"Divided"- is modern youth ministry really helping kids?

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Official Divided the Movie (HD Version) from NCFIC on Vimeo

Official Divided the Movie (HD Version) from NCFIC on Vimeo.

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Alex Guggenheim's picture

The main thesis is a view that many have espoused for decades but have had their voices drowned out by those catering to juvenile demands and wants and who have ruled the day for ministry toward youth. However, it was odd to see portrayed, "Young Earth vs Old Earth" , as a measure of youth being faithful or serious about the Word of God with those taking an old earth view, even ones holding to a literal creation non-evolutionary old earth view, as falling into the category of those not where they should be theologically. Of course Ken Ham's influence may have something to do with that.

But apart from that, again, the thesis is accurate. In fact here is a http://vimeo.com/26098320 ]comment from the producer :

Quote:
I went to Rick Warrens church to shoot a few scenes for this documentary with my friends who made the film and I was honestly shocked by what I found. They had an entire room full of video game consoles and a two story building full of huge video game units and pool tables.

Since when did the church have a need for this kind of gimmickry? I understand the desire to remain relevant to a culture that is lost but when youth come in due to the lights and sounds and receive a shoddy prep-talk they eventually leave.

Funny, as I think about it, isn't this the exact same principle that needs addressed with so many adult gatherings.

Kevin Subra's picture

You don't have to go to Rick Warren's church to see this. We have abundant examples of churches in our mild "conservative" Midwest that draw large crowds with their music focus, their video game halls, and ongoing good-times events. It is truly hard to counter the crowd mentality ("compete" is the wrong word, but I almost used it, as we are on opposing sides in many ways). Parents go where the teens want, and they follow the crowd. We see it even in Bible college masses. Parents in most of our circles have ceded their responsibility to the church (including youth groups), and the church has failed at parenting, to a large degree.

My pastor of years ago used to say "whatever it takes to get people is whatever it takes to keep them." Churches either turn into "adult youth groups" following such practices, or the "adult youth" bail out from disinterest.

For the Shepherd and His sheep,
Kevin
Grateful husband of a Proverbs 31 wife, and the father of 15 blessings.
http://captive-thinker.blogspot.com

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

When I talk to pastors, the #1 question they say they hear from visitors is "What programs do you have for children?" Since when should this be the primary consideration for attending a church?

Here's a program for you- "They sit their little bums down in the sanctuary and listen to the teaching and preaching."

The typical response to questions of whether or not a church should have children's programs is that the parents aren't doing the discipling, so the church must pick up the slack. Doesn't that just enable slacker parents to be more slack-ful?

Greg Linscott's picture

Susan R wrote:
When I talk to pastors, the #1 question they say they hear from visitors is "What programs do you have for children?" Since when should this be the primary consideration for attending a church?

Here's a program for you- "They sit their little bums down in the sanctuary and listen to the teaching and preaching."

The typical response to questions of whether or not a church should have children's programs is that the parents aren't doing the discipling, so the church must pick up the slack. Doesn't that just enable slacker parents to be more slack-ful?


Someone could be asking the question because they want to avoid a church that entertains their kids. Just a thought.

Some parents in this day might not be "slacking" as much as they are needing direction on getting involved is discipling their children. A children's program of some nature, especially in a smaller church, could with the right focus and involvement actually incorporate children into the life of the church overall. I know that in our church, I have new convert parents with new convert children who are developing a great deal because we have had classes such as http://kids4truth.com/Clubs/Home.aspx ]Kids 4 Truth that have taught their children (and the parents, as they help them) in ways that we probably wouldn't have the same immediate opportunity otherwise. In this case, the children and parents were converted around the same general time frame, and the parents had virtually no background in spiritual things. On top of that, the father struggles with reading. K4T gives structure they would struggle to provide themselves.

Our K4T evenings have a "fun" component to them (games and activities), but I don't think anyone but the most critical would accuse them of being "entertainment." The kids learn to sing hymns, and learn and memorize core doctrinal terms and Scripture that many adults in our churches probably don't know. Adults not helping in the program sit in on discipleship-oriented Bible study with an opportunity to listen more intently than they would if they were focused on supervising their children during that time period.

I understand the concerns with the overt entertainment philosophy that dominates many church youth ministries. With that being said, I am concerned that there are people out there who conclude that there is essentially no room for the church to offer targeted instruction to young people because of concerns over "age segregation" and the like.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Greg Linscott wrote:
Susan R wrote:
When I talk to pastors, the #1 question they say they hear from visitors is "What programs do you have for children?" Since when should this be the primary consideration for attending a church?

Here's a program for you- "They sit their little bums down in the sanctuary and listen to the teaching and preaching."

The typical response to questions of whether or not a church should have children's programs is that the parents aren't doing the discipling, so the church must pick up the slack. Doesn't that just enable slacker parents to be more slack-ful?


Someone could be asking the question because they want to avoid a church that entertains their kids. Just a thought.

In the context of this discussion, the parents were asking because the use of children's programs was their first priority in choosing a church. I didn't think I needed to clarify that.

Quote:
Some parents in this day might not be "slacking" as much as they are needing direction on getting involved is discipling their children. A children's program of some nature, especially in a smaller church, could with the right focus and involvement actually incorporate children into the life of the church overall.

