Archive for the ‘Divided’ Category

For the past few weeks I’ve been blogging about an evangelical documentary on youth ministry from the States, produced in association with the National Centre for Family Integrated Churches, called Divided.

If you missed my previous posts, you can check them out here: PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3

So far I’ve been quite critical about the film but, as I’ve said before, they do make what I consider to be some valid points. One of the concerns raised by Divided is over the youth ministry practice of some churches, which employ worldly fun and flashiness as a means of reaching young people.

Agreed: the church cannot promise truth, and then deliver foolishness! However, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this movie does seem to have a rather limited view of youth ministry, assuming it to be a youth programme for largely churched young people. Not so with Niddrie, and we don’t really do flashy here either – our Sunday church services are pretty traditional, we don’t even have a smoke machine.

In Niddrie, our young people are almost exclusively unbelievers and completely ‘unchurched’. That means the vast majority of the youth work undertaken by the church is relational and evangelistic. My young people are by definition ‘worldly’, their minds are set on things that are on earth, not things that are above (Colossians 3:2). So at some level, I need to be able to engage them, without succumbing to worldliness myself, and point them to a better way in the Lord Jesus.

One of the things we started a few years back was a group for boys (11–16 years) on a Friday afternoon. They have a half day at school on a Friday, so they’re by and large free from about lunchtime. We’d take them out of Niddrie to do a variety of activities with them: sailing, skiing, Pizza Hut, LaserQuest etc; the goal being to invest in these guys and share the Gospel with them in a relational and informal way. Over the years we’ve taken many opportunities to share the Gospel with these guys through conversation and curiosity; we’ve explained what/why we believe, we’ve shared our testimonies, and this is exciting.

The cynic would say that we’re looking to win these guys with fun. Perhaps its a blessing then that our church has had a spending freeze (including youth work) for the last year, and so the activities must either cost nothing, or be inexpensive, paid for through the boys subscriptions (£1 a week) and anything we can raid from the café pool table (which brings in about £10 a week). We’ve been creative in our activity ideas and this has really helped us assess our priorities and keep the Gospel foremost.

Sometimes when the boys complain that we’re not going to Pizza Hut or LaserQuest any more, I remind them that what’s important is the relationships, not the activities. They seem to get this and, generally, we haven’t had any reduction in the number of guys who come along. They know the leaders who come are there to spend time with them, to invest in them; they’re not there for the sake of the activity.

On the other hand, sometimes (like last week) having sent out our mass text message on the Thursday night saying that we’re going to be having a paper aeroplane competition from the top of a 100ft tower out in the countryside, none of them bother turning up. Hey ho! (Instead we ended up getting to know another couple of guys from the community by paying pool with them for an hour or so).

Perhaps this week, when we send out the text message, we can trick them into thinking we’re going to Pizza Hut, then do the paper aeroplane thing instead..!? What do you think?

Hopefully by now you’re familiar with the American short film called Divided. It comes from the NCFIC (National Centre for Family Integrated Churches) and it makes the case against segregated youth ministry as it has no basis in scripture and is founded upon pagan evolutionary principles.

If you missed my first two posts, you can find them here: PART 1 and PART 2.

One of the things that really bothered me was the obvious bias in the film. It became quite clear that the young filmmaker wasn’t so much on a journey to discover the truth, he had already made up his mind, so what followed wasn’t going to be an impartial investigation. Tim Challies reviewed the DVD on his site and has done a great job articulating some of my observations. I recommend a look.

One of the things Challies points out is the fact that Leclerc sets the intellectual heavies of FIC against “a girl with a face full of piercings who partied so hard at the concert that her mohawk collapsed” – it’s a false and unfair dichotomy based on a cliché.

Next time, I’m planning on looking at the whole issue of ‘win-them-with-fun’ youth ministry.

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.

My name’s Mike Stark, I’m the lead youth worker at Niddrie Community Church. Mez brought this interesting little video to my attention. Here’s the trailer (3 minutes long), which gives you a flavour of the argument. The movie is called ‘Divided’ and was produced in conjunction with The National Centre for Family-Integrated Churches.

The movie’s basic premise is that ‘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. So should I be drafting my letter of resignation??

For the time being you can watch the FULL video (about 50 minutes) on their website. I’ve watched it through a couple of times and there are a few points that I’d like to think about and chew over for a day or 2. My plan is to address some of these points in future blog posts.

Until then, I hope you enjoy watching the movie.