One of the members of our church had a conversation with me a this weekend they asked me if kids ministry and youth ministry were biblical. He was asking not out of disagrement but more out curiosity as to what my response would be. This question has started to come up because of the state of the church in the west and the rate in which young people are leaving the church. There are some people who believe that youth and kids ministry have largely contributed to this phenomenon. Jesus never had a puppet explain the tora as a child and neither did he attend a conference as a youth where the Rabbi talked about the hotness of his wife. So because the bible doesn’t talk about teaching kids and youth separately from adults it shouldn’t be done? I say yes and no.
To start off I would say the ultimate responsibility of the spiritual life of every child lies with his or her own parents. Parents are the primary leaders, examples and communicators of biblical truth in the life of their children. Having said that kids need much more than just their parents influence in their lives. I had a mom from another church explain to me that she kept her kids away from youth group at their church because she knew that the youth pastor needed her kids to attend because they were more well behaved than all the other kids that went to youth group. He needed her kids to be a good example of Christlikeness to the other kids that attended. The only thing I could think was, awesome way to model humility, community, and passion for Christ’s church.
Here are the reasons I think Youth Ministry and Kids Ministry matter.
1. Every kid needs a friend – not a sibling not a family member, but a friend outside their family unit who believes the same thing they believe.
2. Every kid needs others voices in their life that are saying the same things their parents are.
3. You can only see and fully understand certain things about God in the context of biblical community. If you think you can walk out the gospel in the context of just your family you don’t understand the gospel. It has to be worked out in biblical community. The gospel can be learned in a smaller setting but has to be worked out in a broder setting. When I speak of community I don’t mean church attendance alone but church attendance, serving in the church, living in community means you bump up against other people and have to work out the implications of that. Community is not creating a buffer of niceness between you and other members of the community.
Bonhoeffer says this about Community
Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this…
What does this mean? It means, first, that a Christian needs others because of Jesus Christ. It means, second, that a Christian comes to others only through Jesus Christ. It means, third, that in Jesus Christ we have been chosen from eternity, accepted in time, and united for eternity.
4. Unless your church goes out of it’s way to make church work for 5,6, 7 year olds (which most churches do not) by taking time to publicly explain things to kids. Singing songs that kids understand and enjoy. Then I would argue an age appropriate environment is need to allow kids and teens to grow understand and teach others.
5. Lastly kids and Youth ministry allow kids to discover, grow and use the talents God has given them. In most churches you may see kids be “Jr ushers”in big church but for kids to see themselves as a valuable contributing member of the body of Christ is priceless.
The thing that frustrates me in this whole argument is that we all have this tendency to be dogmatic about the the things that the Bible isn’t dogmatic about. We froth and fuss over the validity of kids and youth ministry but avoid the weightier things like are we living the gospel in our homes and in our churches. Kids don’t walk away from their faith because of youth group they walk away from their faith because they never came to a clear understanding of the gospel. So if you want to be dogmatic about something be dogmatic about gospel clarity.