I am visiting a congregation this weekend and I am going to preach to them on Sunday about families and youth ministry. God has a lot to say about it and I thought it would be worth with sharing it with everyone. So I decided to post the manuscript of my sermon on my blog.
Please leave comments on what you think about the issue. Hope you enjoy:
- History and Benefits of
- Youth ministry in the USA, in the churches of Christ, began in 1965. Before then some had been training youth voluntarily, but you ministry as we know it today (with hired Ministers) began in 1965. I don’t know much about what was going on in the minds of people back then, but it seems like it would have been a pretty radical change. It was the perfect time for such a ministry to begin and conditions were perfect. Economically America was prosperous, some call those times the “golden age of economic growth.” The church was in need of sound men to teach their adolescents how to face a changing culture since the parents were so busy pursuing the American Dream, which, because of the prospering economy, was more achievable than ever. This was the time of the emerging of the women’s movement, the counterculture revolution, the hippie movement, and many other movements that were dangerous to young Christian minds. Another great thing that youth ministry was created to do, and did very well throughout the years, is to create a good image of the church to teenagers. After all these movements began to appear, the church didn’t seem as attractive as it did in more traditional years. Youth ministry helped bring teenagers to church during those times.
- The problem with youth ministry as we know it
- However good youth ministry might have brought into the churches of Christ, there is one problem that has existed from the beginning and that lasts to this day. Steven Joiner, in writing about the history of youth ministry in the churches of Christ, points out that since the beginning of youth ministry the ministry (and the minister) hasn’t been in tune with family and parents. However much good traditional youth ministry has done in the brotherhood, it has been an enemy to the most important institution created by God: The family. Another major problem with traditional youth ministry is that no matter how much it does for our children in their youth years, it rarely creates a solid foundation for a mature Christian adulthood. What I mean is that it rarely helps our children to continue strong in their early adult years, their college years, and adult life beyond that. Average church drop out for youth group children who leave to college is 70%. That means that if we continue to do youth ministry as it’s been done in the past, 7 of every 10 of our kids will drop out of church and forget about Christ two years after graduating high school. That tells us that, even though, what we’ve been doing has brought good into people’s lives, that it is temporary and doesn’t give a strong foundation for a teenager to become a mature Christian adult. It doesn’t have a lasting result.
- Some of the other major problems with current youth ministry is that it has followed modern culture a little too far. It isolates the youth from the body, and without the youth (the children) there can’t be a real family. It is often attraction and event oriented. It steals the parents’ role of their God-given roles (we’ll talk more about that in just a moment). It embraces the public school model of segregation by age instead of God’s model of a family.
- Good News
- I’m not here to give you a bad image of youth ministry. If that’s what I have done so far, I hope that what I say next changes that. I want to present to you a Biblical idea of youth ministry, and family ministry or family-based youth ministry. After all, we want the word of God to give us the method and not make up our own method and then look at the scriptures to see if it is Biblically sound (which is exactly what the creators of youth ministry as we know it did). This method is one that is all over the Holy Scriptures. This Biblical method invests in family and Godly households. I truly believe that going back to the scriptures and utilizing its idea of the family as the true base for ministry will be the solution to youth ministry and to family spirituality. And I can even dare to say it might just be the solution to the dying church in America.
- family matters to God and he has something to say about them
- Do you know the most often used metaphor for the church in the New Testament? A Family. Paul alone Mentions the idea of family 130 times. This shows us how much God loves the idea of family and how much he desires for our relationship with one another and with him to imitate that of a healthy family.
- God’s invention of family Genesis 2:18-25. God was the creator of family. He, better than anyone else, knows what a family is supposed to look like and we should look to his word for the model of family.
Family and Youth Ministry:
- Parent’s are life examples
- Children learn how to be adults from their parents. Most of you, whether you like to admit it or not, learned most your adult life habits from your parents. The way our parents are, generally, dictate to some extent the way we are going to be as adults. Our manners, the way we dress, the way we speak and act in public and at home. When I was a child my dad was a very aggressive driver and would often get into little races and “driving wars with people.” I used to tell myself I never wanted to be like that because it always used to scare me. You know what one of my greatest struggles is today? Being an angry driver, road rage. So I inherited habits from my father that I had even told myself I wasn’t going to.
