Whose Church is it Anyway?

Youth Vs. Adults

It’s hardly ever my intention to pit youth and adults against each other.

Matter of fact, the way I manage to seek my calling has been to often walk the thin line of blasphemy between the two. Not as a median, more as a negotiator. Maybe Translator.

As a child of divorced parents, I feel a similar sadness and frustration when I feel either side, youth or adults, is missing the mark, being neglected or mad at the other.

I reached the conclusion a while ago, though, that as nice as grown-ups are, I tend to get a lot more enjoyment out of working with teenagers. I often find that adults have as many emotional hangups as teenagers do, teens just tend to me more willing to to talk about them honestly.

However, I sometimes forget how necessary it is for the two “sides” to interact – constantly.

This Church Vs. The Next

In an online article entitled “Youth Ministry & the Law of Unintended Consequences”, Skye Jethani touches on a trending split between the “this” generation and the “next.”

The article comes after an experience with emergent church leader Tony Jones where Jones indicated that the emergent church movement is a logical result of the youth groups of the 1980s. (That’s a very loose paraphrase, check out Tony’s post: Who’s To Blame for The Emerging Church Movement).

Jethani suggests that this in part due to the fact that the youth of the church tend to be isolated (in so many ways) from the rest of the church:

In addition, by isolating students they are less likely to form meaningful relationships with older adults in the congregation–relationships that would provide continuity within the church from one generation to the next. Without this continuity we shouldn’t be surprised when 25-year-olds emerge who want nothing more than to deconstruct the way the church operates, slash the authority hierarchy, or just leave the church altogether. To use Jones’ logic, it was the youth groups of the 80s that created the Emerging Church of the late 90s, which sought to deconstruct the church systems of the 80s.

It’s not just the emergent church. Soon, Jethani plans to outline a similar pattern in the megachurch. See the rest of the article here: Youth Ministry and the Law of Unintended Consequences

The Takeaway

As a youth leader, I am reminded of the responsibility to integrate youth into the lives of their congregation – or is it vice versa? I’m fine with the church (meaning the general “Church”) evolving in whatsoever direction it does, I just think that evolution should happen without splitting off into two separate churches – which then splits off into two more, and four more, and eight more…

In a practical sense, I wonder if encouraging that “separate but equal space” is what often leads to an older church that burns out stale, and a younger church that finds itself struggling to sustain itself, often financially. In another sense, it seems to me that we might be missing a large portion of our responsibility as youth leaders when we fail to integrate students into a larger community (or vice versa) and identify the value of their leadership for the larger church.

If we want our youth and young adults to grow up to want and need the church, then we as “the church” need to make sure we are demonstrating in this very moment that we want and need them.

As an aspiring parent, I am reminded that so much of what we are trying to teach our children has very little to do with the lesson we think we’re giving. So much more of what we think are the subtle ways we live our life, transpire into the way the next generation acts and makes decisions.

No small task. I’d rather us try to handle it as one church instead of two.