Saturday, March 17, 2012

Is the modern form of youth ministry a failure?

An article in the Christian Post has raised questions about the usual presuppositions that are behind much of youth ministry today.  You can read it all for yourself here...  Let me quote a few points to get the topic started.

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?”

“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.”

I have felt uneasy for the way we do "youth ministry" for a long time.  I am troubled by the idea that kids need to be separate from their parents and segregated into their peer groups in order to learn.  I am troubled by the way the Church has divided families instead of helping families pull together when apart or stay together when they are.  I am troubled by the suggestion that the only way kids relate to the Church is through fun activities designed more to babysit and entertain them than to engage them in the faith.  I am troubled by the presumption that kids cannot relate to people who are much different from themselves (thus the need for an ever changing parade of youth ministers whose primary qualification is their own youth).  I am troubled by the idea that a full service church has segmented and targeted programs for specific age groups.  I am troubled by the suggestion that youth ministry is better for kids than the home or that the Church has a better idea what to do with youth than their parents.

Now, don't get me wrong. I am not ready to throw the baby out with the bath water.  I am not saying that everything we do is a failure but it seems we have bought into the idea that when families enter the church building, they separate and each go their own way, to their own classes, to the service that appeals to their personal taste, and to fellowship with their peers.  I am not sure that pouring a ton of money and a ton of energy into separate programs has borne any real or lasting fruit for the youth's continued place within the Church.  In fact, I know a lot of youth who never make it pass youth ministry into the regular church and the blame is nearly always placed upon the "church" that did not connect.  Maybe it was the fault of the youth ministry that split the youth off from the "church" and did such a good job that they never came back???

I am not suggesting that everything be intergenerational or heavy duty Bible study but I am suggesting that we not segregate our kids by age and then entertain them in the name of Christ.  I would not mind if we re-evaluated both the way we have been doing things, the training programs for those who do "youth ministry" and the effectiveness of what we have been doing the past 50 years or so....


Anonymous said...

The LCMS has built a cottage industry
of Directors of Christian Education
who in reality lead the youth
ministry of the parish. To have a
DCE is a badge of honor in our
suburban congregations.

Unfortunately, the cost of a DCE is
money that could be better spent.
All-night Lock-Ins and Pizza Parties
do not offer much spiritual food to
build the faith of our youth.

Anonymous said...

"an ever changing parade of youth ministers whose primary qualification is their own youth"

Actually, their own youthfulness makes them rather unqualified to lead youth (or anything really).

The Bible lists qualifications for teaching and youthfulness is not among them. I am thinking particularly of Titus 2, but there are others.

What I find kind of wrong with the general teaching to youth is the constant and almost exclusive focus on individual piety and service to the community. There is a conspicuous absence of focus on topics that most pertain to youth and their immediate future, their upcoming marriages, families and vocations. Yes, of course they need to share their faith with friends along the way, but youth activities do more to mirror and reinforce entertainment/consumer culture than they do to counter it.

Just 2¢

G. HUBBARD said...

youth face tough questions our free SPREAD THE WORD TALK WITH THE LORD program inspires daily talks catch they need your help with first question our blog helps g hubbard po box 2232 ponte vedra fl 32004

Anonymous said...

The problem with youth ministry is entertainment and parents. The father is suppose to be the leader and train his children but it is being left up to youth programs. The programs should be a supplement not the main course. Youth ministry is for entertainment and very, very, few kids are impacted. As the father goes, goes the family, as the family goes, goes the society.