I agree that not all parents that desire age-targeted teaching for their kids are slackers, and there is obviously a place for discipling babes in Christ- but when parents who should be grounded already don't know how to disciple their own children, and are dependent on child-targeted programs, we are upside down. The bottom line is that there is no Scriptural mandate or clear support for age-segregated instruction. It is a pragmatic solution with roots in some very unGodly ideas, but we've adopted it without a blink.

Is pragmatism bad? Not always. Do unregenerate men and women have good ideas? Quite often- but why are SS and children's programs so sacred when there is so little evidence that it is beneficial or effective in the long term?

I remember my dad becoming concerned over the twaddle in the children's programs at our church, and he started having my brother and I sit in church with him and mom. We looked up the verses together, and would discuss the message on the way home (in a good way- we didn't wear the preacher's guts for garters, ever). We studied topics that were brought up in church at the dinner table. Church was one more way we bonded as a family.

It seems well nigh impossible to find a church that respects the choice of parents to enjoy Biblical instruction and worship as a family bonding experience. We'd have to drive about an hour away to attend a church that doesn't require or pressure parents to put their kids in every program they offer- SS, midweek kid's clubs, age-targeted activities, camp, and youth group. You wouldn't believe how many times my dh and I have been mocked because we attended an activity with our kids- "Don't you think you ought to cut the apron strings?" and blahblahblah. Well, with a nimrod like that in charge of children, you bet yer sweet taters we are going to go to oversee the influences on our kids.

Quote:
I understand the concerns with the overt entertainment philosophy that dominates many church youth ministries. With that being said, I am concerned that there are people out there who conclude that there is essentially no room for the church to offer targeted instruction to young people because of concerns over "age segregation" and the like.

If age segregation has no Biblical roots, then it is good to be concerned when it becomes the default, and when parents who wish to worship as a family are viewed as extremists.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
Here's a program for you- "They sit their little bums down in the sanctuary and listen to the teaching and preaching."
My guess is that most of those heads attached above the little bums come away with little to nothing from the teaching and preaching, compared to what they might get if they were being taught at their own level.

If discipling means anything, it means teaching people where they are at, not just throwing them into some meeting because "we honor family."

Quote:
The typical response to questions of whether or not a church should have children's programs is that the parents aren't doing the discipling, so the church must pick up the slack. Doesn't that just enable slacker parents to be more slack-ful?
No. It actually fulfills the mandate to make disciples. There is no biblical reason that only parents can disciple children. That wasn't true in the OT or in the NT. And there is no biblical reason that if someone who should be doing it isn't doing it that everyone else can just wash their hands and let the little ones just go to hell, or at least go untaught. If someone is not doing, then someone else should.

Quote:
The bottom line is that there is no Scriptural mandate or clear support for age-segregated instruction.
Actually, Titus 2 among other passages does indicate some form of division into older and younger. Hard to argue that's not age-graded at some point. You might think that people today have taken it too far, but having a "younger" group means that they are being set apart based on their age.

In addition, I think it is just common sense, rooted in common grace. One of the aforementioned is very common; the other is not. It seems like church is the only place that anyone suggests this. Even the most successful schools age grade their curriculum and classes for the most effective teaching.

Quote:
It is a pragmatic solution with roots in some very unGodly ideas, but we've adopted it without a blink.
It is not pramatic; it is practical. And I don't know what "ungodly ideas" you speak of, but teaching people according to where they are at is clearly the instruction of Scripture in various places, such as Heb 5, where people should have moved on from certain things to other things.

Quote:
why are SS and children's programs so sacred when there is so little evidence that it is beneficial or effective in the long term?
Not sure why you think there is "little evidence" that is it beneficial or effective. Seeing a generation of children who know the Bible seems evidence enough, to me. Why do we presume that children have the same interests or ability to understand the creation story as adults do? If children understand the same things in the same way as adults do, then you have either very precocious children or very ignorant and unthinking adults.

There's a reason why "age graded education" is almost universal. It is because we realize that education is a process, a journey, and not everyone is at the same place in that journey. You have to teach people according to their level. That's why "children" is used to designate a lower level of spiritual maturity in need of teaching. I think we are better off honoring that than fighting it. Chances are, Susan, that your education of your own children has convinced you that you have to be age graded in what you are teaching. I don't recall the ages of your children, but you can't teach a twelve year old the same things in the same way that you teach a six year old. The curriculum is graded and you don't teach everyone the same thing in the same way, right? We expect five year old to read Dick and Jane, not Jane Eyre. We expect six year old to learn to add simple numbers, not letters as in algebra. So why is that different in church? I know of no biblical reason it should be different.

The question of entertainment is an entirely different question than the question of age-grading. Let's not confuse them.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Here's another little short, somewhat random, list I wrote for another place that may help express my thinking on this. It is perhaps a bit repetitive of what I wrote above, but I don't want to take time to edit it.

1. I think teaching parents to teach (and teaching parents period) can, and should in most cases, take place alongside of age graded children’s teaching. There is no biblical reason not to, and the Bible clearly testifies to (1) multiple people having teaching gifts that should be used (cf. Rom 12), (2) that intergenerational teaching takes place (cf. Titus 2) that apparently is not limited to families, and (3) that people should be taught on the various levels according to their spiritual state (cf. Heb 5:12-6:1). The Bible does not specify the format that this should take place in; that is a wisdom issue for the church. So a church can have age graded and spiritually age graded formats for teaching. And I think they should. I teach my child at home every night. I routinely ask them about their lesson in church. So being age-graded has not removed my ability or responsibility to teach my child.

