Tuesday, September 12

Barna Confirms: Teens Are Leaving the Church!

I had many good comments concerning my last post concerning teens leaving the church. I am thankful to all who commented, especially as we seemed to be in agreement. I appreciate Greg Linscott of Irrelevant for finding the Barna study and posting a link to it over at SharperIron. This new study by The Barna Group confirms what many of us have been thinking and experiencing in our own churches. The rest of this post gives quotes from the study with my comments in red. [The data in this report are based on interviews with more than 22,103 adults and 2,124 teenagers from across the nation in 25 separate surveys. The adult sample included interviews with 3,583 twentysomethings.]

PROBLEMS:

(1)...that despite strong levels of spiritual activity during the teen years, most twentysomethings disengage from active participation in the Christian faith during their young adult years and often beyond that. In fact, the most potent data regarding disengagement is that a majority of twentysomethings - 61% of today's young adults - had been churched at one point during their teen years but they are now spiritually disengaged (i.e., not actively attending church, reading the Bible, or praying). Only one-fifth of twentysomethings (20%) have maintained a level of spiritual activity consistent with their high school experiences. Another one-fifth of teens (19%) were never significantly reached by a Christian community of faith during their teens and have remained disconnected from the Christian faith. For most adults, this pattern of disengagement is not merely a temporary phase in which they test the boundaries of independence, [emphasis mine] but is one that continues deeper into adulthood, with those in their thirties also less likely than older adults to be religiously active.

(2)...the current state of ministry to twentysomethings is woefully inadequate to address the spiritual needs of millions of young adults. [emphasis mine] These individuals are making significant life choices and determining the patterns and preferences of their spiritual reality while churches wait, generally in vain, for them to return after college or when the kids come. When and if young adults do return to churches, it is difficult to convince them that a passionate pursuit of Christ is anything more than a nice add-on to their cluttered lifestyle.

(3) Much of the ministry to teenagers in America needs an overhaul [emphasis mine] - not because churches fail to attract significant numbers of young people, but because so much of those efforts are not creating a sustainable faith beyond high school. There are certainly effective youth ministries across the country, but the levels of disengagement among twentysomethings suggest that youth ministry fails too often at discipleship and faith formation.

(4) A new standard for viable youth ministry should be - not the number of attenders, the sophistication of the events, or the "cool" factor of the youth group - but whether teens have the commitment, passion and resources to pursue Christ intentionally and whole-heartedly after they leave the youth ministry nest. [emphasis mine - Isn't this significant?! The standard should be what happens AFTER they leave youth group!] The Strategic Leader of The Barna Group explained that, "it's not entirely surprising that deep, lasting spiritual transformation rarely happens among teenagers - it's hard work at any age, let alone with the distractions of youth. And, since teenagers' faith often mirrors the intensity of their parents, youth workers face steep challenges because they are trying to impart something of spiritual significance that teenagers generally do not receive from home." [emphasis mine - He agrees with the assessment I made in the previous post, BUT watch where he goes when he begins to offer suggestions/solutions.]

SOLUTIONS:

(1) "Our team is conducting more research into what leads to a sustainable faith, but we have already observed some key enhancements [I read this as suggestions/solutions] that youth workers may consider. One of those is to be more personalized in ministry. [emphasis mine] Every teen has different needs, questions and doubts, so helping them to wrestle through those specific issues and to understand God's unique purpose for their lives is significant. The most effective churches have set up leadership development tracks and mentoring processes to facilitate this type of personalization."

(2) "Another shift," he continued, "is to develop teenagers' ability to think and process the complexities of life from a biblical viewpoint. [emphasis mine] This is not so much about having the right head knowledge as it is about helping teens respond to situations and decisions in light of God's principles for life. Also, we have learned that effective youth ministries do not operate in isolation but have a significant role in training parents to minister to their own children. [emphasis mine - This almost seems thrown in here as an afterthought!]

(3) "Above all, remember to keep a balanced perspective," Kinnaman cautioned. "Some have overstated the problem, while others minimize it. The fact is millions of American teenagers and twentysomethings are alive to God and devoted to His Kingdom. But the research is also clear that there are significant issues related to the way young people experience and express their faith. Without objectively and strategically addressing those challenges, Christian leaders will miss the opportunity to awaken many more young souls to a life-long zeal for God."

