One of my favourite blogs, Internetmonk, recently posted a video which was a pretty good parody of too many Christian youth programmes. One of the commenters made a good point about youth ministry and family ministry. He asked the question, “How can we expect parents to teach their children when adults are largely ignorant of the gospel?” His suggestion is a move, not necessarily away from youth work but to a more inclusive ‘programme’ for a whole family.
This is a hugely challenging area and one for which there are no easy answers, but I wonder if there is another issue lurking here – that of children/youth teachers. Sunday schools, for example, are usually more than willing to welcome anyone who will give them time to help on a Sunday morning. But is getting a willing volunteer becoming more important that getting the right person? Surely teaching children the correct foundations is crucially important for their future development as Christians? So why do ministers have to be degree-qualified and fully trained before teaching adults yet the only qualification for teaching children is willingness? Furthermore, those who do volunteer are often giving up their time in the Sunday service. So where are they getting their ‘feeding’ and teaching from? My home congregation has two services on a Sunday and there is an expectation on those who teach in the Sunday school and Bible class to be there. But we are fairly unusual in having two services.
I’m not sure that a move to all-age worship all the time is entirely appropriate or desirable, but I do think there are underlying issues which need to be dealt with in order to provide a more holistic approach to nurturing the family of God. Bible study groups and house groups are useful places for such nurture. But who organises those?