2. The age graded nature of general education (whether private, Christian, or public) is a common grace evidence that it is not only possible, but even necessary. Can you imagine trying to teach people to count and do calculus at the same time? It just doesn’t make sense to me to insist that there be no age graded teaching.

3. The whole FIC idea (in it various manifestations) seems to me to be based on OT teaching where religion was a family issue. In the NT church, family is less emphasized and you have a church made up of first generation Christians, which remains so until this day. There is no presumption that children are going to have Christian parents. Many do not. While I think the OT passages are instructive, I wonder if they are being made to bear a bit too much weight.

4. I think children can be taught to sit still in church, and that can be done in a children’s church lesson as well as (or perhaps better than) an adult lesson. It can also be accomplished at home. The question we have to ask is whether it is worth it to insist on kids being in the congregation and being taught to sit still at the expense of a mom or dad who does not get fed spiritually because they spend the preaching hour trying to keep junior quiet? To tell parents to take their child out of the service is asking them to leave the authoritative teaching and preaching of the Word, or the worship through song. And that is to say nothing of the people around who came to worship God and hear from him who instead are hearing from a child and a parent who is trying to keep the child quiet. In my ministry, I see no reason to place that burden on parents or those around them when we have other options, such as a man who is passionate about teaching children. Furthermore, if we removed age graded teaching, we would take away this man’s opportunity to minister out of his desire, which limits his spiritual usefulness and participation in the church.

5. It seems obvious that not all people are at the same level. That is why we have new members classes, new believers classes, classes such as Intro to the OT or NT, various books, or doctrines, etc. It is why we have classes for single adults who face very different challenges than senior adults. There is no reason that I can think of that that wouldn’t be extended to children. A child is unlikely to get much out of an hour long lesson on the message of the Pentateuch (or an hour long lesson on anything, though an adult certainly needs that).

6. We can do both intergenerational and age-graded, as we do here. Our community groups are intentionally intergenerational so we have that influence. Our age graded classes are intentionally teaching on the level of the student.

7. There is no need to teach as if everyone has the same spiritual maturity or level, and that therefore everyone’s spiritual needs can be met with the same teaching. Any pastor with some experience can testify as to how hard it is to teach to all levels at one time. That challenge is made easier by knowing that there are various levels of teaching offered for various groups of people. It is not about being cool or hip or trendy or giving watered-down teaching to younger kids or teens. It is about teaching them where they are at and moving them along.

8. To the issue of authority, I find it unconvincing to argue that age graded teaching somehow diminishes the authority of the parent. In our lives, under Scripture, we recognize varying levels of authority both in the church, in the home, and in civil society.

Bottom line is that I don't have a problem if parents keep their children in church with them. But they need to make sure their children are respectful both of the singing and preaching of the Word, and of the people around them.

Sean Fericks's picture

I thought the link was just a 5 minute intro to the topic. My wife and I ended up staying up til midnight watching and discussing. I think the movie made some excellent points, especially about the rise of "adolescence" at the beginning of the 20th century.

[QUOTE=Wikipedia ]In many societies, adolescence was not recognized as a phase of life. Most societies simply distinguished between childhood and adulthood. Stanley Hall is generally credited with "discovering" adolescence with his 1904 study "Adolescence" in which he describes the developmental phase now recognized as adolescence. Hall attributed the new stage to social changes at the turn of the 20th century. Child labor laws kept individuals under 16 out of the work force, and universal education laws kept them in secondary school, thus prolonging the period of dependence—a dependence that allowed them to address psychological tasks they might have ignored when they took on adult roles straight out of childhood.[/QUOTE ]

I think that modern Western society has granted humans the "right" to an irresponsible playboy stage in our teens and early 20s. We expect them to have interest in adult things, but we expect them to be irresponsible with adult things. We disallow work when they should be learning to work. We entertain them like children at church (not all churches) when we should be teaching them to serve and mature at church. We run the program. They observe, and maybe participate in the program.

Sometimes, you get what you expect.

Sean Fericks's picture

I also thought that the movie overstretched on the degree to which we apply the regulative principle to age-targeted programs in the church. Just because there was no nursery in Acts does not mean that nurseries are bad. Sometimes, it is good for adults to have respite from the distractions of young children in order that they might concentrate on sensitive or difficult topics. Likewise, sometimes it is good for children to come aside to ensure that they receive the basics of the faith (not all parents are capable of teaching their children well).

Brenda T's picture

Even with age-graded classes and youth groups, there still is a lumping of everyone at the same level when they are not all at the same level. Some children and teens who have been well-taught at home and/or were saved at a younger age are well ahead of their peers. The teacher of 8 year olds or 13 year olds still has several spiritual/Bible knowledge levels to deal with in the same room, but yet they teach to only one level. Therefore, some kids don't understand what's being taught and others aren't learning anything new.