- It’s not any different with spirituality
- When it comes to our children’s spirituality we also are going to be the examples for when they become adults. The way we behave in front of our children when it comes to spirituality is most likely going to influence their spirituality when they become adults. If we leave the spirituality in the hands of youth ministers alone the chain of youth dropping out of church after leaving home is only going to grow. No minister or preacher will have the ability to influence our children’s spirituality as we do! Not that they don’t influence them at all, but they don’t have nearly the same amount of power to influence as you. I really believe that this is why the church in America is in Crisis and is dying today, because we aren’t teaching our children, we’re expecting others to do that for us. In the Old Testament, over and over again, we watch the people abandoning God because they were not taught by their parents. Generations would go by before the word of God began being obeyed again. If we continue this way I really believe that the church in America is going to reach a point where a whole generation forgets the Lord and his ways. We aren’t too far from it.
- God gave parents the responsibility
- This isn’t without warning though. God clearly assigned parents with the responsibility of teaching his ways to their children.
- Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Watch how the word of God says “you shall teach them diligently.” What does doing something diligently look like? Is it something we just pay for someone else to do, or is it something we value and care so much about having it done right that we want to do it ourselves? My grandfather was a farmer and before he passed away he would always say that “the cattle only fattens under the eyes of its owner.” He was trying to say that things only get done right when it’s done by those who care about getting it done. Not only are we to teach them in a class setting, by as we go by life we need to teach these things to our children, we’re supposed to make it a part of our lives! When you sit at home talk to your children about God when something ungodly comes up on TV. When you walk (drive) by the way talk to your children about God’s creation: “Isn’t God great for creating all these trees and plants?” When you lie down to sleep pray with them and talk to the father with them. When you rise up in the morning, praise God for another day at the breakfast table in front of your kids.
- Ephesians 6:4: Most of the times when we look at this passage (when we do) we tend to only take in the first part of it. We think that by not causing our children to be angry that we’ve become Godly parents. But not brining our children to anger, by itself, is meaningless. Unless we fulfill the second part of the passage we’ve done very little (maybe nothing) in becoming Godly parents. Brining up a Child in the Lord is what makes Godly parents and consequently Godly children. God, through his inspired word, give parents the responsibility to raise-up their children in the Lord.
- Though we have these very clear commands in the Bible, since 1965 we’ve thought it would be a good idea to pay someone to do it for us rather than doing it ourselves. In fact, most of the things that originally were responsibilities of the family have been handed over to other institutions. We’ve given education to schools, we’ve given welfare and financial security to the government, we’ve given health to doctors, and we’ve given the spiritual well being to ministers. We’ve even tried calling it “family-based” youth ministry, but the family has never been the base. In some cases the family might even be an aid to the ministry, but never the base. We’ve separated family from church in our lives, family life is one thing and church life is another. When in reality God created both to work together. One can’t be complete without the other being a direct part of it I pray we can all catch on to God’s vision of a youth and family ministry truly based on families and its relationships.
The results of true family-based ministry:
- Healthy families at home
- Once we decide to diligently teach our children and transform our family life into a ministry to our children, family life becomes some much richer and full of precious, teachable moments. When spiritual conversations freely flow in the home, God is glorified and the family grows closer together and closer to God, as he desires.
- Once our children receive the impact of spiritual parents their lives will be drawn closer to God and we can win our children’s hearts to God much easier. When Sally and Jonny watch mom and dad love each other with the love of Christ and talk about it, when they see mom and dad serving their neighbors, when they see mom and dad praying with them and talking to them about God, their hearts are going to be drawn to God and they are most likely going to carry those practices and values into their adult lives.
- Just imagine the families of Noah and Joshua. Imagine the impact their fathers had on their children when the children saw their dad being so faithful to God. Imagine the impact Joshua made on his children when he stood up and said “if serving God is too hard for you, fine, but me and my house will serve the lord!”
- These are life lasting spiritual lessons that can only be taught by mommy and daddy.
- Healthy churches
- Don’t you think that if we surrender to God’s model we’ll have healthier churches? If we go back to the heart of God and unite our families and the church in one? After all, if our children leave home with a firm idea of God and established beliefs don’t you think they are going to practice Christianity with the passion that their parents taught them? And don’t you think that they are going to be as active in the church as mom and dad? After all they will have been taught these spiritual habits by the most influential people of their lives: mom and dad. This will lead them to be strong Christians as adults who will form strong churches.
- I believe we can bring the church back to life in America if we decide to value our families and if we take the spiritual growth of our children into our hands with the leadership and authority of God’s word by uniting church and family.
- A healthier Bride when Christ returns
- How do you want Christ’s bride, the church, to look like when Christ comes back to get her? If we follow God’s dream for families to be a part of his church, the church will grow healthier, and when Christ returns he will find his bride beautiful and charming. I pray that we don’t wait another generation to start caring for the spirituality of our children and our families, it might be too late.