards me – with their permission.”
“Today, I can make more of a difference in the lives of young people through the biblical standards of fathers turning their hearts towards their children,” he adds.
Dellinger doesn’t question the good intentions of youth ministry leaders today and their desire for youth to know Jesus. He just questions the method.
“We have to go back to what does the Bible say? There’s something fundamentally wrong with the church’s drive to say we can do a better job of raising your children than you can,” Dellinger highlights. “God has appointed fathers to lead their children; not for someone else to do it just because they have a college degree or some seminary training. That does not qualify someone to all of a sudden become the spiritual leader of your family.”
We have been convinced to abandon our responsibility for the education of our children to the public school system, and we have seen the devastating effects on the family and the incremental encroachment of the government on the authority of parents and the family through the schools. Many in the church look to the youth minister, the pastor, or some other “expert” to teach their children the faith. It is a great excuse for parents to avoid answering the tough questions about our existence that we honestly do not feel qualified to answer. In so doing, parents neglect their own faith. In our compartmentalized and segregated day and age, it is much easier to put off until tomorrow, until confirmation or Sunday school, or youth group what parents — and especially fathers– are called to do today. Vocation. Parents, train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. Perhaps parents need a bit of repentance here. I bet if youth ministers were surveyed they would tell you they get a lot of criticisms and suggestions from parents, but not a lot of help. Rather than separating our families at church and church related activities, maybe we ought to keep families together. And maybe, just maybe we should not be target marketing churches, but working on our Life Together as families in Christ.
Christian Post Article: Modern Youth Ministry a ’50-Year Failed Experiment,’ Say Pastors, Christian News.
Free Online Through September 15, 2012 — Divided the Movie