It seems to be implied in the Bible that not everyone will understand what's being preached, which is why women were told to ask questions of their husbands at home and fathers were told to teach their children. The solution to the problem was not to age-segregate the people, but to put in some extra time outside of the service.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Does Titus 2 imply age segregation or spiritual maturity segregation? If so, then a woman who is 60 but got saved last week is going to be teaching a woman who is 30 but was saved at 15? Who is more spiritually mature? Nope- I don't buy the "Titus 2 teaches age segregation" argument.

Historically speaking, age segregation is relatively new and is not universal. You'd think from this conversation that no one has seen Anne of Green Gables. The video gives a nutshell version of the history and influence of SS and education in America.

Recognizing that parents are Scripturally the primary teachers of children does not negate other discipling methods, it prioritizes them. Otherwise, I'm not going to argue points I didn't make.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
Even with age-graded classes and youth groups, there still is a lumping of everyone at the same level when they are not all at the same level. Some children and teens who have been well-taught at home and/or were saved at a younger age are well ahead of their peers. The teacher of 8 year olds or 13 year olds still has several spiritual/Bible knowledge levels to deal with in the same room, but yet they teach to only one level. Therefore, some kids don't understand what's being taught and others aren't learning anything new.
But they are generally at the same or similar intellectual level, and it will not take them as long to catch up. But some may need to be held back or pushed ahead. There are a variety of factors. Again, this is something that is not really controversial outside the church. I wonder why it is inside the church?

Furthermore, it is possible to teach to differing levels within a given span of ability/knowledge. But that gets harder as the span increases. For instance, in language, it is fairly easy to teach beginners together, even though you might have some stars who really push ahead. However, there is no real way to teach people the alphabet at the same time you are teaching other students the uses of a genitive. You could do it, I suppose, but you wouldn't be integrating the class. You would be teaching two different classes in the same room (the old one-room school house model ... or ACE model).

Quote:
It seems to be implied in the Bible that not everyone will understand what's being preached, which is why women were told to ask questions of their husbands at home and fathers were told to teach their children. The solution to the problem was not to age-segregate the people, but to put in some extra time outside of the service.
Two things: (1) women and men were not to be segregated all the time, though they were at times (cf. Titus 2); (2) the mandate for fathers to teach their children does not exclude the possibility that others may teach their children. Again, the Bible clearly establishes teachers in the church, and there is no way to argue that the teachers were teaching only their own children (because there were different families present, and sometimes families without fathers, apparently). So the Bible never limits the teaching of people to the fathers. Why should we?

This seems to be an inconsistent thing. Even in the most staunchly FIC church, the pastor stands up and teaches people who are not his own children. So he cannot also say that children should be taught only by their own father. He has violated that by teaching people who are not his own children. So then it becomes an argument about who, other than the father, can teach the children. Is it just the pastor? Or the others with teaching gifts (Rom 12)? Or anyone older (Titus 2)?

If the argument is that teachers should be qualified, then absolutely. If the argument is that children's classes need to actually teach and train rather than simply play games and babysit, then absolutely. But I cannot see any argument from Scripture that only fathers should teach children.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
Does Titus 2 imply age segregation or spiritual maturity segregation? If so, then a woman who is 60 but got saved last week is going to be teaching a woman who is 30 but was saved at 15?
The issues of Titus 2 that are being taught, are quite often common grace issues. And yes a newly saved 60 year old might have a thing or two to teach a 15 year old younger woman.

Quote:
Nope- I don't buy the "Titus 2 teaches age segregation" argument.
I suppose you don't have to buy it, but to me (and perhaps only me), it seems hard to argue with "older" and "younger" as being something other than age.

Quote:
Recognizing that parents are Scripturally the primary teachers of children does not negate other discipling methods, it prioritizes them.
Then you don't actually disagree with age grading discipleship methods?

Quote:
Otherwise, I'm not going to argue points I didn't make.
No need to. My comments were directed at more than your comments. But there are some issues that I think you are perhaps minimizing, or perhaps even outright ignoring.

Let me ask you this: Is there a biblical mandate that only fathers can teach their only their own children? Or can someone disciple a person that is not a part of their own family?

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Larry wrote:
Susan wrote:
Does Titus 2 imply age segregation or spiritual maturity segregation? If so, then a woman who is 60 but got saved last week is going to be teaching a woman who is 30 but was saved at 15?
The issues of Titus 2 that are being taught, are quite often common grace issues. And yes a newly saved 60 year old might have a thing or two to teach a 15 year old younger woman.

Re-read the comment. A 30 year old woman who has been saved for 15 years should not be in the position of needing spiritual mentorship by a 60 year old woman who has been saved for a week. Can we share what we've learned and be a blessing to each other, regardless of our age or length of time we've been saved? Yes- but we are talking about discipling.
Larry wrote:
Susan wrote:
Recognizing that parents are Scripturally the primary teachers of children does not negate other discipling methods, it prioritizes them.
Then you don't actually disagree with age grading discipleship methods?
[/quote]
Yes, I do disagree, because age does not necessarily address spiritual maturity or even regeneration. Should unsaved kids be taught/discipled in the same way as saved kids? I don't think so.

It also doesn't address reading ability. I know 13 year olds that can barely read, while a 9 year old is fluently reading and comprehending Dickens.