MY [HUMBLE & SIMPLE] SOLUTIONS:

(1) Disciple Christian parents to be authentic followers of Christ in every area of life. Teens need to see authentic Christianity lived out!

(2) Train parents to minister to their own children. I know this isn't a new thought, but how many youth pastors actually spend time doing this? We say this is what needs to be done, but how many hours a week are spent training Christian parents how to disciple their own children?

(3) Eradicate youth ministry as we know it. This is by far the most radical suggestion/solution, but I think a necessary step if we are to have much hope in stemming the tide. It seems as if we are always trying to fix what is broken with youth ministry. Has it crossed anyone else's mind that maybe youth ministry shouldn't be fixed because youth ministry IS a major part of the problem?! If youth pastors are spending all of their time ministering to teens, training youth leaders, planning activities and preparing lessons for youth group, than when will they have time to train parents? And isn't it odd that the very pastors we are now asking to train parents are usually young men in their 20's who have little to no parenting experience, especially of teens. [I do believe that anyone can share biblical principles on an issue, even without corresponding experience!] As long as youth pastors and youth leaders continue to teach, disciple, mentor and train teens why would parents have any motivation to fulfill their responsibility? I think everyone would agree that Deuteronomy 6:4-10 & Ephesians 6:1-4 is commanding parents to teach, train and disciple their own children. If we believe this, than why would we even develop and offer a "ministry" that would directly contradict Scripture!? Why would we give parents the option of abdicating their God-given, biblical respsonsibility? I believe it is time to put the ministry of the youth back into the hands of those to whom God gave it - the PARENTS of the youth.

Just in case you were wondering. I am not anti-youth or anti-youth pastor. My two brothers function in the role of youth pastors (including the famous Ken Fields). I was a youth pastor for 6 years and I am greatly concerned with the future of our younger generations.

I want to hear what you have to think. I've had a number youth pastors and youth leaders comment in the past and I covet their comments on this post. If I am wrong, please set me straight.

48 Comments:

Blogger Ken Fields said...

Don,

Great thoughts ... I agree with your assertions and suggestions.

One minor point ... the "famous Ken Fields" should be changed to the "infamous Ken Fields."

There ... I feel better now!

9/12/2006 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger Greg Linscott said...

Amen to Ken's statements (esp. point 2)... :D

Don, I'm curious, though- why do you see training parents as a role of a youth pastor? Why wouldn't that be part of the task committed to the church at large ("teaching them to observe all things...") and under the responsibility of "the" pastor?

9/12/2006 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger Dan Fields said...

Don

How do you put youth ministry back into the hands of the parents? I'm looking for the practical application to your conclusion!

9/12/2006 04:34:00 PM  
Blogger Ted Slater said...

The first link is broken -- looks like it's missing the "h" in "http".

Thanks for addressing this issue.

9/12/2006 04:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Sam Sutter said...

Ok, a student blossoms in a youth ministry, but wilts in a traditional church. Combined with Barna’s assertion that youth ministries are much more likely to be a catalyst for evangelism I wonder if this is more of a statement about adult churches than youth groups.

At their best, youth groups are about participating in relationships. Adult churches are about rite. But the Bible’s view of churches seems community based, which looks a lot more like youth group than adult church.

I wonder if adult church should be more like youth group in terms of relationships and accountability?

Or to be equally shocking... eradicate adult church and form something where people can form relationships with eachother instead of just attending something.

9/12/2006 04:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike Rake said...

Our teens share in the adult Sunday school, pray in public alongside adults, run the choir under the Pastor's oversight, teach the younger children's Sunday school, and do many other things along with adults that mostly adults do in the churches I have seen over the years. I tell them and their parents "these kids will soon be adults, lets treat them like we expect them to step up to adulthood, lets treat them like we want to pass on the Lord's work to them as they mature and marry." One caveat with the idea of eliminating youth ministry and turning over the training of kids to parents: Parents are not pastors, nor gifted to exercise the same ministry as pastors. There is a sense in which the pastor's ministry to all segements of the flock cannot be duplicated. Eliminating much youth ministry as it stands now is probably good. The Evangelicals in my region use the "act like teens do" approach and are big on manipulation and lots of hype. The Fundamentalists use the "work hard and preach hard" - lots of pressure, press for decisions and tell them "God will get you" if you go for the world. Both approaches are unfortunate and largely failures. Mike Rake

9/12/2006 08:31:00 PM  
Anonymous farmer Tom said...

