Rebuilding for Revival

We have spent a lot of time trying to figure our how to “do” youth and young adult ministry and we often think that the most creative, world-influenced fad will do the trick. But maybe the best direction is to head backwards… Rich Atkinson is doing young adult ministry in Britain and is building, or should we say, rebuilding, ministry based off of Isaiah 58:12. “And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.”

Atkinson claims that the young adult ministry of the future will be more rooted in the past. “This is why that I don’t believe the answer to the church of the future is in the future. I wonder if, rather than constantly trying to re-imagine the church, we should learn to look at some of the successes of the last 2,000 years of church history.”

“I believe this generation of youth and young adults is called to be the generation that rebuilds the church in the western world.”

Instead of the youth culture mandate of entertainment and the latest in cultural trends, Atkinson advocates a return to the transformative work of Christ and the work of those that have gone before. I think I agree with him and I am attempting to incite a movement to reclaim the truth of Christ among young adults.

So are we done with the games and ready for the gravy?

Atkinson says, “If we want to rebuild a movement that burns through the generations instead of dying like a flash-in-the-pan encounter with God, then we need to enable people to translate the amazing encounters they have with God into life-changing discipline. So as we look back to look forward… I see the future of youth and young adults ministry being marked by a generation that recaptures the truth that they have been transformed entirely by the amazing grace of God and then works that out with intense focus and discipline.”

“Maybe then our generation’s recurring comment will be, “The only response to the outrageous grace of God is a life disciplined to be totally orientated toward Him.”

Read his whole post here and check out this video for the young adult ministry he leads.


Promoting an Intergenerational Church

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.