A couple of weeks ago I introduced you to an American short film called Divided.
If you missed it, here’s the first post: ‘Is youth ministry biblical?‘ As promised, I’m going to take the opportunity over the next few weeks to reflect on some of the issues raised by the movie.
According to the movie, ‘youth ministry’ has no basis in Scripture, it’s been established on secular philosophy and the ideas of fallen humanity, rather than on the solid and unshakable foundation of God’s Word. Youth ministers would be better served giving up their age-segregated ministry and focusing on equipping fathers to do their God-given duty of discipling their children. As Niddrie Community Church’s Youth Worker, one of the questions I asked was: In light of this movie, should I be handing in my letter of resignation?
Bottom line: No.
Some of the points raised in the movie are valid, but one of the problems I have with Divided is the somewhat limited view of what youth ministry actually is. It’s all very well saying that youth ministers should focus more on helping fathers to disciple their children, but the movie seems to depict youth ministry as being something done as part of a large church, led by a youth pastor who is responsible for the discipleship of all the young people in the church. Correct me if I’m wrong.
I’m in ministry. I’m in youth ministry. But I’m a youth worker. My job is primarily outreach and evangelism. We only have a couple of young people in our church (who come on a Sunday – if that counts as being ‘in our church’), the rest of the young people I work with aren’t Christians. They’re still coming into the building and interacting with us nearly every day of the week. They take part in activities we run, and groups we put on; I also do work up at the local high school. In fact, Niddrie Community Church has contact with a huge number of young people in the community – very few would call themselves Christian.
I make no apology for spending as much time as I can with the young people in my community. Part of what I see myself doing is providing a different role model for these guys. Many of them come from broken households; families torn apart by violence, crime, substance abuse, the list goes on… Granted, I’ll take any and every opportunity I get to work with the families as well, because I agree with Divided in the point they raise about parent’s being the biggest influence on a young person’s life. Recently, the local doctor’s surgery referred a young person to meet with me. I’ve been spending time with that young person, but also with their family. One small thing I noted was the absence of any consistent dinner time. I suggested making dinnertime a family priority; the whole family sitting at the table, TV off, talking about their days. The parents took that advice on board and the feedback is that it’s going really well.
It’s my hope and prayer that as I spend time with young people in the community, that my life would reflect the gospel, that I’d represent a different way to live, that God would give me opportunities to share the gospel and from my experience of God’s grace. And that, by the work of the Holy Spirit, they may come to a recognition of their need for Jesus and turn to him in repentance and faith. That goes for their parents as well.
In coming months, I’m hoping to do much more work with families. One idea is to run some kind of parenting support seminar. If you’ve done, or know of something similar, I’d love to hear from you.