Friday, March 12, 2010

Rejecting Adolescence in the Church - Part 3

A Reasonable Response to an Unfounded Psychological Theory
by McKrunk

Part 3
[Parts 1, 2]

Biblical Stages of Development

Most importantly, the Bible contradicts the idea of adolescence.  As previously established, the very concept of there being a category of people called “teenagers” or “adolescents” does not come from the Bible, but from secular culture and psychology.  The Bible indicates three essential stages of development that are often referenced:

1. Childhood:
• Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.  -Proverbs 22:6
• Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children.  -Psalm 148:12
• Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  -Ephesians 6:1

2. Young Men and Women:
• Both young men and maidens; old men and children.  -Psalm 148:12
• The young men saw me, and hid themselves: and the aged arose, and stood up.  -Job 29:8
• The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the gray head.  -Proverbs 20:29
• Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.  -Titus 2:6

3. Old Men and Women:
• The young men saw me, and hid themselves: and the aged arose, and stood up.  -Job 29:8
• Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children.  -Psalm 148:12
• The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the gray head.  -Proverbs 20:29
• Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren.  -1 Timothy 5:1
• That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.  -Titus 2:2
• The aged women likewise, 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.  -Titus 2:3-5
Not only does the Bible reference these three essential stages in life, it also details the transition from childhood to adulthood.  “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)  Paul indicates a very simple and direct understanding of going from childhood to manhood; there was no extended adolescence or juvenility, rather he did away with childish things.

A Brief History of Youth Groups

It is often said that the difference between the church and the culture “is ten years.”  This is the case in the disintegration of young adults from the church.  Not long after young adults were ejected from productive work and segregated into government schools, churches increasingly decided that they must follow suit and segregate young adults into social clubs and organizations.  Today, the line of isolation between the young adults and the rest of the adults within a church is appalling.

“Youth groups” and “youth ministries” have become such unquestioned and widely accepted practices in the church, one might assume they have always been a centerpiece of the formal church experience.  Nothing could be more distant from the truth.  Indeed, most scholars trace the modern youth group ministry back to two ministers in the late nineteenth century: Theodore Cuyler and Francis E. Clark (Garland, 1991).

Cuyler made the first strides toward what we now know as “youth ministry” when he created a ministry near the gang-ridden area of Five Points, New York City, in the 1850s.  Cuyler’s group focused largely on prayer, and held philosophies birthed from nineteenth century Revivalism.  Cuyler’s mission identified the “youth” which he sought to reach as individuals between the ages of fifteen and forty (Senter & Horace, 2001).  Cuyler would eventually go on to found the “Young People’s Association,” which is considered by many to be the first youth group, though it should be noted that the term “youth,” in the context of this group, applied to a more Biblical category of life stage.

Influenced by Cuyler, Francis E. Clark created a “Society of Christian Endeavor” in the 1880’s.  Clark combined many of Cuyler’s ideas with the popular “pledge” ethos that was present in many temperance societies of the time (ibid).  Also rooted in the Revivalist spirit, Clark bemoaned the enthusiasm of initial conversion followed by the lack of true discipleship.

While the youth group movement briefly stalled between 1914 and 1930 (Garland & Fortosis, 1991), it regained steam in the post-World War II climate.  This increased interest in youth ministry corresponds directly with the period in which “adolescents” were fully formed into a market group (Savage, 2007, xv-xx).  Steadily, youth groups gained momentum as voluntary church and para-church organizations.  Beginning in the late 1940s, with widespread acceptance by the 1960s, churches began including the position of youth minister as part of their paid staff.  During the 1960s, many seminaries and Bible colleges began offering degree programs in youth ministry (Garland & Fortosis, 1991).

Cont'd.  [Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]

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