Age segrated Youth Bible Teaching Classes

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by Berean, Feb 2, 2012.

  1. Berean

    Berean
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    In the past few months I have read several books, articles and blogs relative to the Exodus of Evangelical Youths from the church after high school, Namely Scott Browns A Weed in the Church", Warren Cole Smiths Lovers Quarrel in the Evangelical Church and Ken Hams Already Gone with indorsements from notable evangelical leaders such as Paige Patterson and Mark Dever. Although the main theme is we have gotten away from fathers being responsible for the upbringing and education of their children (Deut 6:6-9) I see a lot of the cause being laid at the feet of age segrated Bible study, namley SS.
    I have also seen a trend in my church of more grade school and jr high students along with a few high school sitting with their families in the AM & PM Sunday services and not attending the childrens or youth groups. My question is; has anyone else on the BB seen this happening in their church or is this a local thing.
     
  2. freeatlast

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    I am not seeing any real move to that, but for years I have tried to get the church to change how they do SS and put the young men/boys in with the adult men and the young women/girls in with the adult women both starting around the age of 8 or so. They need to learn how to mature and to do that they need to be around mature adults getting the same thing they are taught. The only draw back is if the adults are immature and like children. In such cases just leave the children where they are.
     
  3. preachinjesus

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    The primary reason for so many young people (18-24) "leaving" our churches is not because of our programming (primarily.) That is, imho, an ancillary issue. To blame student ministries and age/life stage segregated teaching is erroneous.

    The primary reasons they are leaving is:
    1. Morality - most 18-24 year olds are involved, or will be involved, with immoral behaviors. The problem isn't the churches haven't equipped them, it is they are given grace in failure.
    2. Intellectual - we can't keep preaching anti-intellectual doctrines and think they'll stick around when confronted with questions at college.
    3. Social - if their friends aren't going, they aren't going...if they aren't going, their friends aren't going.
    4. Cultural - they're expecting amazing experiences and the church isn't the place to find it (yes, this is partly because of the nature of church), also it isn't that they leave all together it is their attendence patterns just fall off...maybe once a month is considered "consistent" church attendence by them.
    5. Educational - for the ones going to college, honestly, Sunday morning is too good a time to rest and get to studying (or recovering from the night before...see #1)

    There are a host of reasons this is happpening. But age/life stage segregated teaching isn't part of this...it is ancillary.

    One of the great benefits of life stage prioritized teaching is that it acknowledges the reality that 55 year old have a different set of core needs which should be addressed differently than an 18 year old. This isn't to say they shouldn't share space...but it is to say we need to recognize the differences in stages of life. You wouldn't/shouldn't stick a 10 year old in the 70 year olds classes all the time.

    My point is that through an intentional time of directed teaching to their priority needs we can see a greater benefit than if we simply ignore it and shove everyone together. I've been doing this church thing for a long time, and we're seeing successes with all stages of life by recognizing and enjoying intentional ministry.

    BTW...I contend this too...that the 18-24 years aren't leaving forever, but are returning (though again in non-traditional attendance patterns) to churhces, but usually not their small, traditional churches of their upbringing. :)
     
  4. Oldtimer

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    A FWIW to this discussion.......

    Last year at our church a couples SS class began having problems and losing members. This class consisted of primarily older couples. Grandma & grandpa with a few middle aged couples. The root of the problem was their quarterly was geared to young adults. Too many class sessions focused on topics that most of these folks had faced years earlier. So, they changed the SS quarterly.

    Did this help? No.

    Because they chose the wrong one again, for this particular group of people. Their "new" one was geared more towards scholars with much emphasis on Greek meanings of words, for example. The God fearing teacher didn't have the educational background to bring the depth of this quarterly to his students.

    So, whether the class is 8 to 80, only one sex and/or age bracket, etc. it takes a combination of a teacher and teaching materials that compliment each other. And, satisfactorily meet the needs of the members of the class.

    Again, a FWIW......

