No Fluff Youth Ministry
One of the surest places to find fluff in the modern church is in her youth ministries. There are clowns and skits and youth ministers who perform antics to get more people to come to the meetings. Very often the leaders are chosen because they act just like the youth and so, it is thought, can relate to them. Rather than helping the youth to mature, it almost seems like efforts are made to prevent them from maturing.
One of the reasons it may seem this way is because this was indeed the desire of the leaders of the modern education movement that dominates our whole society. Educators like Granville Stanley Hall and John Dewey taught that young people are held back by the older generations and should be left free to emerge into a better society.
They promoted educational practices that were deliberately designed to lessen the influence of parents and adults on the rising generation. Those who embraced their philosophies, men like Dr. Benjamin Spock or those in the PET (Parent Effectiveness Training) movement, taught parents to leave their children to their own way, the exact opposite of what is taught in Proverbs 29:15 (“The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother”). Along with this, there was the exaltation of youth culture as superior to adult culture—that idea that wisdom is with the youth rather than with the mature. This perverted notion was promoted through stories and movies in which the young always came forth as heroes. With youth presented as the ideal, instead of children wanting to grow up, you had the emergence of a whole society in which everyone wanted to be young. The structure of society was also changed so that instead of identifying ourselves as families (the Joneses and the Smiths) we began to identify ourselves by our peer group (the Junior Highs, the Senior Highs, baby boomers, generation X, Y & Z). With this change, a child is more concerned about displeasing his peers than he is about displeasing his parents.
In the church, this new structure of society was gradually, almost unwittingly, embraced. At first, there was the emergence of Sunday school for church kids—originally it was for reaching children outside the church, but that was changed. Then further developments led to having “junior church” or “children’s church” with separate services just for kids filled with fluffy music, skits, games, and lots of entertainment. Interestingly, when these young people grew up, they wanted dumbed down, me-centred worship in the church similar to what they had as kids, and the older generation, already used to always listening to the young, dutifully submitted (see the article on no-fluff worship to see the problem of worship designed by the worshipper!)
This whole way of thinking is completely contrary to the teaching of the scripture which stresses that the young are to learn wisdom from the aged. We have been taught for several generations to say that our fathers were out of it and did not know what they were talking about. But it is harder and harder to keep saying that this leads to the utopia that Hall and Dewey promised us. We have made progress in technology to be sure, but who could say that social and spiritual progress have been achieved?
Because of the prevalence and the standardisation of Sunday school, youth groups, and other such practices in the church today, the no-fluff church seems very radical when it follows scripture for ministry to the youth. Primarily, this involves returning the responsibility to the fathers to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph 6:4, the whole book of Proverbs) and insisting that children honour their father and mother (Eph 6:1-3). In the no-fluff church, you will find intense discipleship of the men to equip them to lead their families in daily family worship in which they command their household to keep the way of the Lord (Gen 18:19, Deut 6:7, Eph 6:4), and you will find men bringing their children with them to worship (never sending them to a separate service). Children attended worship with their parents under the Old Covenant (Gen 35:1-3, Ex 10:9, Deut 31:12-13, Ezra 10:1) as well as under the New where we find the apostles addressing children as part of the congregation in their letters that were read in the assembly (Eph 6:1, Col 3:20). Families worshipped together for the first 1900 years of church history. The overall aim for church life is that of Titus 2:1-8 where the older impart wisdom to the younger instead of where the younger are bunched together with their peers.