Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Family Church VS Student Ministry Pt. 3

If you missed it here is Part 1 and Part 2

 The balance:
The problem with both sides, “family church only” or “we have youth group” is that you can lean unhealthy to one extreme or the other.  The family church has the possibility, if not done right, of boring students away from their faith as well as getting the attitude of “if you aren’t a family church then your church is wrong” attitude.  I’ve even heard some say “you can’t find youth group in the Bible”.  I say you can, Jesus had the first youth group, his disciples.  If you use the New Testament as your model and only what is found in the pages of the NT then your church would meet in homes and not in huge buildings although we do see a mega church in Jerusalem in Acts as thousands were coming to Christ.

Youth groups can go to the other extreme.  Parents not involved or encouraged to disciple their teens.  Pizza parties every week with no time for worship, all games of dodge ball but no scripture being taught.  The youth group where the youth pastor is viewed by the church as more of a “cruise director” and not a shepherd.  The parents who drop their teen off at church and believe it’s the paid professional’s job to teach their teen the Bible.

We strive (we’re not perfect) to find that balance.  Students are an active part of the body of Christ at NHC.  Parents are encouraged to disciple their children.  Students have the opportunity to worship and learn with adults as well as with their peers in two different settings.  We are taking a systematic approach to discipleship, including the  parents, teaching sound doctrine and apologetics as well as incorporating times where we teach topically teaching students how Scripture can greatly impact their daily life.  We may have three events a year that are strictly times to have fun together but there is nothing sinful or Biblically wrong with that.  Our weekly student church is focused on teaching and applying the word.

Sticky Faith and the research that went into it has taught us that students are more likely to stick with their faith if they have had relationships with at least 5 adults in their church.  I’ll be honest, family church isn’t my cup of tea, but if a parent is going to take that route they need to find ways within their church to get their kids involved with other adults who can have an influence on them.  

As a parent I want my kids around other adults in church.  I’m thankful for the adults who invest into the lives of my children every Sunday.  When we have an opportunity to get involved as a family in a church outreach we do because I want my kids serving along side of other adults in the church.  I think back to Operation Backpack at the beginning of the school year, an event where our church supplies people in our community with the school supplies they need.  We turn our building into a distribution center.  My favorite pictures from that event are the ones where my child is serving along side another teen or adult in the church.  When I see my 6 year old daughter serving next to a high school science teacher and they are engaged in conversation that is encouraging to me.  The extreme and the “isolation” occurs when parents think that they and the teaching pastor are the only teaching their child needs.

So I believe that there can be a healthy balance on either side.  Both family church only, and churches with youth groups have to strive to find that healthy balance so that the spiritual impact on their children’s lives is a positive one. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Family Church VS Student Ministry Pt. 2

You can read part 1 HERE

What we do:

Our students in middle and high school attend Sunday morning worship with the adults.   We worship together.  We aren’t “isolating them from the body of Christ”, they are the body of Christ.  We see the advantage of students worshipping in church with the adults because when they go off as adults it would be quite a shock to go from a youth group setting to “big church” cold turkey.

Our students serve the church in ministry on Sunday mornings.  You stroll into NHC on a Sunday morning and you will find middle and high school students serving along side of adults, serving coffee, teaching children, welcoming guests, helping parents check their kids into Cowabunga Cove, on the tech team, and even leading in worship in music.  So they aren’t isolated, they are integrated.  In fact NHC couldn’t accomplish the ministry we do on Sunday mornings without the ministry of the students.

We offer Student Church.  I know that this causes some in the family church movement to cringe.  We come together on Sunday evenings for 2 hours.  We have an icebreaker so students can get to know each other, some would call it “just playing a game” but their is a purpose behind it.  We have a time of singing together in worship.  We have a time of teaching where the Bible is opened and taught by a teacher/preacher.  We also have a time where students can snack and chat or play a game together, we call this fellowship.  Students building relationships with other Christian students and with caring adults is vital to their spiritual growth and accountability.  We also have a small group time where students get together with an adult leader and discuss questions pertaining to what they learned.