Quote:
Let me ask you this: Is there a biblical mandate that only fathers can teach their only their own children? Or can someone disciple a person that is not a part of their own family?

Of what relevance is this question? Of course a biologically unrelated person can teach and mentor. That hasn't been questioned. But if you review how many verses directly address parents as the child's primary teachers, you get a clear picture of where the responsibility should lie.

BTW, Larry, did you watch the video?

(I've edited this post a bazillion times because I keep seeing typos!)

Brenda T's picture

Larry said:

Quote:
But some may need to be held back or pushed ahead.

I've never seen anyone held back or pushed ahead in Sunday Schools or youth groups. What might that look like in a church setting? How would you do that?

Greg Linscott's picture

Quote:
A 30 year old woman who has been saved for 15 years should not be in the position of needing spiritual mentorship by a 60 year old woman who has been saved for a week.

What are the limits of "spiritual mentorship"? A 30 year old woman who was converted as a 15 year-old might nevertheless be very new to specific areas of her sanctification. For example, she could be a new wife or mother, or be dealing with death, or struggle with anger or bitterness. A newly converted 60 year-old might not be familiar with every relevant scriptural principle, yet her experience and perspective might still have spiritual value (even if it is "These were mistakes I made that you should try to avoid").

As a matter of fact, none of us ever should be in a position where we think we are above "spiritual mentorship" from someone "less" than us. Humility and the function of edifying other believers in a church setting means we all should be open to some degree from what God can teach us through one another. To that end, a church service may have value to a family unit, but it is not intended simply to be a "family bonding time"- we should all be there to some degree to connect with one another, looking beyond the boundaries of our immediate familial context and developing the unity we need to share in our ecclesiastical bonds. Primary responsibility is given to parents, just like primary responsibility for love and submission is in a marital context. That doesn't mean, however, that the church has no similar kind of responsibilities in its context.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Brenda T wrote:
Larry said:

Quote:
But some may need to be held back or pushed ahead.

I've never seen anyone held back or pushed ahead in Sunday Schools or youth groups. What might that look like in a church setting? How would you do that?


Larry wrote:
this is something that is not really controversial outside the church. I wonder why it is inside the church?

Right- children are almost never segregated by ability in school, but by age. They are often promoted to the next grade without reaching proficiency in reading. For a church to hold a child back who is not being held back in school would cause WWIII.

But many points in the video are about why age-segregation is now the default when for hundreds of years it was not. We are talking about a practice (on the level that we see it now) that is in the neighborhood of 120 years old, and coincides with societal and education changes based on the teachings of Rousseau, John Dewey, and G. Stanley Hall, none of whom any of us would allow to teach our goldfish to swim. And Horace Mann was a Unitarian. Not someone whose philosophy and methodologies we should adopt without serious and strenuous consideration.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Greg Linscott wrote:
Quote:
A 30 year old woman who has been saved for 15 years should not be in the position of needing spiritual mentorship by a 60 year old woman who has been saved for a week.

What are the limits of "spiritual mentorship"? A 30 year old woman who was converted as a 15 year-old might nevertheless be very new to specific areas of her sanctification. For example, she could be a new wife or mother, or be dealing with death, or struggle with anger or bitterness. A newly converted 60 year-old might not be familiar with every relevant scriptural principle, yet her experience and perspective might still have spiritual value (even if it is "These were mistakes I made that you should try to avoid").

Bro. Linscott, that is TOTALLY not what my point was, and I clarified my statement by saying "Can we share what we've learned and be a blessing to each other, regardless of our age or length of time we've been saved? Yes- but we are talking about discipling."

Age does not guarantee spiritual maturity. Can we agree on that point? Titus 2 isn't a mandate that only women who are chronologically biologically older should teach women who are chronologically biologically younger. There are qualifications that they "be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed."

Quote:
As a matter of fact, none of us ever should be in a position where we think we are above "spiritual mentorship" from someone "less" than us. Humility and the function of edifying other believers in a church setting means we all should be open to some degree from what God can teach us through one another. To that end, a church service may have value to a family unit, but it is not intended simply to be a "family bonding time"- we should all be there to some degree to connect with one another, looking beyond the boundaries of our immediate familial context and developing the unity we need to share in our ecclesiastical bonds. Primary responsibility is given to parents, just like primary responsibility for love and submission is in a marital context. That doesn't mean, however, that the church has no similar kind of responsibilities in its context.

I agree and haven't said anything to the contrary.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Thanks for your response Susan. Let me, hopefully respectfully and helpfully, make a couple of propositions about what I believe. And then respond to you, and then try to bow out for the sake of other things. Hopefully we are not talking past each other here.

1. I believe the church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim 3:15), not the family. So why do we say stuff like “The church should support the parents in their teaching” as if the parents are the ones responsible to defend and propagate the truth? The home is not the primary guardian or propagator of the truth in the Scripture. I know in a society that idolizes family that will sound harsh. (BTW, I am concerned that the FIC movement actually increases the idolization of the family, and that is not a good thing, but that’s another issue.)

2. I believe that parents should raise their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4), based on the truth they are being taught at church. How else would they know what the truth was? (Remember, they didn’t have Bibles to read over the dinner table or in daily quiet times.) Today, we have separated family and parenting from the church, and I think that is dangerous (though with some churches, it is probably better unfortunately).

