03 Aug, 2011 The movie ‘Divided’ – is the day of youth ministry over?

‘Divided’ is a one hour long movie about modern youth ministry.

You can view it for free at https://dividedthemovie.com (I understand this may only be so until early September 2011 – ???)

In effect it says that youth ministries / age segregation in Churches is a wrong approach, as these undermine the God-given responsibility that is upon families – and fathers in particular – to disciple their own children.

Two well experienced youth pastors are interviewed, and agree that their ministries had little effect, and that maybe the whole paradigm of breaking Christians into age groups (such as is done by having a youth ministry) is not Biblical. This was the basis upon which the argument rested.

As one whose had 16 years of his ministry spent with a primary focus upon youth and young adults, I have something to say on this.

Firstly, I agree fully that the primary responsibility for the discipleship of children and youth is their parents, and have spoken of this twice per year to parents for practically the entire duration of my time in youth ministry. Deuteronomy 6 lays it out clearly.

As such, I believe a youth ministry is one that exists to support the parents in their task.

It is thus secondary, and subsidiary. However, I still believe it has its place.

But, secondly, I think the video is a bit narrow. Young adults walk away from Christian involvement for many reasons – not least of which is the postmodern worldview they are being subtly sucked into via TV, education in schools and other media… I personally feel the role of apologetics in giving young people a foundation for believing in things such as (i) the existence of truth, (ii) the existence of one God, (iii) the reality of miracles (iv) the reliability of the Bible, etc. etc. are being overlooked. I think THESE are actually possibly the greater reason! The philosophy of nothing (postmodernism) is at war with the philosophy of something (Christianity), and our ignorance of the subtle changes that are going on in our ‘Christian’ children and youths thinking is the real issue! Which isn’t to say there isn’t an issue with youth ministry also – but I think the conclusions were too sweeping (the ‘condemnation’ of youth ministry validly applies to some ministries, but not others)

3. The place of youth ministry

(i) It serves the purpose of discipleship of youth from non-Christian families

(ii) It can serves the purpose of discipleship for many youth from Christian homes where the parents are half-hearted or apathetic in their faith and / or responsibilities in discipling their children and youth in the things of faith.

(iii) A case would easily be made that it is KEY to reaching out to non-believing youth.

The movie sites how Sunday Schools were origionally started with an outreach motivation (amongst other valid motivations such as actual education – reading, writing, etc.).

The majority of people who come to faith, from the information I’m aware of, do so between the ages of 11-14. The greater majority (up to 90%, depending on the study) come to faith under the age of 18 or 19 years old. This means that the best age for ‘outreach’ is with children and youth. A case could even be made for saying the majority of Christian mission work should focus on youth work. Youth ministries thus have an important role.

4. Some relevant Youth ministry ‘should’ and ‘should not’s

Youth ministries…

  • Also see chapter 8 which is about a youth ministries relationship to the parents via the links or at https://www.shininglights.co/YLB_-_Chapt_8.html

  • should be accountable, and submitted, in their culture to the wider culture of the Church. This is a VERY difficult matter, and especially if a youth ministry grows large enough to function as its own congregation, with services, its own leadership development, staff, etc… I have written much about this in a chapter of a youth and young adult leadership book about guarding the relationship between a youth ministry and its wider church – the chapter can be found at https://www.shininglights.co/YLB_-_Chapt_9.html

  • should not – in my opinion – be during the Sunday morning service times, as this means the youth don’t attend, thus opening the way for the culture of the youth ministry to become too far divorced from that of the adult congregation, paving the way for near-guaranteed integration failure in the future.

  • should talk regularly with parents; disciple youth specifically and intentionally to respect and learn from their parents; involve parents as much as is possible in the programs… Deuteronomy 6 is the correct first paradigm. Youth ministries have a support role, subservient to that.

  • should be ABOUT MUCH MORE THAN entertainment. The primary focus should be the messages of the Scriptures. While ‘entertainment’ may be an attraction tool, there should be no question as to what the FOCUS is – knowing and loving and serving God. I think that ministries that focus too much on the games and entertainment don’t work, long term! Many DO fall into this category, and personally I would be inclined to agree with the movies critique of them (thats just me).

  • Regarding discipleship content, I believe that a youth ministry should be an intentional outreach and discipleship ‘machine’ – meaning, that is its mission.

  • However – in balance with that – the end goal is the successful integration of all those youth into the Churches ‘adult’ congregation. If sight is lost of this end goal, all ones efforts can amount to very little because one may just create a Christian subculture, and the youth may then outgrow it. It has to go deeper than that, and failing to do that is the all-to-easily fallen into stumbling block in my opinion.

I note that I was convinced of the faith because

  1. I heard, early on, the reasons why evolution is a deficient theory. This was SIGNIFICANT, as it meant that a secular humanist worldview was not logically possible for me.

  2. I understood the gospel early on, and responded to that – including an understanding of sin, God’s holiness, the judgment and hell. These are fundamental Christian beliefs – without these the whole cross and message of Jesus has little relevance.

  3. I had early experience (14yo) of the Holy Spirit’s power. Beyond that point there was no question whatsoever for me about the existence of spiritual realities or God’s power.


  1. apologetic reason to give foundation to Christian belief in a skeptical world

  2. an understanding, and belief, in basic Christian teaching

  3. an experience of the Spirits power.

To disciple youth through ‘the whole counsel of God’ I would cover a list of 57 topics once every two years. This way

(a)  I knew I’d preached the basics to new Christians within at least their first 2 years of believing

(b)  I knew I’d preached the ‘whole counsel of God’ rather than just my own pet topics (which is what I had realised I had done in my first 5 years of youth ministry).

A chapter on youth and young adult ministry curriculum can be found at https://www.shininglights.co/YLB_-_Chapt_11.html

My topic list can be found at https://www.shininglights.co/YLB_-_Kick-start_Resource_CD.html – then download 11 – Young Adult Ministry Curriculum thoughts.doc which is on that webpage.

I hope this helps some 🙂

See https://www.youthtrain.com/html/resources/articles/brown21.php for what Murray Brown has to say about this.

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