Alright, I’ll admit it: The title is for shock value. But “Why the way churches currently do kids ministries is bad and will probably be a stumbling block to both their present and future walk with the Lord and is also unbiblical” isn’t quite as catchy. That is essentially the thesis of this post, though: Kids ministries are killing us.
Not just kids ministries, either: Youth groups, young adult groups, seniors groups. Jesus prayed that we be unified, and you can hear a sermon about it as soon as you separate yourself into the right age group. I can’t seem to find that ministry model anywhere in the New Testament. The Church that I see comes together and the older men and women instruct the younger men and women (Titus 2). The only age-segregation then would be in who is instructing and who is instructed. This is not the case in most churches.
But beyond the simple division that this kind of age-determined schism produces—beyond the non-biblical distinctions we’ve drawn into our church in an attempt to make it more palatable for the unconverted—I think this kind of ministry model damages a child personal conception of God. Take, for instance, the typical “kids church” message about the parable of the sower: The ultimate moral of the story is that we should be good soil! But how does this fit into the broad themes of scripture? “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil” (Jer. 13:23, ESV). So how can I change what kind of soil I am? And yet that is exactly what many kids church sermons urge children to do: Be good soil. Don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t chew, stay away from those who do. Most children-oriented sermons do not present the Gospel—I could contend this is because the church that these ministries are a part of do not present the Gospel, but that’s another post—and thus these children become inoculated against “church,” without ever having been a part of it. You wonder why we have such a high rate of abandonment amongst teens and young-adults?
Let’s keep going: What happens when you tell a kid to be good soil? Well, either he (and I’m going to imperialize and assume this child is a he, because I am, and this post is semi-autobiographical) will be good soil in his eyes, in which case you’ll raise a pharisee (guilty), or he’ll get tired of failing to be good soil by God’s standard, and wonder why he can’t cut it, and if it’s all maybe some big pie-in-the-sky scheme being perpetrated, and leave the church (also guilty). So the church you’re left with, what few children make it through the gauntlet of ministries before they’re considered legitimate members, is a whole lot of moralists with no understanding of the Gospel or what it means to be a part of the Church, and you’ve got a hell of a problem on your hands. And just to prove my point, a whole lot of you got angry because I used the word hell as an adjective instead of a noun.
So this unbiblical ministry model gives rise to an unbiblical church, and the whole world is going to hell desperate for a Savior, and this mewling, crippled “body of Christ” screams that they can save themselves if they just try hard enough. Americana Christianity. Moralism, and nothing more.
Age-based ministries ultimately fail because they’re focused on meeting the perceived needs of those being ministered to. We already know what the need is, though: They’re a sinner. Sure, let’s get a boys group together for some fellowship, I’m all for that. But let’s not pretend like the problem that these boys are facing is something external and specific to their situation; it’s their wicked little hearts that need correcting, and only Jesus can do that. Preach the Gospel to all ages. That is what they need.
I would like to thank my parents for always making it their own personal responsibility to share the Gospel with me. I have come to disagree with some of what I learned growing up, but so has my father, and I thank him for always seeking to lead me into truth.