Equipping The Generations: Don’t Segregate The Youth -- By: David F. Wright
JDFM 4:1 (Fall 2013) p. 56
Equipping The Generations:
Don’t Segregate The Youth1
Dave Wright is the Coordinator for Youth Ministry in the Diocese of South Carolina. He has been in full time youth ministry for 27 years, first at a mega church near Chicago, then a parish in Cheshire England, and is currently based in Charleston. Dave has written numerous articles for YouthWork Magazine (UK) as well as Youthworker Journal and led training in the UK, Canada, and USA.
I was enjoying brunch at a local café with my wife after church. It was before we had kids, so it was just the two of us. Across the room I spotted one of the students in my youth ministry, sitting with his parents. I couldn’t help but notice something else, though. His parents were also enjoying time together—just the two of them. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a set of parents so thoroughly ignore their child through an entire meal. Seeing the relationship this only child lacked with his parents explained a lot about his behavior. I left the café wondering what sort of parent he might grow up to become if this is how family and parenting was modeled to him. Would he even bother to have a family of his own?
We know younger generations learn as much from what they observe as from what we actually tell them. Many voices insist actions speak louder than words. What, then, are we communicating to our youth about the church when every time we gather, they go to their own room for a separate program? What message do they receive when we give them one Sunday per year to participate in leading the service? For our “Youth Sunday,” the high school group led everything except the sermon. Were we expecting them to look forward to the day when they’d be grown up enough to participate in “big church”? Did we consider that, when that day arrived, they might not understand anything about it and just walk away? Or would they search for a church that most resembled their youth group experience because it would feel less foreign to them?
I spent ten years serving in a church where the youth ministry was segregated from the congregation. The constant challenge before us was to somehow teach and give them a taste of what the church is meant to be, even though they weren’t experiencing it themselves. Most of the youth didn’t worship with the rest of the congregation, nor did they experience aspects of gathered church life beyond “Youth Sunday.” This church has since changed its approach to youth ministry and become less segregated.
The next church I served in was vastly different. There I learned how to effectively model and shape a biblical view of the church for the youth. What...
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