Rant on Church and Youth

Recently there has been a discussion on the Warfield list about the necessity of youth ministry in churches. One of the contributers, Pastor James MacDonald, said this:

…youth ministry does not produce disciples. Every study, from Barna to the SBC [Southern Baptist Convention], tells the same story – few youth discipled through youth ministries stay the course – few embrace the faith of the youth minister, let alone their parents.

Where the SBC reports that 85% of their youth walk from the faith by their second year at university, Brian Ray with the National Home Education Research Institute reports 92% of homeschool graduates claim a faith similar to their parents.

This is not a call for home education – but it is a call for home discipleship.

The statistics are pretty shocking, and I wonder what the equivalent would be in the UK.

Now, I am not one who would want to ban all youth work, but I have to admit that over recent years I have increasingly become skeptical of the emphasis that churches often place upon it. It seems to become something of a sacred cow which cannot be questioned, and certainly not killed. But my own experience, where Susan and I led a youth work for a number of years, and that of some others leads me to believe that it is over-rated. Only one person out of the many 10s of kids that we worked with can I say for sure is a Christian. At best, it is a handmaiden to home discipleship. But if there is nothing in the home, then there is little hope for the youth group.

At Derwent we get some kids coming from the housing estate to our evening service. Recently we also had some visitors who were in the area for the weekend. When the visitors saw the children they were pleased and encouraged, as we all are. But then the fateful words came out which I have heard many times before,

“After all, they are the future of the church!”

I hate disagree with someone who is encouraged and wants to express it with these words. But they are wrong. Under God, the future of the church lies with adults, especially the parents. Evangelism (of Christians and non-Christians) needs to be directed to them. “Get” the parents, train them to be godly parents along the lines of Deuteronomy 6, and the children will follow.

Don’t you think?

Rant on Church and Youth

3 thoughts on “Rant on Church and Youth

  1. Johnhttp://john.pettigrew.org.uk/blog/ says:

    I agree that the “future of the church” thing is nonsense – those in youth groups are the *present* of the church; for the future of the church, we need to do better at helping all our members grow in the faith.

    I think that “get the parents and the children will follow” is overly simplistic, though. Certainly, we can hope that children will follow their parents in the faith, but it’s not a given, even for “good” parents.

    pax et bonum

  2. David says:

    I was going to make a comment similar to John’s – the church is made up of people of all ages. To say that children are the church of the future may imply that they are not part of the church of the present.

    I suspect that people become so obsessed by youth because of the demographics of (most?) UK churches. An elder in our church remarked at a recent Kirk Session meeting, “Some of us are getting older.” Of course all of us are getting older, but we knew what he meant. I took my oldest daughter to our house group meeting last night, and it is worrying that she was the youngest there… and I was the second youngest… and the third youngest was about 15 years older than me! (I’m 43.)

    I work in the Sunday School at our church and one of the things we find difficult is the sporadic attendance of some of the children. In some cases it may be that the children are deciding they don’t want to go to Sunday School on a particular week, but with most it will be down to the parents not bringing them. If parents don’t see church attendance as a priority, it will be an uphill struggle to “disciple” the children.

    I’ll need to dig it out again since it is about twenty years since I read it, but I rememmber being very impressed with Willie Still’s booklet called something like Child Rearing in the Covenant of Grace. I remember it being a thought provoking, Bible based study on the theology of how Christian parents should bring up their children.

    Anyway, to close this overly long response, while it may be a bit simplistic to say “get the parents…” I don’t think it’s an either/or. It’s a “both… and…”! Disciple the parents and those parents will have a desire to seek the churches help in raising their children to be followers of Christ.

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