For the past several years of my life I have studied, read, and listened to just about every book, research paper, blog, and video that I have been able to about why all young people do not remain in their churches. One of the major topics that keeps coming up, which it should, is what effect have age specific ministries had on the church. A conclusion that has been drawn is that churches and parents have not taken on their God given and Biblical responsibility to pass on their faith to the next generation.
This conclusion is true. Many churches are indeed making healthy changes. However, I want to raise the question of, ‘is the removal of, some or all, age specific ministry actually as Biblical as some are making it out to be?’ Of course many are using scripture to back up the belief that age specific should end, or at least be reduced. I know I have done this. I think it is right to use scripture to show how parents and a church body need to take up their responsibility. However, to go from there and then jump to the conclusion that age specific ministry is unBiblical it totally wrong, false, and perhaps borderline heretical.
As this message has been growing over the last few years (removing age specific ministry) we now have the opportunity to look back and see if those who have removed them are more healthy now. Well the truth is, some are, and some are not.
Some people have mistakenly thought if we can just get back to where we have all the ages sitting in a room, at the same time, listening to the same songs, listening to the same teaching that all the issues around age specific ministries would be solved and everyone will stay. This simply is not true.
When I hear these discussions it makes me realize how far we are off the mark at times. The problem was never just with our services and events in the first place. Instead it begins with heart issues and our understanding of what Church is. Simply attending a sixty to ninety minute service together, instead of separately, will not alone turn the tide on the numbers of youth leaving. It may be helpful in some cases though.
Instead I want to leave you with something to think about. I believe age segregated ministry is actually Biblical. It is important. It is needed. It is even modeled in Scripture for us.
I also believe, teach, and encourage everyone to know that family, parental, and church body ministry is Biblical. However, some have moved so far to one side that they are missing something incredibly obvious in the Bible.
Jesus led an age specific group. Jesus had a youth group of sorts. Most Bible scholars believe all the disciples were likely between the ages of fourteen to twenty-one in age when Jesus called them to follow them. They are all of the same generation. Jesus even choose them on purpose after hearing from Father God. His discipleship model was gender and age specific. Pouring into a very specific group of young men was part of God’s plan.
Now that flies in the face of many modern writers and thought. However, perhaps God is using people to remind us of somethings we have forgotten. In the end I now believe there is a role for parents, there is a place for kids and youth ministry, there is a place for discipleship, and even a time and season for age specific ministry. None alone are unBiblical. We can be incredibly lob-sided in ministry but we need to be careful to simply say some models are wrong.
As a parent, I hope I am learning more about my own role and responsibility with my kids. At the same time I can tell you I am so thankful for every person who has spoken in the lives of my children individually or through ministries over the years.