    Now a question I've wondered about for a while now.

    In a Sunday School program, why does each class focus on a separate area of scripture? If the parents are studing Romans, older children are in Luke, and younger ones learning about the ark, how can they relate to each other at home? If all 3 examples are sitting around the kitchen table preparing for Sunday school wouldn't it be better if all three were studing the same thing at the same time?
     
  5. Baptist Believer

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    I agree completely. The issue is not the structure, but the philosophy, teaching, practice of the local church.

    By simply blaming the program structure of the church, the church is avoiding dealing with the real, systemic issues of the church that affect everyone.

    In my experience, the first two points you make are the most important:

    Fundamentally, the issue is that the church condemns immorality (which is obviously good). The youth culture of today wholeheartedly embraces and immoral sexual ethic (which is obviously bad).

    However, very few churches have actually disciple the youth on how to “do the things they want to do [to be moral and honor God], and not to do the things that they don’t want to do [by following their sexual urges like society insists that they do].”

    This complete lack of practical training in discipleship leaves a large number of youth and young adults in a position where they face condemnation at church (and, they believe, from God) because they are spiritually immature, yet without any sort of means or training to rise above it. It’s no wonder that youth and adults won’t darken the doors of a church until they get married and become morally-acceptable to the people at church again.

    As a teacher in the youth program at my church, I spend an extraordinary amount of time teaching young people practice steps on how to live the Christian life through exercises like spiritual/character formation using the traditional Christian disciplines, an in-depth study on a biblical theology of the body (much neglected in Baptist life), and detailed exposition and practical advice on living in the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Since I started teaching in the youth program a little over a year ago, I’ve discovered an enormous hunger to learn how to live a godly life… simply because no one has taught them and they’ve been waiting to hear about it for years.

    I know that as a teenager in my youth program growing up, we were never taught anything about how to cooperate with the grace of God in my life so that I could make substantial progress in spiritual/character formation. All that was given to us was the standard – don’t drink, do drugs, or have sex until you are married – while at the same time it was going on all around us in the culture, the church, and the youth group. In fact, although it was unsaid, the real standard was “Don’t get caught and embarrass your parents or the church.”

    Yep.

    Some of this I actually will blame on Sunday School, but only to the extent that we tend to get the Sunday School teachers we create as a church. If a church is not focused on making disciples, why do we expect our Sunday School teachers and church leaders to be able to provide intellectual and theological guidance to the youth to prepare them for going out into the world with many competing philosophies, theologies and ethical systems?

    What ends up happening is that churches buy Sunday School literature and use that for teaching, which is better than nothing. But Sunday School literature is a product, and if you want to sell a product, you generally try to make it as “mass market” and non-controversial as possible. Of course the Bible is filled with challenging passages which are highly controversial, so Sunday School literature tends to skip over those things or only provide a very light overview of the issues. However, the challenging passages and controversial issues are often the most reward portions of scripture that, when studied carefully, yield an enormous amount of insight into God’s word and provides context and connections to all of the fragmented stories and moral lessons we have heard since we were children.

    If youth and youth adults can’t assemble a coherent Christian worldview from everything they’ve learned in church, why should they continue to hold onto those fragments when they face competing viewpoints and philosophies we they leave home?

    In my own experience, I was a devout and fairly moral (at least, compared to the lifestyles of my church friends) kid all the way through the children’s departments and youth program. I was also a fairly deep thinker for a teenager and was always interested in Bible study and learning how to make my faith “work” in my life, since that seemed to be the promise of the New Testament. Yet, as a first semester college freshman, my childhood faith was dismantled in less than 15 minutes by an atheist who had growth up in the same church as me, because there was no real substance to what I had been taught.

