Hayward Wesleyan Church‘s youth and children’s ministries are moving to a small group centered approach to our ministry programs. I’ll write more about this in the near future. But I remember thinking a while back that God had already thought about “small group” ministry long before the church did.
In fact, it was around since the very beginning: the family.
Radical idea, eh? I think we are discovering more and more about the power of a close-knit family environment where adults and children are living in close proximity to one another, influencing and shaping each other to live out the Gospel in their immediate world.
Our typical ministry segregation approach (that hwcYouth has done for a while) models to families that the discipleship that is supposed to happen in the home can happen “better” if the professionals take over.
Rob Rienow says it poignantly:
When it comes to youth and children’s ministry, we must acknowledge that the ‘new experiment’ has failed. The new experiment is age-segregated, church-building-based evangelism and discipleship of children. Parents drop them off. We split them up by age in different rooms in the building and ‘disciple’ them. In terms of Christian history, this is a brand-new idea. Slowly but surely, we abandoned the biblical model of family discipleship and delegated the spiritual training of our children to ‘professionals’ at church.
Rienow describes one of the unintended consequences of this “new experiment” is:
Parents were free to remain spiritually passive at home. After all, they were making sure that their son or daughter was involved in a ‘great youth group.’
The article goes on to say:
The biblical focus should be on equipping parents to do the job of discipleship, not attempting to do the job for them. The church has taken over the proper role of the parents while abandoning the role of training parents and others to do the work of the ministry. An unhealthy dependency has developed in the church. As the professionals have taken over more responsibility for discipling the young people, the parents have taken on less.
As Rienow points out, this is in stark contrast to the way it was in centuries past, when the parents were expected to disciple their children at home and there was strict accountability set up to make sure it got done. When was the last time your pastor or someone at church asked you how your family devotions were going? Has it ever happened? First, having family worship has not become a priority or an expectation from the church. Second, accountability has almost vanished from our churches. The renowned preacher Charles Spurgeon was so concerned about this trend, clear back in the 1800s that he said, “How can we hope to see the kingdom of our Lord advance when His own disciples do not teach His gospel to their own children?”. Great question! How indeed?
You better watch out… I’m gonna start asking families @ Hayward Wesleyan Church if you are doing your family devotions! It’s not that I’m checking up on you (actually I am!). Rather it’s because the kingdom of God is worth good accountability, isn’t it?!