I have some real doubts whether there is enough information in Barna's numbers. Is it possible that the vast majority of the teens leaving the church are not leaving because of the youth groups failing or even the church's failing as much as the parents failure to "come out from among them" by sending their children to the local secular humunist government indoctrination facility.

The SBC's own numbers indicate that 80% of the children attending the government education store do not claim any spiritual affiliation in their later years. My own personal experience in several different GARBC churchs is that about 75% of the youth leave the church never to return.
On the other hand the little research avaliable says nearly 75% of homeschooled students stick with the belief system of their parents after they leave the home.

In other words, burn down the public school system, salt the earth where they stood, and do not do anything in our training of Christian youth similar to the pattern of the public school system. No segragation by age, no youth only activities, have a family training program for the whole family, etc.

9/12/2006 09:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what i wonder is if these numbers have changed over the past 50, 100, 200 years. Are more teens leaving the church than in other times in history? If so, is society becoming less religious, or less faithful?

9/13/2006 03:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, what percentage come back in their 30's? I must admit, I vaguely fit the profile of one who strayed in their 20's but didn't really know it. I was spiritually lost, but I had no idea. I thought I was just between churches....

9/13/2006 03:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In looking at the way that "church" was done in the first century, where are such entities as Youth Groups, Singles Groups, Super Senior Groups et. al?
Is not church supposed to be a whole body activity?

9/13/2006 07:27:00 AM  
Blogger Don Fields said...

Ken,

I thought I would be gracious. Keeping in the spirit of this gracious blog. :)

9/13/2006 07:38:00 AM  
Blogger Don Fields said...

Greg,

I DON'T think it should be, especially if this youth pastor is just out of college like I was when I was a youth pastor. I agree with you that it is the church's responsibility and therefore ultimately "the" pastor's responsibility. Youth Pastors training parents is everyone else's idea - who better to train the parents than the youth pastor? After all if the Senior Pastor had time they probabaly wouldn't have needed a Youth Pastor in the first place.

9/13/2006 07:42:00 AM  
Blogger Don Fields said...

Dan,

Me too! I do have some thoughts and they will be shared soon - Lord willing!

9/13/2006 07:43:00 AM  
Blogger Don Fields said...

Ted,

Thanks for noticing - it is now fixed. Also, thanks for reading.

9/13/2006 07:47:00 AM  
Blogger Don Fields said...

Sam,

"But the Bible’s view of churches seems community based, which looks a lot more like youth group than adult church."

I would agree 100% with the first part of this statement. Agreeing with the second part would depend on the youth group. But your point is well made.

"I wonder if adult church should be more like youth group in terms of relationships and accountability?"

Again, depending on the youth group, I will agree with your point.

"Or to be equally shocking... eradicate adult church and form something where people can form relationships with each other instead of just attending something."

AMEN & AMEN! It is like you are reading my mind on where I am heading with all of this!

9/13/2006 07:50:00 AM  
Blogger Don Fields said...

Mike,

"Our teens share in the adult Sunday school, pray in public alongside adults, run the choir under the Pastor's oversight, teach the younger children's Sunday school, and do many other things along with adults that mostly adults do in the churches I have seen over the years."

Getting involved in the full body life of the church is very important in passing on the faith to our teens! I love what you are doing! But what necessitates a "youth ministry" to accomplish this?

"One caveat with the idea of eliminating youth ministry and turning over the training of kids to parents: Parents are not pastors, nor gifted to exercise the same ministry as pastors. There is a sense in which the pastor's ministry to all segements of the flock cannot be duplicated."

I agree - parents aren't pastors. But conversely, pastors aren't these teens parents either. Pastors pastor and parents parent. Why do we need a separate ministry to minister as pastors to teens?

9/13/2006 07:55:00 AM  
Blogger Don Fields said...

farmer tom,

You have a point about the dangers of our public school system and of age-graded spiritual education. I'm not sure whether the biggest enemy is pbulic schools and age-graded education, but you do have a good point.

9/13/2006 07:58:00 AM  
Blogger Don Fields said...

Anonymous,

"Are more teens leaving the church than in other times in history?"

Good question - I don't know if we have any data, but it is something I've been thinking about.

"Also, what percentage come back in their 30's?"

According to Barna - "For most adults, this pattern of disengagement is not merely a temporary phase in which they test the boundaries of independence, but is one that continues deeper into adulthood, with those in their thirties also less likely than older adults to be religiously active." I took this to mean that some do come back, but not many.

