By Mark Johannesen
I was encouraged to watch the film “Divided” (www.dividedthemovie.com) and give my feedback on it. I’ll make the same invite to anyone else who cares about youth ministry.
-The director inferred that to think biblically means you believe in a young earth. I’m not sure what my perspective is on the age of the earth, but I inferred that by not knowing the age of the earth I’m not a biblical thinker.
-The director inferred that churches that aren’t doing youth ministry as he understands it are sinning. I enjoy his desire for reaching out to families…In fact, I love that. BUT – Many of us have students coming to our youth groups whose parents have no desire. If we don’t reach out to these kids, then maybe their parents will never be reached. I can’t see how a YM that isn’t up to the director’s cut is a sinning ministry.
-The director inferred that the only way to teach children is in multi-generational groups. I affirm the biblical value of multi-generational ministry, but I don’t think that is the only model offered. The epistles are filled with instructions to the older to teach the younger. As I consider those instructions, that picture of how to do YM may not be just a multi-generational picture, but an age-appropriate picture as well (and other models, such as peer-to-peer, serving, etc).
-The director makes the point that we can be taking kids away from their spiritual homes by the way we do YM. I agree…that is plausible. Hopefully, in our time with these kids, we are coming alongside both the students and their homes and that our experiences with their students gives us a voice in their homes.
-I agree parents have a tremendous and primary role in teens’ spiritual lives, but the director didn’t offer any hope/ideas to students whose families aren’t Christian.
-I agree Churches need to reach out to men/parents much better
-I agree that multi-generational ministry is huge. Multi-generational ministry is good ministry, yet I’m thinking other models are as well…I desire to have YM that is blended with multi-generational ministry and other models.
I’ll offer this final thought: I’m thinking of a pendulum. When it’s not at extremes it’s centered. Maybe many YM’s have swung to one extreme in reaching students as the director showed (he portrayed many youth groups in a negative light and failed to see/show much of their fruit) and maybe it’s time for the pendulum to return to center. But the director is not at the center, as best as I can see. He seems to be at the other extreme. My goal in YM is to disciple students to as deep a level as I can, to work with their families as best as I can, and to move students out of my group into the life of the church as much as I can by God’s grace and power. (I just wrote that mission statement, so it is short.) I think the movie gets us thinking critically about reaching out better to families, but would I run with everything in it? Nope. I consider my approach to YM to be one that is as biblical as I can hope for at this time and consider the director’s take to infer that I’m not being biblical, which is what offends me. God give us strength and opportunities to reach students and their whole families.
Rev. Mark Johannesen is pastor at Word of Life Lutheran Brethren Church in LeSueur, Minnesota.