Age-based Ministries Are Destroying the Church?
You are destroying the church. At least, you are if your church has age-based programs like Sunday school classes youth ministries. This is according to a new video put out by the National Center for Family Integrated Churches. The video is well-done, provocative, and worth watching. But, even though I’m sympathetic to some of its arguments, the video itself is quite flawed.
As soon as I saw the video, I passed it along to Ron Marrs, who directs the youth ministry program at Western Seminary. And, I asked him to offer his thoughts.You can watch the video below for free until September. So, check it out and then see Ron’s comments below.
- Parents are to raise their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
- Many parents have abandoned their discipleship responsibilities.
- Churches need to help parents disciple their children.
- The Bible is the absolute authority for our Christian practice.
Having said that, here are a variety of things that concern me about the movie.
Problem #1: It Uses Some Flawed Arguments
1. I give you statistics to convince you how we are failing to raise our youth to follow Christ.
The most prevalent statistic is a bogus statistic that appeared in a report by the Southern Baptist Council on Family Life in June 2002: “88 percent of the children raised in evangelical homes leave church at the age of 18, never to return.” I tracked down the source of this statement and found it to be the result of a meeting of youth pastors sitting around speculating on a percentage of students who are in church after being involved in church youth ministries.
This “88 percent” quote has been used for nine years to fuel much of this discussion! I have been pushing back for about 5 years, writing to speakers and authors on this and other statistics being used in the debate.
Check out my article “Stop Abusing Stats” for more on this use of statistics and my response to the issues.
2. I blame a program or philosophy of ministry in the church for the crisis.
In this case, the “straw man” youth ministry is attacked as the culprit. This youth ministry is all about fun and games. This youth ministry takes students to worldly sounding Christian rock concerts. Youth pastors don’t teach the young earth perspective on creation, therefore the Bible is undermined as the absolute source of truth.
In fact, there are numerous youth ministries and church families of which I am aware that produce strong Christ-followers.
3. I tell you that my philosophy, seminar, conference, book will “save the day.”
Research is seldom cited that attempt to explain the causes of the rejection of the faith although research is being done in this area. There is no connection between quality research and solving the “crisis.”
The solution to the crisis is following my philosophy of ministry. Mine is biblical and yours is not
Problem #2: The Movie’s Arguments Don’t Support Its Conclusion
Here are (not nearly all) of the movie’s main arguments:
- Youth ministry is not found in the Bible.
- Youth ministry flows out of ungodly, evolutionary educational philosophy adopted by the church.
- To continue youth ministry it is to corrupt the church.
- There is no age segregation in the church gatherings of the New Testament.
- Fathers are to disciple their children. This is the only pattern justified by a reading of Scripture.
Therefore, age-segregated groupings in church goes against Scripture. Youth groups must cease.
There are so many logical fallacies and anecdotal evidence used to make these arguments that it is difficult to know where to start. So, I’ll offer just some quick thoughts. If you need more convincing, let me know in the comments and maybe I’ll write some further posts.
- Isn’t it true that when a person comes to Christ that they are to be equipped by the entire Body of Christ as articulated in Ephesians 4:1-16? Parents are to raise their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). The church is responsible to disciple the parents in such a way that they are able and motivated to obey this command.
- Who will reach the millions of teenagers who are not in Christian homes? Much of the discussion surrounding youth ministry in the church centers on taking care of our church family kids. This is critical. But who will move into the lives of the unsaved youth? They tried to address this issue but the recommendation was not compelling to me.
- Church leadership and parents will be wise to truly collaborate in the nurturing of children in the church and reaching students outside the church family to see youth respond to the Gospel in faith and grow in their faith. I am concerned that products like this do not enhance problem-solving and strategic planning in the church.
What do you think? Does the video have a point? Are age-based ministries harming the church? Or, do you think that there’s a role for them in a healthy church?
(You may also be interested in Tim Challies interesting review of the movie.)
[Scientia et Sapientia is sponsored by the Master of Theology (Th.M.) program at Western Seminary. It’s an open forum, so please feel free to join the discussion.]