Why Youth Ministry?

Posted: October 7, 2013 in CE/Youth MInistry

Recently while using a website to look up Bible verses, I saw an ad saying “Is youth ministry biblical? Take our survey!” The name of the organization made it clear that they thought youth ministry was not biblical, that it took away from the family’s God given role. This is one of the most frustrating things for those of us who work in the church. It is seen to be that the conservative, traditional position must be to have everyone worship together, and at all times, and to have no specific ministries to people with certain developmental needs. Sometimes they will demand that a scripture citation be given to support having a separate ministry for youth, and will attempt to cite scriptures showing that the family is where spiritual formation should be happening for growing souls. (the name of this blog!)
Now, I’m totally against progressivism altering the Christian faith. I adhere to biblical inerrancy and would never bow to the cultural relativism that is causing evangelicalism to lose it’s distinctiveness on many fronts. And so it breaks my heart that these complaints against youth ministry are coming not from the progressive, Christ of Culture side of evangelicalism but from the Gospel centered, Christ against/transforming culture side of evangelicalism.
This despisement of youth ministry rests on a number of premises which I disagree with.

First, the notion that, if we cannot find youth ministry in Scripture, we must concede that it is not God’s will. Many roles and functions of the church today are not found in Scripture. For example, a lead pastor is nowhere to be found, simply a collection  of Elders. Church secretaries are completely absent, as are anyone whose job it is to maintain the church property. We do not see any position besides Elders and Deacons in the local church, nor do we see any ministries such as marriage counseling, a worship team (volunteer or paid), an orphanage, or specific ministries for dealing with grief or for outreach to specific populations, or to pregnant teens, etc. with the exception of widows.

All these I have listed are ministries and positions I would totally support. I think they are consistent with the ministry given to the church. They are not against the churches call, and aid her in fulfilling the great commission. Nor do they require structures or denials of Biblical principles. Yet no one is crying out, for the most parts, that these practices are against a biblical view of church.

Second, the notion is that, since every text that mentions children specifically gives the responsibility of passing on the faith to parents, that it is the family who has responsibility for passing on the faith, and though the church may augment the family and support them, they do not have a God-given responsibility.
The hermeunitcal error here is to assume an exception in a text when none is give. If we have numerous texts where the church, and the authorities therein, are called to account for all the sheep God has entrusted to him, and we have texts that say they are to guide them, train them to obey, than it would be only natural to assume that all the church includes, well, all the church. To mention the certain groups this would include would be needless, than the text would read ” shepherd the flock that is among you; men, woman, widows, husbands wives, children and everyone else”. For example, every text about who wives are to submit to in authority is related to their husbands. Does this mean that a woman who,is married, is a wife. And they therefore do not need to be submissive to the authority of the church, since no text specifically outlines that, included in the church, are wives? of course not! but this is what we do. The reason we do not see children mentioned specifically as a church responsibility is because they are considered as part of the church, and to delineate each group of the church whenever the church is commanded to do such and such would be ridiculous. Again, to be clear, UNLESS we have an exception given in the text, OR we have a statement of exclusivity in another text (i.e. if it said “wives, be submissive ONLY to your husbands, children, be obedient ONLY to your parents (not the church or governing authorities) we should not assume that because a families responsibilities include elements of the faith, that means that we can restrict the churches role.

Lastly, much of this is an attempt to restore the family as the center of the Christian life against other institutions. Institutions like the schools, government, etc. These other institutions are extrabiblical at least in terms of any role in moral, faith, and personal development, and do not have divine authority in these areas. However, the church is biblical, and definatly was ordained by God for those reasons. It’s place in a believers life is central, and is given such terms as “the bride of Christ”  “a pillar and buttress of the truth.” Such grandiose terms are not used for the family. In fact, the signifigance of the family draws largely on the fact that marriage is a type of Christ and the church.
Something is amiss if in seeking to be profamily we relegate the Bride of Christ to a subordinate position in the Christians life. Youth ministry does not ignore parents God given responsibility to develop their children’s faith, but it also takes seriously the churches charge to shepherd EVERYONE in it’s flock. We never see Christ talking about valuing the church to much, and in fact, he sees himself as one flesh with the church.

My conclusion is that many of these views place family as more important than the church in an attempt to call families to their God-given duties. They also fail to understand the central nature of the body of believers as central, not just supportive, to the Christian life. The church is not merely a gathering of believers, it is a divinely ordained and eteranal instiution that we are all called individually to be connected to. Lastly, we should not assume that texts that speak about shepherding everyone in the flock or caring for the local church can have exceptions applied to them that are not in the text. DOn’t get me wrong, family is amazing, but do a quick church on how the bible talks about family, and how the bible talks about the church, and look at the amazing terms and priveleges the church is given. Notice also how instuctions to churches are primary in the epistels, and instructions on how to interact with family or at work or with government come after.

The church is central to the life of every believer, once a young person has professed faith, their membership in the universal church is alongside of the other believers in their family, and they are accountable to the church as a beliefver, and the church is accountable for their soul. It is not the family who is a member of the church, each believer is a member themselves.

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