3. I believe that the church’s mandate is the make disciples of all nations, and that includes all ages in those nations. The church should not abandon that mission. If they can do that with all ages together, then do it. But I haven’t seen any evidence that it greatly works. It certainly failed in Israel in the OT. I know my children are surpassed by my teaching. I don’t really even try to preach to them. They pick up a few things and repeat them, but it is not anything like actual understanding in most cases. And truth without understanding can lead to ritualistic repetition of true facts that do not affect the heart.

4. If someone differs from me, I am fine with that. Just make disciples as it works in your context.

Now, to your comments:

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A 30 year old woman who has been saved for 15 years should not be in the position of needing spiritual mentorship by a 60 year old woman who has been saved for a week.
Do you think a 60 year old new believer, with a fresh gospel perspective, a 35 year marriage, and five grown and well-adjusted children has nothing to teach a 30 year old with a five year marriage and three toddlers about how to love her husband and children? I do. I think God’s common grace combined with special grace gives older women some input, whether “I did this right” or “I did this wrong.”

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Can we share what we've learned and be a blessing to each other, regardless of our age or length of time we've been saved? Yes- but we are talking about discipling.
I wonder how you define discipling is if not sharing what we have learned? Isn’t that the primary definition of teaching (which is what discipling is)? Learn something and then teach it to someone else.

So yes, I think Titus 2 is primarily age related and I think that is why he uses older and younger. Given the categories of teaching, it would make sense that it is age related. That’s not a guarantee that every older woman is able to disciple a younger woman, and that no younger woman is unable to disciple an older woman. It is a general principle of how it works. And I think discipling is teaching. So I think a 60 year old new believer can disciple a 30 year old believer on some things in Titus 2.

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Susan: Recognizing that parents are Scripturally the primary teachers of children does not negate other discipling methods, it prioritizes them.

Larry: Then you don't actually disagree with age grading discipleship methods?

Susan: Yes, I do disagree, because age does not necessarily address spiritual maturity or even regeneration/

Begging your pardon up front, I don’t want to burden you here, but I am seeking understanding of your position. For the sake of clarification for me, you affirm that there are other discipleship methods than parents teaching their own children, but then say that you disagree with grouping them together by age for age appropriate discipleship.

So in your position, in what contexts could a child be discipled by someone other than their parent? Is it ever appropriate to group six year olds together for teaching? Or twelve year olds? Or twenty-year olds? Must every gathering include all ages? (Again, I don’t want to be overly pedantic; I am simply trying to grasp your position because I don’t want to speak past you.)

For instance, if my five year old has a friend over to play, my wife is going to be discipling all afternoon, in a variety of ways. And it will be grouped by age (only five and six year olds) and it will not be parental (since the friend has other parents). Is that acceptable? What if we have three friends over? Or six friends and have a Bible story in the back yard? At what point have we crossed the line into something unacceptable? Again, I am not trying to be ridiculous here but trying to establish some sense of understanding of the boundaries of your position.

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Should unsaved kids be taught/discipled in the same way as saved kids? I don't think so.
Not sure I agree here, but I don’t know why you say this and it’s off topic, but it would be an interesting discussion. I think the gospel is the same, and so you teach them the same way essentially.

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Larry: Let me ask you this: Is there a biblical mandate that only fathers can teach their only their own children? Or can someone disciple a person that is not a part of their own family?

Susan: Of what relevance is this question?

It is relevant to the discipling mission of the church. You admit that someone who is “biologically unrelated can teach and mentor,” so it is not parents only. So when and where and how can that take place? (See above questions.) How does the church fulfill the mission of making disciples of children? I think you have said it is not only parents, but others as well that can do this. So when/where/how?

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But if you review how many verses directly address parents as the child's primary teachers, you get a clear picture of where the responsibility should lie.
One? And it doesn’t even say anything similar to “primary” that I can recall. Where, in the NT, do you go after Ephesians 6:4? I realize there are some verses in the OT about it. And we have over half the OT that testifies to the success of that. But again, I don’t disagree that parents must teach their children, and in fact, always teach their children. But what about all the verses that place the teaching ministry in the church?

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BTW, Larry, did you watch the video?
No, I don’t have an hour to spend on it right now. I have serious problems with the way a lot of youth programs are being carried on. I have problems with prolonged adolescence, though I am not sure that it is an artificial category in this day and age.

Thanks again, Susan

Larry's picture

Moderator

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I've never seen anyone held back or pushed ahead in Sunday Schools or youth groups. What might that look like in a church setting? How would you do that?
Very carefully!!! No, seriously, just judge whether or not someone is grasping the material or not.

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Right- children are almost never segregated by ability in school, but by age. They are often promoted to the next grade without reaching proficiency in reading. For a church to hold a child back who is not being held back in school would cause WWIII.
But that's a problem with the school right, probably both in teaching and in promoting? It's not a problem of the system of age grading.

But what's the problem with moving them on? They are not ready. They are behind in their development for a normal person of that age. And that is the point: You teach people according to where they are, and generally, similar ages have similar characteristics. And if you move them on before they are ready, you actually hurt them in the long run. It's part of God's created order. So why isn't that true of church? Why should we teach people the more advanced things before they have learned to think properly? Why should teach them more advanced things before they learn the elementary things (Heb 5:11-6:1).

driddick's picture

I'll say up front that I did not watch the entire film, but after about 15 mins. I believe I could see clearly the premise of the film.