"In looking at the way that "church" was done in the first century, where are such entities as Youth Groups, Singles Groups, Super Senior Groups et. al? Is not church supposed to be a whole body activity?"

AMEN & AMEN! It looks like someone else has been reading my mind.

9/13/2006 08:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps we don’t give our “saved” Teens enough credit as believers. A saved person is a saved person and has the same responsibility and accountability to God without respect of age or status.
Instead of trying to provide creative “Twirl & Whirl with Jesus” experiences [to keep them coming], maybe we should challenge them to see Moses at the burning bush [Holy Ground]; or Isaiah in Ch. 6, before the Holy Throne of God; or the Elders & others in Rev. 4 and 5 on their knees before God’s Holy throne; or even Philippians Ch.2 “Every knee shall bow” and “Every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Just perhaps the whole church body should unite in a renewed determination to “grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” together!

9/13/2006 08:43:00 AM  
Blogger Mathew Sims said...

Don,
Lig Duncan over at T4G posted an interesting article that is relevant to this discussion--"William Still on kids going off to college"

I do agree the focus needs to be less on the school or youth pastor "raising" your children and more on the parents and home. Really though when it comes down to, I think, the church's main responsibility is to preach the Gospel to the kids and then live the Gospel in front of them and let the Holy Spirit do His work.

MBS
Soli Deo Gloria

9/13/2006 09:27:00 AM  
Blogger Pastor Steve said...

First, after reading Barna's book "Revolution" I find him to be pretty much an apostate, telling people that they should leave the church. Therefore, any survey work might possibly be tainted with his new agenda.

Also, I would say that his survey of christianity is far broader than ours would be. Is it a surprise that youth who come to church for a rock concert and pizza party don't stay in church later in life? I would hope that if he surveyed our fellowship the numbers would be drastically different.

Lastly, the primary reason kids turn out bad (beyond their own sinfulness) is their parents, not a faulty youth program. I am all for the discipleship of parents, and then having them disciple their teen. Unfortunately few parents have that dedication, so the youth pastor must fill in where he can. It's a shame really. I don't think blowing up youth groups is the solution though.

9/13/2006 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger Don Fields said...

anonymous,

"Just perhaps the whole church body should unite in a renewed determination to 'grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ' together!"

AMEN! You are right. If they are truly saved we don't need entertainment we need true discipleship (mostly by parents).

9/13/2006 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Don Fields said...

Mathew,

Thanks for the link. I appreciated and agreed with his thoughts. I also completely agree that we must preach the gospel more! But where the rubber meets the road is HOW do we live out the gospel in front of them? WHAT should the church do? Should we do "youth ministry" and if so, how?

9/13/2006 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger Don Fields said...

pastor steve,

I share your concerns about Barna, but I'm not sure his theological problems taint this study. I have heard others say (Josh McDowell & Jack Eggar) that the percentages are actually higher.

"I would hope that if he surveyed our fellowship the numbers would be drastically different."

What fellowship are you in and what are the numbers for your church? I also hope that my church would be better, but we're not tracking the numbers well right now and to some degree I'm afraid to find out.

"I don't think blowing up youth groups is the solution though."

What do you suggest? I am interested in your thoughts, opinions, and solutions.

9/13/2006 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger Mudhenwso said...

And I thought Ken was the bomb-thrower in the family!

9/13/2006 12:01:00 PM  
Blogger Don Fields said...

mudhenwso,

I'm kind of new at dropping bombs, but I write out of what God has been showing me. If the bomb is from God I hope it finds its target. If it is from me, may it be a dud. Thanks for reading.

9/13/2006 12:35:00 PM  
Anonymous farmer Tom said...

I have to follow up here,


I'm not sure whether the biggest enemy is pbulic schools and age-graded education, but you do have a good point.

I contend that this is one of the major problems in the church today. We have abandoned the family model in raising and parenting children, for the socialist system of allowing the state to raise the children. How many parents in your churches spend 7 to 8 hours a day with their children??
How many youth pastors spend 7 to 8 hours a day with their young people??
Yet we allow believers to send their children off to the secular humanist indoctrination center, and assume that it is not affecting the children in a negative way. Would you discipline a family from your church if they sent their children to a coven of witches for their educational training?? Secular humanist is just as godless and evil as witchcraft, they just worship the god of time and chance.
Again look at the satistics that the Southern Baptist Churchs have published about themselves, they clearly see they problem, are we just turning a blind eye because we want the money that our "christian" teachers in the public schrewl system are putting in the offering plate?
Do some serious research, what do the numbers say about homeschool versus public school, I think you would be shocked??
I know from personal experience at our church their is a HUGE difference!

