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.