Here is something I have observed in many churches. Perhaps you have seen it too. Children grow up through our children’s ministries and they love it! They move into the cool junior high group and once again, they love it! Then, it is off to high school with all the events, retreats, and trips. It is a mountain top experience!
After they graduate high school, these young men and women ask, “Where do I go now?” In many churches the answer is, “You go to ‘big church’ now and get involved with the whole faith community!” I have lost track of the number of high school graduates who have responded, “Well, OK, but I really don’t feel that connected with the whole church service thing. Isn’t there some kind of college group I can get involved with?” So what do we do? We whip up a college ministry for them. Four years later, when college group is “over” they come and ask, “Where do I go now?” We say, “You go to church now and get involved with the whole faith community!” Again the response comes, “Uhhh, I appreciate that and everything, but I don’t really connect in that kind of worship, can we start some kind of new worship service on Saturday nights?” We whip up a new Saturday night “cutting edge” worship service. Then after a couple month or years, they don’t come back and ask, “Where do I go now?” They just disappear.
Looking back on my many years in youth ministry, I see that I was working so hard to win the hearts of students to the youth group. I want the youth group to be the place where they found their connection, community, and identity. What I should have done was sought to win their hearts to their families and to our entire church. My mission should have been to help them find their connection, community, and identity at home and with our entire church family, not only with their peers.
What would this ministry model look like? What did youth and children’s ministry look like in the early church?