9/13/2006 12:37:00 PM  
Blogger Don Fields said...

farmer tom,

"Do some serious research, what do the numbers say about homeschool versus public school, I think you would be shocked??"

Where would you suggest I look? What numbers have you found and where did you find them? What are your thoughts on Christian schooling? Have you ever read what Cerulean Sanctum has to say about homeschooling?

9/13/2006 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger Pastor Steve said...

Don,

I am in the GARBC circle, and I would hope that the numbers are drastically different in our circles. From my limited experience, there is a direct link to how active they were in youth group to how active they are in church now that they graduated. The same general patterns seem to be holding true in my church.

I think a more parent involved youth group would be a positive thing, but I just don't see parents as wanting to be involved really. They are more than happy to pass their kids off to you and have you rear them.

The main thing I would change with our youth group is to have the parents disciple their teen, not me. Maybe I should try this. I might propose a book they could read together with their teen each week, and then meet every sunday night briefly after church with the parents as a group to go over the chapter, answer questions, and highlight specific things.

9/13/2006 02:05:00 PM  
Blogger Don Fields said...

pastor steve,

I am also in a GARBC church and have always been in a GARBC church. I do think our percentages are higher, but still low. We might be retaining 50% of our teens. One thing I have noticed is that even teens who were very active and involved in youth ministry are leaving our church after high school. The good thing is that most of those are going to other churches that are more contemporary and have an active singles (college & career) ministry. The bad thing is that we have trained them to look for a church that is focused on meeting their needs.

Getting parents to disciple their kids is THE challenge. I hope you follow through on your idea and I pray that it goes well for you!

9/13/2006 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Don,

I do not think that doing away with youth ministry altogether is all that radical of an idea. My contention is that it has always been part of the problem with our teenagers. It cultivates greater peer dependency because it removes them from their parents even while they are at church, where they ought to be together as a family anyway.

However, as I said in comment in the first post about this issue, if the parents are not involved in a dynamic and robust way in the lives of their kids, there is no way that 2 hours of biblical instruction a week is going to counteract 35 hours a week of state supported indoctrination.

I do agree with farmer tom, though not with the spirit of his comments. Dan Edelen, though immensely qualified to write about homeschooling, I also believe is off base. Who better to know how to educate their children than their parents?

Yet I must digress, because public schooling is not the issue confronted by this post. There is no way the church will ever be rid of public schooling and its effects on our kids, though we can sway parents in favor of more godly schooling alternatives.

I think one of the primary issues is peer dependency; kids are not concerned about what their parents think of them much less God. Their friends' opinions are what matter to them. And the only alternative is to get parents involved in their kids' lives. How is this accomplished? Possibly through this series of posts, we will all get motivated to get out of cyberspace and discover for each of our respective ministries what the answers are.

Blessings to all.

9/13/2006 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger Don Fields said...

Tony,

"And the only alternative is to get parents involved in their kids' lives. How is this accomplished? Possibly through this series of posts, we will all get motivated to get out of cyberspace and discover for each of our respective ministries what the answers are."

AMEN & AMEN! If we never try, things will never change. May we help one another come up with biblical solutions!

9/13/2006 03:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don, I would agree that we don't need a youth ministry in the traditional sense of it in our churches, but we do recognize healthy peer interaction and interests and so we have peer activities or even some church activities which teens naturally would be more interested in or available for - not a formal youth ministry, but church young people doing things together. No pastor to teens is needed, but rather parents who want themselves and their teens to respond alike to shepherding ministry. I have encountered parents who seemed to think the pastor's attempts to pastor their kids - not as a youth pastor but as any pastor would - was some rival influence or attempt to undermine parental ministry. This was partly due to a misconception that teaching and equipping the kids was for parents not pastors. Ironically, these same people who talked so much about parental authority seemed suspicious toward pastoral input. The solution is for the parents to model and teach their kids to have a right relationship with their shepherds in the local church, regardless of their staff status or specialty as part of the shepherding leadership. Mike

9/13/2006 11:30:00 PM  
Blogger Don Fields said...

