(Photo: Scott Brown - PR)
How many times have you heard the question asking whether something is or is not biblical? Did you ever stop to think about what that actually means? What are the implications of such a question? These are some of the questions I've asked over the past twenty years. They have led me to alter my view of youth ministry and church life. Perhaps the most disturbing question I have asked in this regard relates to youth groups and the current model of age-segregated youth ministry. Are youth groups in church even a biblical model of ministry?
So what does it actually mean to be biblical? The answer is simple. It means that a practice is consistent with the teaching of Holy Scripture. This is the foundation of the discussion. It begins with the assumption that "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16). To be biblical then, something must be consistent with the Scriptures and consistent with its purpose - that it completes and equips man for every good work. In short, for something to be biblical, it must have an explicit warrant in Scripture.
For something to be biblical we can't say that something seems to be "good" to us and then therefore call it biblical. It is not enough to say, "I think" something is good. When it comes to church life the truly good things have an explicit warrant in Scripture.
When we approach this question of what it means to be biblical, we face a flood of personal feelings and emotions and traditions that have developed over a lifetime. I realize that people have very passionate feelings about youth groups. Many of us have fantastic memories of good times shared with friends. We can tell stories of genuine works of God that occurred in youth groups. I sure can. Some were saved in their youth groups. I know of many who were. Some lifelong mentors came from youth groups. This was true for me.
But when we are talking about what is biblical in church life, there is no provision for the feelings or emotions or cultural preferences. To be biblical we must be able to point to the Scriptures and affirmatively find the matter anchored within the Word of God. Then and only then can we say that something is biblical.
Sadly, if you ask ten people what church practices are biblical, then you're likely to get ten different answers largely influenced by their own experiences, feelings, traditions and opinions. Regardless of what our hearts or experiences tell us, we should not rely on them to determine what is and is not biblical.
As we apply this to the question, "Is youth group even biblical," we must ask, "Is there a biblical warrant for it?"
It is startling to observe that we do not find any biblical warrant for the modern practice of separating or segregating the church by age. On the contrary, there are explicit commands to bring children to the gatherings and many instances where children are being taught alongside parents. In both the Old and the New Testaments, the pattern is always that the people of God are gathered together as one body – the rich and the poor, the young and the old. On the other hand, the gatherings are never age segregated.
From the Scriptures themselves we only see one pattern of celebration, worship, instruction and discipleship for the people of God. It is age integrated; the entire church gathering together, not divided into age categories. So we ask, "Is age-segregated youth group in the church even biblical?" Look carefully throughout the whole of Scripture. Look for positive biblical evidence that segregating the church by age is biblical. Is there an explicit warrant, example, or direction in Scripture for a separating the church by age categories for effective ministry? The answers to these questions will answer the question, "Is youth group even biblical?"
Take a survey by the National Center for Family-Intergrated Churches onine here: Is "Youth Group" Even Biblical?