Family Ministry Should Not Replace Your Youth Ministry: Here’s Why

"Many teens who attend our youth meetings don’t come from a Christian family. And sadly, too many who do don’t have parents modeling a solid, solvent Christian faith." - C.Leaders

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Josh S's picture

I've always found it a little odd that we have a special ministry just for teens. We don't really do that with other age categories. Why aren't there ministries for people 23-29 years olds?

I'm not saying it's wrong to have a teens ministry. I just think we've over complicated the whole thing. What if we reached teens the same way we reached anyone else? Love your neighbors, engage your community, build redemptive relationships, make disciples. 

Josh Stilwell, associate pastor,  Alathea Baptist Church, Des Moines, Iowa.

Fun and Mental 

dgszweda's picture

Josh S wrote:

I've always found it a little odd that we have a special ministry just for teens. We don't really do that with other age categories. Why aren't there ministries for people 23-29 years olds?

A lot of churches do.  They have college and career for 18 to 29 years old.  As well as Young Adult ministries for 25-35.....

Josh S's picture

dgszweda wrote:

 

Josh S wrote:

 

I've always found it a little odd that we have a special ministry just for teens. We don't really do that with other age categories. Why aren't there ministries for people 23-29 years olds?

 

 

A lot of churches do.  They have college and career for 18 to 29 years old.  As well as Young Adult ministries for 25-35.....

You are correct. That does happen. But that's kind of my point. The whole thing has become way over complicated and over specified. I'm not sure we need a specific ministry for every possible age category. The NT pattern seems to be that believers interacted with each other across generational lines (1 Tim. 5,  Titus 2, 1 Peter 5).

Again, if your church has these kind of programs, I'm not saying they're sinning. I just think we need to remember the basics. Let's treat people like people and not like a member of a demographic.  

Josh Stilwell, associate pastor,  Alathea Baptist Church, Des Moines, Iowa.

Fun and Mental 

JD Miller's picture

We are a small church so we minister to our youth while we minister to our senior citizens.  It has been great for both.  For example, a few weeks ago as we were going through Proverbs, one of the older ladies made a not so flattering comment about how teens behave.  I commented that both teens and adults often struggle in that particular area, but that not all teens go down that road.  She was able to look across the table to see one of the teen girls that she is friends with and reflect a bit.  The whole exchange helped the teens and adults understand each other a bit better.

During another discussion we were speaking about parenting and how some forms of discipline that work on one child may not work on another.  One of the teens talked about when he was a toddler.  He remembered that standing in a corner and then having to stand still for a few minutes with a book on his head really got his attention.  His input was useful to the parents in the room.  If we had only had a parents class, we would have missed the input of the grandparents and the teens.  The way we do it, the teens are not just ministered to, they get to minister to others.

Bert Perry's picture

....overall, I tend to the point of favoring a more unified church instead of a church with a ministry for every demographic.  Sometimes those ministries can be good--my pastor doubled the size of his former church by actively reaching out to refugees in his community--but sometimes they can serve to separate people so they don't see the needs of others.  A church where I was once a member seemed to have every little group, right down to "Seasoned Citizens with Winnebagos", "Seasoned Citizens with Dodge Vipers or Corvettes", and "Seasoned Citizens with both."  

Probably key is to minister to felt needs of groups without leading to the isolation of those groups, and how to do this probably depends on watching carefully for the signs of isolation.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

pvawter's picture

dgszweda wrote:

 

Josh S wrote:

 

I've always found it a little odd that we have a special ministry just for teens. We don't really do that with other age categories. Why aren't there ministries for people 23-29 years olds?

 

 

A lot of churches do.  They have college and career for 18 to 29 years old.  As well as Young Adult ministries for 25-35.....

Don't forget the early middle aged class (35-45), the middle agers (45-55), the "thinking about retirement" class (55-65), the keen-agers (65+), the class for widows, and maybe even a class for the really aged, so the boomers don't feel too old too fast, lol.

If only I were joking. 

Larry's picture

Moderator

Based on the generall recognized common grace and biblical principle that people at different stages of life need different teachings, it should be wholly expected that a church might have some age-directed teaching. It can also be the outgrowth of a church "growing up together," that those who were in the young marrieds class together become middle aged together. The connections and life that they have shared from the early days of marriage to approaching the empty nest keeps them together.

This would seem to only be a problem if the only thing the church ever was was age-segregated.