I believe the film maker (and many, many others) are illustrating and verbalizing highly publicized research that young people are leaving the faith (although that percentage is widely debated). Yet, I still can not be convinced in my mind that the diagnosis presented is accurate, or at least complete.

My quick view of the film and a quick read of some of the comments might lead me to conclude that: youth pastors + youth ministry + Christian rock music + fun in church + Bible teaching = faith abandonment by young people

We're kidding ourselves if we think the issues are that simplistic. And, we might find ourselves in danger of throwing out the baby with the bath water.

I have a lot of questions.

Is faith abandonment by young people any different today than 100 years ago?

Is it any different than that of older demographics?

Has it radically increased in connection with the advent of youth ministry?

Why is "modern youth ministry" spiritually successful for a large percentage of young people?

Can anybody provide research to indicate that other models of ministry are reversing this trend? (not great anecdotal examples)

These are just things that are passing through my mind. I do believe these issues are significant and worth more discussion. I'm glad to see it posted here.

Full disclosure: I'm a "spiritually successful" (still growing and maturing) product of the "youth pastor + youth ministry + Christian rock music + church is fun + Bible teaching" model.

Larry's picture

Moderator

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Is faith abandonment by young people any different today than 100 years ago?

Is it any different than that of older demographics?

Has it radically increased in connection with the advent of youth ministry?

I think these are excellent questions.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Larry, unfortunately it appears to me that we are either talking past each other or not speaking the same language. It happens.

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Do you think a 60 year old new believer, with a fresh gospel perspective, a 35 year marriage, and five grown and well-adjusted children has nothing to teach a 30 year old with a five year marriage and three toddlers about how to love her husband and children? I do. I think God’s common grace combined with special grace gives older women some input, whether “I did this right” or “I did this wrong.”

And what if that 60 year old woman has blonde hair and drives a Volkswagen? http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys.php ][img ]http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-fc/flowers.gif[/img ] Seriously, did I ever indicate at any time that an older woman with experience in an area has NOTHING to teach a younger woman with less experience in that area?

Here is yet another clarification from my Handy Dandy Clarification Collection, available today for $19.95 plus shipping and handling- a younger woman who has been saved for 15 years should not be in the position to need formal spiritual instruction from someone who has been saved for a week. Formal spiritual instruction has been the context of this thread, because the premise is about church programs/classes, not just the everyday life and interactions of born again believers.

Of course, growth in Christ doesn't always occur as it should, so please view the above as an illustration for the purposes of exploring one aspect of a very complex matter.

As to the other points, I don't want to brush them off, but maybe I can give you An Answer In A Nutshell (which is 50% off when you buy Clarification Collection)- I believe the church in general has adopted practices without considering their sources, implications, or long term effects, or honestly comparing them to Scripture. As I said in another thread, we tend to take what we are already doing and squish it into the Bible somewhere. We need to truly examine what methodologies we employ and ask ourselves if what we are doing is Scriptural. If you have done so and think things are fine as they are, then that's wonderful. And about as rare as Francium.

Pointing out what one believes to be the inappropriate prevalence of a certain method doesn't make the method itself invalid. Just as you are concerned that the NCFIC idolizes the family, I am concerned that the family is too often viewed with disdain or despair. Non-biological persons are not disqualified from teaching children, but parents are not just breeders either. I hope for and work toward balance.

As to age segregation- because children cannot be accurately segregated by age, why is that the default? Why not segregate by ability and gender? After all, we do have a Biblical pattern of parents teaching their children, women teaching girls and men teaching boys, and the analogy of spiritual truth as milk and meat- so if we default, shouldn't it be more towards something that we see in Scripture vs. something that society has adopted that has unScriptural underpinnings?

Larry wrote:
You teach people according to where they are
I agree!
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and generally, similar ages have similar characteristics.
Intellectually, developmentally- maybe. Every parent knows the difference even 6 months can make in the developmental life of a child. And spiritually? That is totally not a function of age.

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And if you move them on before they are ready, you actually hurt them in the long run. It's part of God's created order. So why isn't that true of church? Why should we teach people the more advanced things before they have learned to think properly? Why should teach them more advanced things before they learn the elementary things (Heb 5:11-6:1).

Exactly. We totally agree on that. But when's the last time you saw a church segregate for an understanding spiritual truths? It's usually by age or marital status, never (or should I say seldom?) by whether they are on milk or meat.

Larry, my dh and I have spent the last 25 years being SS Admin or YG leaders/workers. I don't think Sunday School is a device of Satan or anything like that. But I agree with the basic premise of the video, I believe that the church far too often adopts cultural practices without examining the source or comparing it with Scripture, and that the family unit is not respected to the degree that it should be.

I hope that helps explain my position a bit better. I am willing to acknowledge that we are both bringing our personal experiences and perceptions to the discussion, since there is not, even with the studies Ken Ham has been involved with, unassailable data on the subject.

Brenda T's picture

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My quick view of the film and a quick read of some of the comments might lead me to conclude that: youth pastors + youth ministry + Christian rock music + fun in church + Bible teaching = faith abandonment by young people

I did watch the entire video and I have read Ken Ham's book Already Gone. I'm not so sure the video was blaming youth ministry for the mass exodus of young people as much as it was trying to show that youth ministries do not keep people from abandoning church.

