Friday, March 12, 2010

Rejecting Adolescence in the Church - Part 6

A Reasonable Response to an Unfounded Psychological Theory
by McKrunk
Part 6
[Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5]
Youth Pastors

While most churches adhere strongly to some or all Scriptural principals which speak explicitly to the positions of Elders, Deacons, Bishops, Teachers, Missionaries, Evangelists, and the congregant laity; how can these thousands of “youth pastors” be called, chosen, vetted, monitored, supported, etc. in keeping with Biblical mandates, when there is not even one Biblical (nor historical) mandate for any such office?

When one considers the ministry of the body to the younger adults in our midst, it seems irrational to assume that there might exist in the congregation one man who is best equipped to minister directly to all of the youngest adults, and that if such a man did exist he would be himself very young.  Indeed, of all the men in any given congregation, it seems that the man who is twenty-some years old (and, in most cases, possessing the attire and carriage that little distinguishes him from those placed in his charge) would be among the last people considered most Biblically fit for leading a ministry to the younger adults.  Rather, it seems most Biblical and logical in view of the texts presented within this article and the principles found throughout the whole of Scripture that the men most fit for ministry to the younger adults are those older adults, who, crowned with silver earned through years of life experience, have proven themselves to be among the more faithful, dignified, and respectable members that the younger generations would do well to emulate.  Indeed, older-to-younger ministry is not a calling nor an office for some, but a command to all.

What about those who have a “heart for the youth?”  What does it mean to have a “heart for” a certain age-segment of the Church?  This question cannot be answered Biblically, for there is no mention in Scripture of the Lord gifting anyone with a “heart for” ministry to any particular age.  We cannot presume to read the thoughts of those claiming to have a “heart for the youth,” but we can point these individuals toward the Word of God and humbly suggest that they prayerfully seek to gain a more balanced view of their place in the Body of Christ, where they are directed to love and minister to one another with no mention of any God-ordained age preferences.

Not only does the office of youth pastor often serve to excuse parents from raising children into adults, but it can unwittingly encourage them to shirk this responsibility.  The office of the youth pastor and the presence of the youth group can lead parents to believe that it is their duty to get out of the way of the “God-ordained” teen professional with a “heart for the youth.”  This phenomenon appears to be physically represented as young adults in most modern churches no longer join their families even in the general assembly on Sunday mornings, rather they cluster like ducks in a row with their peers and their youth pastor.  Sadly, it is not uncommon for some youth pastors to subtly incite their pupils to resent their parents by presenting themselves as the cooler, wiser, and more relatable figure in their lives.  In some cases, this action is not subtle, with youth pastors overtly and foolishly dismissing the wisdom of parents and elders.  Even in cases where a young man leading the youth group does have the wisdom to avoid this folly, it exists to a degree by default, as the young adults inevitably recognize that the authority the church places directly over them is not an older person, but another young person.

Attack on Unity

But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.  For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.  For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. -1 Corinthians 12:11-13

At the church which we attend, the time that might normally be set aside for Sunday school in most churches is instead utilized for fellowship.  Small groups of eight to ten people meet together to pray, encourage, exhort, and get to know one another.  The groups are not formed by any social categorization, rather people from varying life stages and situations fellowship and support one another.  After a certain number of weeks or months, the groups are reshuffled so the entire church has an opportunity to get to know, support, and learn from one another.  The entire church, that is, except for the young adults.  The young adults are never integrated into the rest of the congregation, and never reshuffled.

This same church dedicates one night each month to simply enjoy one another while playing games.  Everyone gathers in one room, and intermingles at multiple tables with various games.  After attending a couple of these events, we were curious as to why none of the young adults were in attendance.  Upon making inquiry, we were disheartened to discover that there were in fact young adults present, however rather than intermingle with everyone else, they had segregated themselves to a different section of the church to play their games.

Every Sunday morning these young adults gather together in one particular corner of the sanctuary, along with the youth pastor, to listen to the sermon.  One Sunday, we arrived early and sat in “their” corner of the church so we could hear a colleague of mine play piano, as he was subbing for our regular pianist.  Instead of the youth group seating themselves around us, or interacting with us in any way, the entire group of young adults moved to the opposite corner of the church.

This group of young adults, like most youth groups, even has its own name that distinguishes it as being separate from the rest of the congregation.  It is clear that there are two distinct churches in this situation.

Unfortunately, in most cases the youth group serves as a parasitical mini-church attached to the main church, rarely or never providing active service to the body, but draining the body of both financial and personnel resources.  With the Bible’s commandments to be one body, and the clear instruction that each member exists not for itself but to serve the other members, we cannot help but be curious as to how these two distinct churches that meet under one roof justify their separate existence.  Dr. Darrell Ferguson states that:
When some body part is doing something that is not part of a coordinated effort with the rest of the body parts there is a word for that.  It is called a spasm.  It accomplishes nothing. . . We love to just operate our own little world, and involve other people when we feel the need, but it is very hard for us to break out of our individualistic mentality and embrace the corporate mentality that Scripture presents.

There are a lot of Christians who are off in their own little corner, with no real, vital connection with the body, doing their own little ministry in their own little private world.  That is not God’s design (Ferguson, 2007).
Though the above comments from Dr. Ferguson were directly related to individuals, it should be recognized that this principle is just as true when a small clique of relatively homogeneous believers decides to form their own world within the church.  Neither the church nor the youth of the church can have a most healthy life until they are integrated together in a real, deep, and meaningful manner.

The glory of young men is their strength, And the honor of old men is their gray hair. (Proverbs 20:29)  By constantly sequestering the young adults into a youth-centered social clique, we are robbing the church of energy and vitality and squandering that invaluable resource on games, field trips, lock-ins, and other forms of “wholesome entertainment.”

In the already fragmented and disassociated sub-church of the youth, one often finds additional groups within the youth ministry as increasingly, the sub-church of the youth group breaks itself into groups of “younger teens” and “older teens,” or “junior high” and “senior high.”  Sometimes cliques form based on relationships at schools, or geographic proximity.  With the precedent already being set that it is not only acceptable but beneficial to divide the church on socio-economic grounds, it is no surprise to find the young adults taking the initiative in further dividing their mini-churches into even smaller categories and disassociations.

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

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