JD Miller's picture

Do people at different stages need different teaching or different emphasis?  John wrote to people of different stages in life and addressed old and young separately, but he did address them in the same- not separate- letter.  Much of Proverbs is addressed to a son, but we do not know if it is an adolescent son, or adult son.  Further women are able to benefit from that book, not just males.  

Comradery in a church can be a good thing, but it can also serve to alienate others.  For example, I know plenty of people who were never able to have children even though they would have loved to.  Image if they had been excluded from that group that grew old together in the church because of that difference.

edit:  exclude may have been too strong a wording.  My concern is that people not feel held at a distance due to their place in life.  I did not get married until I was in my 30's.  I used to get invitations to go to Christian events for single people, but I never went because I was afraid there would be pressure to set me up with someone I was not interested in.  Besides, my local church included me and did not exclude me, so I did not feel lonely.  

Larry's picture

Moderator

Do people at different stages need different teaching or different emphasis? 

Both.

JD Miller's picture

As a strong advocate of expository preaching, I believe we all need the same teaching and it is laid out for us verse by verse in the word of God.  We may end up emphasizing some things more than others depending on our audience, but the textbook is there for all of us to study and teach.  No doubt some illustrations that a pastor uses are going to connect to certain groups within the congregation more than others and it is wise for a pastor to be careful to not always focus on the same group every week.  

Of course we could take things to an extreme and have separate messages for each demographic with different illustrations to try to connect with that demographic, but I am not convinced that such an approach would have more benefits than the current methods- especially once you realize you would need one illustration for the young guys that like fixing cars and another for the young guys who like spots and then you figure out that some of the old guys also like sports, so do you have them with the young guys or the old guys- oh and we need to remember that some of the women like sports and some of the men like to cook.    I am glad that God's word is directed at humanity and that is who I get to minister to and that is who I get to fellowship with.  I have been very blessed by the fellowship I have had with those who are quite different than I am.

dgszweda's picture

I don't think the author is envisioning separate rooms for separate groups with nary a moment of fellowship, nor do I believe we have routinely experienced this.  The author is envisioning what many of us experience which is a Sunday morning worship that is together as a single body of Christ.  What he is combating against is this idea that all separate programs should be abolished.  You see this in the family worship model that is growing in many areas of the country.  I was in one church that practiced this.  Families were so proud that there church didn't segregate ages for the church service.  But what they invariably did was bring children's church in the auditorium.  With kids playing with toys, coloring, eating snacks and even rolling around in between pews.

I think that having people together as much as reasonable is a good practice.  But having a youth ministry where teenagers can get together to have some fun and maybe be engaged with unique things that they are dealing with has some useful impacts.  Especially when it comes to youth who are attending church and who do not have a family attending church.  The mistake that many churches make is that the youth program is truly seggregated and maybe even at odds with the parents, which at the end of the day should not happen.

JD Miller's picture

Dave, I agree with much of what you have said.  I think it is great for the youth to get together to do some fun things now and then.  I think it is great for those in church who like sports to get together for that or for those who like cars to go to a car show etc.  It is good when people who have things in common get together for fellowship whether it is age or other interests that bring them together.  My concern is not so much that there is age segregation for teaching in churches as much as the idea that things "have" to be that way to be effective.

Larry's picture

Moderator

As a strong advocate of expository preaching, I believe we all need the same teaching and it is laid out for us verse by verse in the word of God.

As a strong advocate of expository preaching, I agree (though some things are not necessarily "laid out for us verse by verse in the word of God").

I would suggest that expository teaching reveals that certain groups need certain teaching that other groups don't need. Titus 2 seems to make that clear. I think many passages could be added to that, including the Proverbs as you mentioned. I can't see how that is only "emphasis." It seems more the teaching itself.

I suppose "emphasis" can be big enough to shove a lot into, but it seems misleading and unnecessary. Teaching someone to how to be a godly husband seems different teaching than teaching someone how to be a godly wife. Teaching a octagenarian how to embrace ministry opportunities with a body and mind that is breaking down under the curse seems different teaching than a high school boy how to think about high school sports. Teaching a young mother how to parent is different than teaching a toddler how to obey. And on and on ...

Again, if all the church does is age segregated or age directed teaching, it is a problem. But I think the idea of targeted teaching based on need is a pretty common idea in Scripture and is helpful for churches to consider.