Recently I have been seeing more and more articles on Facebook from Christians bashing youth ministry because we are segregating teens and destroying their faith. I do understand that in blog posts we can all use a title that is a little over the top in order to get a point across. My problem with these articles is they seem to throw the baby out with the bath water and attack us in ministry who are dedicating our time to try and reach youth with the gospel.
These articles seem to come to the concussion that any segregation will lead to youth having shallow faith focused solely on themselves. Having a youth ministry that focuses only on teen’s leads to problem in the Church as a whole. I totally agree but this is not the goal of most youth ministries. The problem with this view of youth ministry is twofold. First almost every youth ministry I know has seen this problem and been addressing it for years. Most of us in youth ministry have for a long time now been working to get more adults involved in our ministries. We have been focusing on bringing adults and students together in meaningful ways. Not just manual labor but real ministry. We in youth ministry take very seriously the faith of the young people God, parents and the congregations have entrusted to our care. To say we haven’t been doing this misses out of the goal of every good youth ministry to bring kids to a greater faith in Christ.
So here is my problem with the no segregation crowd. It just doesn’t work in real life. My experience of trying to do family based bible study and everything else together has problems all the way around. First we struggle to make something that is meaningful for all the age groups. Whatever group we gear our bible study or other activity for we miss another group of people. The second issue I have is that most parents are very ill equipped to share and answer questions of faith they have not grappled with themselves.
We currently live in a very de-churched culture with little biblical knowledge to pass on to our children. Youth ministries are there to help parents share the faith. When we don’t segregate we can’t always speak to that group. I have found that in our confirmation ministry is has been most helpful making parents attend class as well. It allows them to grow in faith and have chances to share faith with their kids. But it isn’t the whole answer because many of our families don’t have two parents or even one parent that this is where having other adults, and teens to speak to each other can be very helpful. Also many students are not willing to ask us questions when their parents are in the room. They need to deal with these issues with adults and teens together. You just can’t expect teens in a group of adults talk about issues in a group where they aren’t the majority and feel safe to talk. Youth ministry needs to have adults who can share faith with them but saying we have to do everything in a large group setting misses this dynamic.
Lastly the biggest problem I have with no segregation is it seems to assume all kids and student have two parent homes. My experience is that many of the youth in our youth ministries do not have two parents at home. Many times in my experience they may not even have one parent who is Christian. This youth ministry you are so quick to attack for many kids is the only adult and teen in their life who can speak Jesus into their lives. Youth ministry can be a safe place they can attend in order to hear the gospel when they don’t hear it at home.
So I guess what I am saying is stop trouncing youth ministries. Stop attacking those who are dedicating their lives to share the gospel with students in a way that speaks to them. Don’t pretend like sitting us all in a room when we will teach like all adults will work. When having events geared to youth is some kind of bad thing. Sometimes it is the only way we can reach them. To my youth ministry friends. Let’s make sure our youth ministry programs don’t get in the way of our youth participating and experiencing the greater Christian Church. We have a lot to learn from each other but it is ok to have things geared toward our students to help them grow in faith.