    By specifically addressing these two issues, we are seeing a substantial deepening of faith among our youth. When I prepare our teaching curriculum, we hit not only the familiar, easy to understand parts of scripture, but also the difficult parts. The youth really get challenged by the difficult passages and they use their intense curiosity to make sense of things. To be blunt, the best teaching sessions are when we hit the stuff that church leaders and youth literature usually avoid. Not only is it something new for the youth to think about, it captures their imagination and brings out their passion for understanding God. And we also don’t avoid talking about the foibles of biblical figures such as Abraham’s penchant for passing off his wife as his sister, or David’s ability to find women willing to keep company with him everywhere he went (including when he was running for his life from Saul).

    Currently, the youth are getting a kick out of the human comedy in the book of Acts (Peter having to explain to the crowds at Pentecost that they are not drunk because it was only 9am, the apostles getting released from prison by the angel without the guards or the council of Jewish leaders knowing anything about it, or the church praying for Peter to be released from prison, and then when their prayers are answered, Peter has difficulty getting into the prayer meeting because no one can believe that God would have answered their prayers – they wouldn’t even believe Rhoda the servant girl (who left Peter standing at the gate without letting him in) when she reported that he was at the door.)

    I can tell we are having some success by the nature of the subjects and depth of the questions they submit to the church’s youth e-mail account for our Bible teachers to address. Instead of the stereotypical “teen” questions about dating and dealing with peer pressure, they are asking questions about how to practically address temptation in their lives and questions about how to rely on the Spirit to guide them in their decision-making. :thumbsup:
     
  6. Baptist Believer

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    I don't actually see this as a problem, though I might be missing something.

    Since I am convinced of the unity of scripture, I think it might actually be a benefit for individual members of a family to be studying different things since, as in your example, the parents can provide insights on Romans, the older children can share what they have learned in Luke, and the younger ones can share what they have learned about the Ark of the Covenant.

    Moreover, the questions asked to each other can generate an enormous amount of discussion.
     
  7. mont974x4

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    There is very little reverence or awe for God and His Word today. Those of us who preach and teach need this to be a central part in our worship...and make no doubt, preaching is worship.


    All the issues raised by preachinginjesus are right, and they all revolve around this one key issue. Is God really God and do I live a life in response to Him? Sin becomes meaningless if God is not sovereign creator of all things and righteous and just. We must see Him as having a right to demand holiness from us and a right to hold us accountable when we don't.

    I don't think most people realize that God elevates His Word and His name.

    Psa 138:2 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. (ESV)

    We all hear we are not supposed to take the Lord's name in vain. We have most likely heard that means we are not to use it as a cuss word. We shouldn't but that's not what that command is about. Vain means useless or to no effect. We can't claim to be Christians and not take seriously what that means. It means, in essence, to let God's standard (found in His Word) to be authoritative in our life and it rules above all else.

    It also means that we should take our responsibility to study the Word seriously. Out of those young people who walk away from churches, how many know how to study the Word and are committed to it?
     
  8. Baptist Believer

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    Terrific point.

    Commitment to the scriptures and learning how to study the Bible are more "caught" than taught. If you have a church that models the careful study of the scriptures (including the tough stuff) and commitment to implementing that into the lives of the individuals in the congregation and congregational life and activities, then the youth and young adults are going to build this into their lives in a very natural way.

    One of our stated youth group goals as we study the Book of Acts is reevaluate the youth activity calendar to give it the proper balance of bible study, worship, fellowship, service, and prayer. The youth (without even the suggestion of an adult) decided to start a prayer group. They are completely in charge of it and the adult leaders are going to leave it to them unless we are asked to participate. God is going to bless that kind of commitment and focus!
     
  9. mont974x4

    mont974x4
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    BB,
    That's good stuff. It's awesome to see God move the younger members of His Church to act.


    I have been using the Transform Weekend studies from Precept Ministries. It gets into the Word but also teaches the inductive study method. I have used Precept stuff for years and highly recommend it. I have been tailoring it a bit since two of our teens are special needs (one is autistic and tests at about 8 years old). So we go slow and I spend a bit more time explaining things. I refuse to shy away from biblical terms like propitiation and sanctification, but I do have to think through how to explain them.
     

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