Recently I have been having a number of conversations about generational diversity within the church. As a soon-to-be pastor to a defined age segment of a church I am aware of pitfalls associated with demographically segregated ministries. And I am determined to build a ministry that is not separate from the church but unique in its identity while actively part of the whole church.
Marc Cortez has highlighted on his blog the new movie, Divided. The producers take on youth ministry specifically and suggest that not only is it not Biblical but ruining the church today. Other than an awkward moment with Answer from Genesis questions, the film is visually appealing and asks some important questions for the church to take on. But I do not believe the film’s conclusion is either Biblically grounded or correct. You can watch the film for free for the next month and come to your own conclusions.
Ron Marrs, a youth ministry specialist (working on his PhD in youth ministry) gives his take on the film on Cortez’s blog and is worth the read. Challies also has reviewed the film and has a more stinging rebuke of the material.
After watching Divided I am confident that the American church has at times failed to teach and train all generations through right theology and Biblical teaching. Results of these failure might be seen in age segments leaving the church but simply eliminating youth ministry does nothing to change the lack of solid Biblical preaching from the pulpit and authentic discipleship among the church. These issues must be dealt with but casting all of the blame on youth ministry is weak and misguided.
Next the film places great responsibility on fathers and families to train up children but it has no regard for a generation of fatherless and seems more of an attack on men over youth ministry. The film calls men to take responsibility which is great, if the father is a believer and even is present in the child’s life. The emphasis on the father’s is overdone to the film’s detriment.
Finally I agree that the church should be a generational diverse entity but I affirm the faithful, Biblically focused youth ministries teaching the gospel to a generation broken by sin and identity crisis. This film does more harm than it intends (I assume) and as Christians we must not be so cavalier in claims of what is Biblical when there is clear ambiguity.
The film claims that since there is no youth ministry separate in scripture then we should drop such programs but the producers don’t take on questions of the lack of reference to seminary in scripture and I hardly believe most of the pastors interviewed are enjoying the Lord’s Supper as was done by the New Testament church when they pass the communion plate. The fact is ecclesiology (how we do church) has shifted and while it has in places been too influenced by culture, youth ministry can still be healthy and an important part of an inter-generational church.