As far as someone being a "spiritually successful" product of the equation in the above quote, I am sure there were other factors in one's life other than youth group, rock music, fun, and Bible teaching at church. Therefore, the product does not necessarily sanctify select bits and pieces of ones past any more than it would sanctify everything in that person's past.

Larry's picture

Moderator

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We need to truly examine what methodologies we employ and ask ourselves if what we are doing is Scriptural.
I agree with that completely.

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But when's the last time you saw a church segregate for an understanding spiritual truths?
We do. It makes the age span in our children's class pretty broad, but I think it works for now.

Thanks again, Susan.

driddick's picture

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I did watch the entire video and I have read Ken Ham's book Already Gone. I'm not so sure the video was blaming youth ministry for the mass exodus of young people as much as it was trying to show that youth ministries do not keep people from abandoning church.

Brenda, I need to take some time and watch the entire program and I'm sure I would get a more complete picture. I think your highlighting an important distinction between cause and symptom. I think the issues run deeper than a program or methodology.

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As far as someone being a "spiritually successful" product of the equation in the above quote, I am sure there were other factors in one's life other than youth group, rock music, fun, and Bible teaching at church. Therefore, the product does not necessarily sanctify select bits and pieces of ones past any more than it would sanctify everything in that person's past.

You are exactly right and that is really the idea that I seem to be coming to personally. It will be a mistake in our ministries if we over-simplify complex issues. (i.e. young people are abandoning the church - therefore - youth ministry is wrong)

I also think your logic works both ways. Just like a positive outcome, in my case, doesn't, necessarily, sanctify specific methods or ministries; a negative outcome does not, necessarily, condemn or invalidate specific methods or ministries either.

I appreciate your observations!

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

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Just like a positive outcome, in my case, doesn't, necessarily, sanctify specific methods or ministries; a negative outcome does not, necessarily, condemn or invalidate specific methods or ministries either.

True- in general, I think American Christianity is far too enamored of outcomes instead of clinging to Scripture for guidance and guidelines.

Brenda T's picture

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I also think your logic works both ways. Just like a positive outcome, in my case, doesn't, necessarily, sanctify specific methods or ministries; a negative outcome does not, necessarily, condemn or invalidate specific methods or ministries either.

This is the other side of the coin that I should have mentioned. Thanks for pointing that out.

Perhaps we focus too much on analyzing outcomes (positive or negative) for the purpose of accepting or dismissing a program when we should first study Scripture before even considering a program, since it is Scripture rather than perceived outcomes that should determine what we do.

Seth Johnson's picture

The bias of the piece has some spurious roots in Church Dominion Theology. Having close associations with Vision Forum the writers, though hitting some key crisis points for the church, have roots in a theological position out of sync with sound hermeneutics. The recent trend by Barna to be an advocate for the home church movement swings the pendulum from the problem past the answers to another set of problems.

TALyzenga's picture

Two up fronts: 1. I am a Youth Pastor. 2. I did watch the entire movie. I also apologize for spelling errors, not my strong point. Smile

I watched this video and then waited a while before I responded. Without a doubt this video does address a need that is very prevalent in the church, the absentee parent, and especially the absentee father. It is absolutely true that no Youth Pastor could ever hope to be the influence that a parent could have. It is true that the church should be an active community of many fathers and mothers.

If there is honesty about this though, the reality is that they are putting forth a philosophy of ministry that is meant to address an issue all of us are aware of exist. What I do not like are some of the arguments used to support their philosophy.

“You will not find the position of Youth Pastor anywhere in the Bible.”

There are problems with that argument. The first they address, the number of things that are not directly addressed in scripture that are obviously Biblical, say like the Trinity. The second they do not:

If you are technical about what a Youth Pastor is you will find the idea in scripture: He is an Elder who has been given care over a specialized ministry in the church, in this case what our culture has defined as “youth.”

Do we find a multitude of Elders in NT Churches? Yes!
Do we find specialized ministries? Yes
A. The disbursement of resources to the poor. A specialized people group.
B. The care of widows, but not just any widows. There were parameters put around who, what, and where.

So the idea of a specialized ministry, and an elder over seeing that ministry is not completely absent in scripture.

“The invention of the Youth Pastor allowed parents to pass off their spiritual responsibility.”

This is not a sound argument against a ministry philosophy. A more correct statement would have been:

“The placement of unbiblical eldership responsibilities, and an elder accepting of those responsibilities, has open the door for parents to pass off their spiritual responsibilities.”

The problem here is not the creation of a ministry or a ministry position. As an elder I have to refuse to accept responsibilities that are outside my Biblical guidelines. I have received plenty of criticism for refusing to not “parent” the teens and children I work with. One guy said in this movie “The hearts of the teens were turned towards me, not their fathers.” Well that ones on you dude. You allowed yourself to take on a role that is outside eldership responsibilities.

We have heard enough stories of a Pastor turning the heart of a wife away from her husband. Is that an argument against having a Pastor?

I agree with just about 80% of this movie. Maybe someone can convince me of the other 20%?

Tim Lyzenga

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