It is always beneficial for us when our vision is in line with God’s vision. By using the word vision I am not referring to some supernatural dream from God, but rather to the target and scope of our work. And God’s revealed target for His shepherds is an open letter challenge to any and every specialized ministry.
The vision of a New Testament leader should include the entirety of, and diversity in, the Body. Various gifted men have been given to lead and teach and “equip the saints for the work of ministry until we ALL attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Ephesians 4:12). Note that leaders/shepherds are to be concerned for “the WHOLE body” and “EACH part” (v.16). They are to “be on guard for…ALL the flock” (Acts 20:28).
These descriptions are devalued if only applying to a family or ‘specialized’ ministry. In fact, focused leadership energies toward particular cultural sub-groups, age groups, or gender groups is short-sighted at best and self-defeating at worst. This is ESPECIALLY so when these organizations or ministries operate outside the watchful oversight of the elders in a local church.
Please understand me. I am NOT saying that every small group or Bible study should be as diverse as humanly possible, or that there can be no ‘little-er’ groups at all. I am not against some reasonable grouping of similar people for the purpose of concentrated shepherding and discipleship. Since discipleship cannot take place except on the level of the individual and since much discipleship occurs in the context of regular relationships, it is natural that some separation will occur anyway.
But I am most intensely against leaders intentionally isolating themselves and their sub-group of choice away from the church or even from the rest of the body within a church. It doesn’t matter what you call it. Call in a fellowship; call it a crusade; call it an agency; call it a parachurch group; call it your family; you can even call it a ministry. Call it whatever you want. The reality is there are many members in one body–and amputating some parts away from the others for extended periods of time will result in losing the limbs entirely. We will not survive divided.
Of course, your obvious question at this point should be, “If that is what you believe, how can you be a YOUTH pastor? Isn’t that completely inconsistent with what you just said?” There is an answer. I’ll see if I can find it by tomorrow so I can keep my job – or at least so I can do it with a clear conscience!