Mike,

"The solution is for the parents to model and teach their kids to have a right relationship with their shepherds in the local church, regardless of their staff status or specialty as part of the shepherding leadership."

Excellent point! I've also had similar experiences with parents as you have. I don't have any problem with teens doing things together. That is natural and normal. The problem is when that type of activity as seen as the solution to ministering to teens. Thanks for your input.

9/14/2006 08:18:00 AM  
Blogger David T. said...

"Jesus, save me from your followers..."
I was in church last night and the pastor was going on about how people don't care or want to hear about God. Well that's only because of what they have experienced of God's people. David Hume said that reason is the slave of emotion... the lack of Godly reason is attributable to emotional detachment from the church which in turn is attributable to the hectic, impersonal nature of today's "growing" churches and, more often than not, on the less than charitable treatment they have recieved from church members.

9/14/2006 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger Don Fields said...

David,

"the lack of Godly reason is attributable to emotional detachment from the church which in turn is attributable to the hectic, impersonal nature of today's 'growing' churches and, more often than not, on the less than charitable treatment they have recieved from church members."

There is truth in what you say, but never forget that not all will be saved - no matter how fervent and authentic we are.

9/14/2006 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger Dan Fields said...

Don

You've focused on eradicating youth ministry, but I believe it plays an important role in the life of the local church.

I have the privilege of assisting the parents in helping to disciple their children. Yes, youth ministry does begin and end in the home, yet my role is supplemental and hopefully not an end-all.

My main responsibility, however, is to equip them to do the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:11-13). I believe that training must begin at a young age, and that is my main responsibility. Yes that is a form of discipleship that has been given solely to the pastor. This responsibility isn't that of the parent, but of the pastor/teacher!

This energizes and spurs me on to continue to passionately train our young people to serve and savor Jesus Christ!

9/14/2006 09:45:00 PM  
Blogger Don Fields said...

Dan,

Yes, the church is to be a supplemental help to ALL people in their walk with God. Unfortunately, I believe that a typical youth ministry is actually a hinderance and not a help to families in this way. Mostly because it unintentionally does the parents job for them, but not near as effectively as they could.

One question: Is youth ministry, as we know it, even biblical?

Personally, at this point, I believe it is actually wrong and unbiblical. If you disagree, I would ask you to make a biblical case for youth ministry (or even children's ministry).

9/15/2006 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger Dan Fields said...

Don

I just made a case for youth ministry--didn't you read my post! It is an intentional time to help equip teens to do the work of the ministry!

9/15/2006 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger Don Fields said...

Dan,

I read what you wrote, but you can offer no scripture that says the pastors or church leadership are to disciple teens or children APART from their parents. Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6 give ALL the responsibility and ALL accountability to the parents for ALL spiritual training and discipleship of children! Does the church help them? Yes! But the way we do it, most parents think that is everything that needs to be done!

By the way, have you done any research on the history of age-graded children's and youth ministries? Did your youth ministry classes in college ever go over the development of youth ministry? You might find that kind of information helpful and informative.

9/15/2006 01:30:00 PM  
Blogger Dan Fields said...

Don

I'm sorry but I'll have to disagree! Read Ephesians 4:12 carefully--there is no exclusion for children and/or teens. Children or teens that have been regenerated by the Spirit through the Word are saints and therefore must be equipped to do the work of the ministry. That is not the responsibility of the parents--although I do believe they play a role in this process! How this all works together with Dt. 6 and Eph. 6 depends on the situation. Parenting is for the parents, yet there are times when the youth pastor/pastor parents in the life of the child/teen. You could also probably say that there are times when the parents play a role in equipping their children to do ministry. I beleive neither are mutually exclusive--parents have a role and the youth pastor/pastor has a role!

I haven't done much research on age-graded education, but have seen the error of the home-church movement. This was one of the contributing factors for their withdrawal from the contemporary church model!

9/15/2006 05:36:00 PM  
Blogger Ken Fields said...

Dan,

I only have one question to your response, and I quote:

"Children or teens that have been regenerated by the Spirit through the Word are saints and therefore must be equipped to do the work of the ministry."

My question: when were they regenerated?!!

This is the real question! ;-)

9/15/2006 09:27:00 PM  
Blogger Dan Fields said...

Ken

In eternity past, before the foundations of the world! However, for me when I accepted Christ I finally figured out that I was already regenerated--thankfully I started acting like the new creation God had made me before I was even born!

