If you missed it here is Part 1 and Part 2
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.