A major concern in youth circles around the country (USA) is the drastic number of youth that renounce faith after they leave youth group. Around the age of 18 many teens are going to college or finding a career. It is around this time that 70% of young adults, as they are considered now, tend to leave the church. So what is the problem? Guessing from the title you might think it is youth pastors, but that is not the main concern I have.
While it is true that many youth groups seem more like a pizza party and less like a group focused on training and equipping the future church, this is not the main concern I have when it comes to this subject. The biggest reason for the continued decline of the future church, builds its roots in the home. It is in the home where there is the biggest need of spiritual guidance; discipleship and a Christ like love.
The major factor that leads to spiritual blindness in the home is half hearted, unprepared fathers and husbands. We learn in the fifth chapter of the epistle to the Ephesians that “the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.” This shows the crucial role men play in the family. Unfortunately, we have had a decline of Godly men leading to faithless families and youths.
Now we see a major problem, what could be a proposed solution. This is where the title comes in. It is my belief, a belief not shared by many, that there is no need for youth groups in the Church. What there is a need for is pastors to encourage, teach, and demonstrate how to disciple families. Not just on Sundays but daily. The expression “it takes a village” can hold true to raising a family in Christ as well. It will take the whole body to encourage and pray for the men in the church so that they can lead their families to a life in Christ. Why, then, is there no more need for youth groups and youth pastors? Because this is the very job that the fathers are to take up, it is their duty to teach, discipline and live a life worthy of the gospel for their children.
One of the primary responsibilities in discipleship is teaching. To show what the scriptures say, what they command of believers, and how to read the text. Fathers should read with their children daily. Yes, that was not a typo I did say DAILY. Regarding the early believers, Acts 2:42 reads:
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. ”
Without discipline there will be little to no growth. Discipline is a major part of discipleship, not to harm but to “spur” towards the correct path. We see many times Jesus reproving his disciple, correcting them. Discipline and a demand of Godliness should not be overlooked. We read in Hebrews chapter 12:
(7) Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? (8) If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. (9) Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! (10) They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. (11) No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
The greatest responsibility of discipleship is not just teaching what the scriptures say but to “walk the walk.” More than words will ever teach a child or teen is the way you live your life. If this step is missed, the other steps lose almost all of their validity. Paul writes in Philippines 1:27:
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.”
So we understand that it is up to men to disciple their families and their children. We even see in Paul’s directions to Timothy regarding eldership this is a major quality that they are to look for “He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect (1 Timothy 3:4).” Still, why death to the youth pastors?
One of the biggest things children need today, is to see their father receive the word of the Lord from the church. They are unable to do so separated in another room receiving a message. Now, I’m not saying that the messages they hear are bad, although times they are, or that youth pastors are inadequate but remember the third point of discipleship I referenced? To live, actions speak louder than words, to see ones father love the gospel message will enrich a love for the gospel message. To see ones father hungry for the Word of Truth, will create a great desire for the same Word. The youth need to SEE how their father receives the word of the Lord and then how he applies it to his life. As long as there are youth groups there is not a desperate need for fathers to rise up and take the role that God gave them. The final question can be, “What if a person does not have a father? Or, if that person’s father is not a believer, then we need a youth pastor.” This is a hard argument to fight, but my best attempt is this (Not for the sake of ending youth groups but for the betterment of the whole body of Christ). The bride of Christ is a family, brothers and sisters who long for our Father. What is needed is not to have a group inside the church that is separated but to be immersed in the whole body. To see older brothers (older adults) love the Lord, to have older brothers love their younger brothers, to have older brothers be the fathers to the fatherless. This duty is too big a responsibility for a youth pastor this is a demand of the church. James writes
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
This is a charge for the Church.
I pray that this is a piece that Jesus wanted, I pray that this will inspire men, families and churches to grow in Godliness. And I pray that above all the Lord God be glorified.