Intergenerational Youth Ministry & “Is ‘Youth Group’ Even Biblical?”

As I was reading a fantastic post on The Gospel Coalition blog by David Wright, “Don’t Segregate the Youth,” I noticed an ad on the side of the website with the question, “Is ‘Youth Group’ Even Biblical?”  Below that question it encouraged you to click on their ad to take the survey.  So I clicked on the button, and it brought me to a survey by “The National Center for Family-Integrated Churches.”  Here’s what I saw:

Is_Youth_Group_Even_Biblical_

Those are the only three question before you’re invited to click the “Submit Survey” button.  These three questions are pre-answered for you as shown above.  I clicked how I would answer these questions, but never actually submitted my survey for a few reasons:

  1. When the name of a survey is as biased as “Is ‘Youth Group’ Even Biblical?” why should I trust the surveyor to use the results in any objective way?  They clearly have an agenda and they’ll use the results of this survey in order to say what they want it to say.
  2. I’m familiar with the NCFIC, have read a few books published by them, and I didn’t really want to give them my name and email address to associate myself with them since they have a history of taking what you say out of context and twisting it to suit their purposes (see this post by Walt Mueller about how they did this to him and many others in their movie, “Divided”).
  3. I didn’t like the options they presented.  I’ve recently completed my doctoral thesis and was instructed that when presenting a survey you must be fair, objective, and allow others to freely express their answer to your question.  These questions fit none of those three criteria.  My actual answer to each of those questions doesn’t neatly fit into any of the options they presented, but they gave me no “fill in the blank” space to clarify.
  4. They want skewed results.  Readers of the Gospel Coalition tend to fall towards those who are critical of youth ministry, thus placing their ad on that particular “high traffic” site would be a good place for them to get people to complete their survey.  I wonder if they’re also placing a link to this survey on blogs and websites where “Modern Youth Ministry” advocates frequently visit?  I doubt it.

I don’t have the time or desire to provide a thorough analysis or critique of the Family-Integrated Church Movement, of which the NCFIC is at the head, but here’s a quick description:

The Bible tells us everything we need to know about everything to do with life, including specifics about how the church and families should disciple their children.  Anything the church does that separates the generations from each other is unbiblical and wrong.  This means churches should not have nurseries, children’s ministry, youth ministry, etc. because such ministry divide the church and fathers are called to disciple their family.  Thus, “age-segregated” ministries overthrow the father’s authority and are largely to blame for the breakdown of the family and rejection of the faith by teenagers when they go off to college.

Yes, this is my description, not theirs, but I doubt any FICM-folk would have any problems with this description.

Ultimately, there are two things that drive me confuse and frustrate me about the Family Integrated Church:

  1. They insist on the strictest and most rigid definition of “Sola Scriptura” I’ve encountered and regularly impose the Old Testament Law over the New Testament in a way that is troubling.  Biblical presentations of ideas that disagree with theirs are summarily dismissed as unbiblical, which is why Family-Integrated advocates can claim they have “never heard a biblical argument for youth ministry” (Voddie Baucham).
  2. “Modern Youth Ministry” is so broad and vague I’m not quite sure what they’re talking about.  Some youth ministries are fantastically biblical and rich and fruitful; others are more like a social club that meet in a church and Jesus is rarely mentioned.  I’m very much concerned about the latter youth ministries, but I would absolutely love to see more of the former!

In the end, I strongly recommend and agree with the very article linked to above, which I was reading when I stumbled upon the survey.  I couldn’t agree more with David Wright’s encouragement to integrate the youth into the life of the church – but that doesn’t mean having age-specific (please admit that calling it “age-segregated” is extremely biased and agenda-driven) ministry to students and children is unbiblical.

Wright gets it right when he writes (sorry, I couldn’t help it):

“Simply put, we do teens a disservice when we segregate them from the life of the church. When we build youth ministries that don’t fold students into the life of the congregation, the unintended consequence is a future of empty pews. Pew Research reports that 20- to 30-year-olds attend church at half the rate of their parents and one-fourth the rate of their grandparents. These young adults were teens a decade or two ago, and many of them were active in youth ministries. As result, many today ask what we can do to reverse this regrettable trend, wondering how to get formerly churchgoing youth “back” into church. In my view, we must engage students in the life of entire congregations. Then and only then can we model and shape a biblical view of the church as we entrust the faith from one generation to the next.

In other words, maybe young adults aren’t actually leaving the church. Maybe they were never there to begin with.”

This is the intergenerational perspective we all need to embrace and fuel.  This is a perspective that seems to be growing among youth workers today. May this intergenerational movement continue to grow…

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