Parents aren’t left out of the student ministry in fact many of our youth leaders are parents of teens.  On Sunday nights during Student Church we have a small group of parents that meet together for Bible study and fellowship.  I see this time for parents to get together as super valuable and helpful for them in their parenting and discipling of their teen.  We also provide a weekly email to keep parents in the loop.  In that email there is often material, scripture or topics to help parents continue the discussion from youth group.  Often we point parents to helpful articles and resources online.  We all know that you can take a person to a buffet but you can’t make them eat.  You can provide resources for parents but that doesn’t guarantee they will take advantage of it or that they will even disciple their kids at home and as they walk through life.

Our mission trips at NHC involve adults, parents, teens and even children.  We just had a team get back from Honduras and the team included parents and their elementary age children.  We will go to Eleuthera again this spring and the team will be adults and teenagers mixed together.

Do we have events and activities?  Yes.  We strive not to fill calendars though and our events and activities have a purpose behind them when they do.  Parents’ and teens’ calendars are already filled to the max so if we do something it has a purpose of exposing students to Christianity or giving our students some needed fellowship time.  It’s good to have fun together.  We make the mistake of picturing Jesus and his disciples as always being serious and never having fun but Jesus created fun and relationships so I’m pretty sure they had times where they laughed together.

Check back in a couple of days for Family Church VS Student Ministry Pt. 3

Friday, November 13, 2015

Family Church VS Student Ministry

I hate reading long blog posts.  Sorry.  But there was no way to tackle this in a few paragraphs, so I’m going to tackle it in a few blog posts. 

The Challenge:
I was recently challenged on Instagram to watch the movie, Divided About Youth Ministry, on Youtube.  The individual who dropped this challenge on me apparently is adamant that there should be no youth ministry in the church.  So I watched the movie. 

There is a movement among some churches where there is no age division.  So everyone from baby to granny sit together in worship together.  If that’s what they feel, as a church, they are to do then that is fine.  The problem is some go overboard and believe this is what every church should do and if you aren’t doing it then you are wrong.

The basis of the movie was that youth ministry is ineffective and students are walking away from their faith when they hit college or even before.  The fix, according to the movie, is that parents be the disciplers of their children.  This, according to the movie, is accomplished by removing the youth group ( or other age/gender divided Sunday School or small groups or women’s ministry, etc.) and everyone sitting in church together. 

How does this approach make the parents the disciplers of their children?  In my opinion a teen can sit in church worship service with their parents and still not be discipled at home.  The answer to parents discipling isn’t “let’s all sit together in church” or “drop the kid off at youth group”.  The answer to parents discipling their kids is to equip and assist parents in the discipleship of their child.  

Statistics, the movie uses statistics to back up their claim that students are leaving their faith.  Yes, the stat is 4 out of 5 will leave their faith.  I would be interested to see a study done specifically among the family churches to see what their stat would be.  This statistic was not given in the movie.  I would think that among the statistic that 4 out of 5 kids walk away from their faith after high school would include students who sat in church with their parents and didn’t attend youth group either because their church had no youth ministry or they chose not to attend youth group.  I sat here and thought about the teens in the two churches I have served in who chose not to attend youth group but were in church worship with their parents on Sunday morning.  Not one of them, to my knowledge, is involved in church today. 

So students who sit with mom and dad in church and students who are actively involved in are walking away from their faith.  What could be the key then?  Could it be that discipleship at home isn’t happening in those cases?  Could be. 

A few of the flaws I found in the movie:

  • If this movement is all about the church then why did they interview para church ministry leaders?  If you go to Answers in Genesis’ website they have age divided material/resources and pages.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like Answers in Genesis and there is some good material on their website and their kids page is cool.
  • I have heard one of the prominent pastors interviewed in the movie speak on 4 different occasions.  Interestingly enough all 4 of those occasions were in youth group settings. Events where youth groups converged either for a weekend event or for an entire week of youth camp.  So the pastor must not be totally against youth ministry and must see that there is some validity in having student ministry.
  • The cutting room floor.  When showing their on the street interviews with teens and young adults they didn’t show any that were strong in their faith, or had the right answers who were actively involved, or were when they were teens, in a student ministry.  Surely there had to be some.  Just because a teen says they attended a youth group or even just because an adult attends church doesn’t mean you are going to get spot on, theologically sound, answers one hundred percent of the time.
Check back in a couple of days for part 2 of Family Church VS Student Ministry

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