9/16/2006 11:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Fundamentally Reformed said...

I think Don is on to something with this post. It is great to think through why we do things the way we do. And I am all for change that is based out of a desire to conform to God's word better.

Perhaps you all would be blessed by looking at this article: "A Vision for Ministry to Children and their Parents" by Children Desiring God, a ministry of my church Bethlehem Baptist Church (whose pastor for preaching is John Piper).

Children Desiring God has their own curriculum and they stress equipping parents to be involved in the ministry to children. Intergenerational classes and the encouragement of children to join parents in the main service (age 4 and up) for worship are also hallmarks of their approach. They have thought through everything and seek to bring a concern for the glory and sovereignty of God and a central focus on the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ into play in each and every aspect of children's ministry. They even have a well thought out approach to ministry to babies in the nurseries (which I personally have been blessed with as I have three girls age 3 and under).

We don't always have to reinvent the wheel. I know Baptist Press has some good Sunday School curricula, but perhaps you guys could check out Children Desiring God's stuff. They have developed their philosophy to face many of the issues you bring up.

In fact not too many years ago, they voted to change the name from Children's and Youth ministry to "Family Discipleship" ministry.

Thanks for the good post and for challenging us all to think.

God bless,

Bob Hayton

9/19/2006 01:52:00 AM  
Blogger Don Fields said...

Bob,

Thanks for the links. I did a quick read and hope to go back and digest it more thoroughly later. I definitely think Bethlhem is going in the right direction and further down the path than most churches. I don't know all the in's and out's of what it looks like, but I'm not sure if they go far enough. Again, I don't have an insiders perspective, so maybe they are closer to what I invision than I know. I don't mean to be negative at all. Please keep commenting. I love to hear how Bethlehem does things.

9/19/2006 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger SFB said...

Don Fields said:

"If they are truly saved we don't need entertainment we need true discipleship (mostly by parents)."

I have recently been given a room full of teens and grade-school kids with "repeat after me"-type "conversions" under their belts. Spending all their time looking for ways to undercut adult authority, listen to filthy music and generally subvert the "Christian" aspect of the meetings in order to free up time for fleshly attitudes.

As Dr. C. Matthew McMahon put it at "A Puritan's Mind", can you tell a tree by its fruit, or was Christ lying?

Let's deal with the Gospel we preach, or the lack thereof, and then we can deal with whether any of the "Christian" teens in the groups are saved or not.

9/25/2006 12:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You all should read Steve Wrights book reThink, Is Student Ministry Working.

It is the best written work on the subject that I have seen. Research alone is worth the price!

2/10/2008 04:22:00 PM  
Blogger wayne said...

The fundamental problem is not High School Ministry. It is an evangelical cultural thing that is based on, I believe, an old-fashioned, agrarian society.

That is, you are a child and the church pours into you, you reach your teen years where you complete your preparation for adulthood, then you get married and you naturally stay in the church because it is meeting the needs of YOUR children and your new marriage.

High School sweethearts get married and start having babies and the cycle is complete... Fits perfectly with the way a farming society used to work.

Problem is that those who pursue further education are not the small, elite minority anymore. And the idea of exploring career options is now viable. And the pressure to marry out of High School is gone.

So you have churches that have a place for everyone except single 20-somethings. Oh, they have the old-fashioned Singles Sunday School Class, which is a pitiful holding place -- a purgatory of sorts -- for those who missed the boat marriage-wise. But until you get back on the main cycle and get married and have children you don't really have a place in most evangelical churches.

It makes total sense why they drift away... the church tells them that they have no place there. Not explicitly, but through priorities, values, and actions.

Obviously, different churches and denominations have different subcultures. Some expect you to get married out of college instead of High School, and perhaps have a thriving place for the college-aged. Others have no expectations of a "normal life" and you have a place regardless. Others have an age bias and really don't like those 20-somethings who need to earn their stripes for 10 or 20 years (and have children, which shows they are mature) before they can be trusted with anything more than helping out in High School Ministry or perhaps being a Sunday School teacher.

Not saying Youth Ministry is glowing and healthy everywhere. But I do think that you need to examine what your church says and what opportunities it provides for single 20-somethings. Are they essentially leaping the gap between a robust High School program and a robust Marriage Ministry?

8/15/2008 11:27:00 AM  

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