Church – The Teen Edition?

Series | Church

Thanks to Micah Lugg for today’s weblog title. As we were on our way to Starbucks this morning he was describing some of his reaction to my earlier blogs on segregation, specifically the self-defeating segregation of students, and he commented in jest that “it’s like, church: the teen edition.”

By the way, for all three of you blog readers out there, you might also want to check out M.Lugg’s blog, J.Martin’s new blog, and D.Zimmer’s new blog. Blogging seems to be the recipe for good times. And oh yea, you can also still read mine…if you want to.

So it seems like I’ve really been on a tirade of late against the separation of church and students (however that happens, whether to another part of the church or to some place beside the church). And before I lose any further integrity or credibility, let me explain at least one of the reasons why I can still be a youth pastor and not be searing my conscience with a hot branding iron every stinking day.

This is the thing, I am not saying that there should never, under any circumstance, be a ministry purposefully aimed at students. I do think it is possible to have a biblically based, God honoring, whole Body integrated student ministry.

I believe the most significant argument for this kind of concentrated effort is that it is an appropriate and efficient way to “focus on the few to reach the many.” Our model Paul was “warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom” in order to “present everyone mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). This vision of impacting “everyone” is huge. It is consuming. It requires individual attention and personal contact with each and every member.

So in our church, the board of elders has assigned me a particular part of the flock on which to concentrate. As Pastor Z and I have often discussed, I am to be a specialist (working with students) with a generalist mentality (fitting in to the entire local body). As the overall goal of the elders is to shepherd “everyone” in the church, my assigned emphasis is to teach and warn and seek to present “every man” in student ministries complete in Christ.

But again, even though it is reasonable and necessary to pursue particular persons for discipleship we must remember that the context of that discipleship must be in the corporate congregation. We must make sure to teach students (or whatever sub-group) about their role in the bigger picture. That is why I teach that the first mark of a healthy student ministry is that it recognizes itself as a part of the local body.

This is why I do what I do. I am a co-laborer among the whole body with the primary responsibility of laboring among students. May God give us more grace to use our giftedness as member of one another (Romans 12:5-6).

An Example of Self-Defeating Segregation

Series | Church

If you haven’t read the weblog from 05/07 you should do that before reading today’s entry. The bottom line of that entry was to question the prevailing pattern of dividing up (or away) certain groups in (or from) the church. Let me consider just one example that is close to my heart–student ministries.

There are a few (I believe illegitimate) reasons some people–both the students and the older generation–in the church have argued for separating the youth into their own group.

First, young people are so different, they really need their own thing. Young people really are much more cool and sic than the old people. Their taste in music and clothes generally could not be more opposite, their speech and communication are to say the least different, and sometimes it seems the only thing the two groups have in common is disagreement. Segregating the two seems to make great sense, then, so that each can have what they want.

Second, young people are often so immature, they need somewhere (else) to grow up. Kids will be kids, right? But who wants to be around them? So put them in a room, send them down to the basement, and don’t let them come out until they’ve grown up! What adult really wants the crazy kids around, being loud, running around, and generally causing trouble. Until they reach a certain age–where they become human–it is best to keep them separated. Besides, they are not ready for ‘adult’ topics and they’ll just be bored if forced to sit through sermons for old people

But there are a few biblical problems with age segregation.

How, for example, would we expect Titus 2 to take place if the young people are separated away from the older people? How are the older women to teach the younger women and the older men to teach the younger men if they are never around each other?

And second, how will the various parts of the Body work together if they aren’t actually ever together? Numerous NT passages talk about the Body of Christ. The most significant for our discussion is 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. There Paul speaks about the fact that though we are individual members, we make up part of the whole body. If you are a Christian, no matter what age, you are a member in His body. And though it seems sort of silly to say it, no individual member can survive on its own apart from the rest. To amputate the young people away from the rest of the body is spiritual suicide.

Third, doesn’t this segregation leave us with the equivalent of the “blind leading the blind.” It is like driving behind a person whose bumper sticker says, “Follow me, I’m lost.” Gathering a bunch of immature people in a room and letting them counsel one another on how to be mature is not a clever idea. It is the epitome of pooling ignorance.

So ironically, by segregating the youth for the purpose of facilitating their maturity, we can actually hinder the maturing process. In reality we will kill student ministries if we are only concerned about student ministries.

Of course, the problem still remains that I am a YOUTH pastor and I still haven’t given any validation for my job! Perhaps I’m even going the opposite way. So are there any legitimate reasons for student ministries? And is it possible to do student ministries (or any other ministry for that matter) in a way that promotes the entire body? We’ll have to see tomorrow.

If some of this sounds familiar, good! That means you have been paying attention, because today’s weblog was adapted from my sermon “How to Kill Student Ministries” preached in June, 2003.