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A Response to the Family-Integrated Churches

By Dr. Steve Vandegriff | Department of Church Ministries, Liberty University | October 12 2011

A former student of mine was put in an awkward position when he was made aware of some comments made by a Mr. Scott Brown (see the link below) that stirred up quite a debate within his church and the leadership. Mr. Brown is director of the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches. Here are a few of those comments: "Philosophy and practice of comprehensive, age-segregated, programmatic youth ministry" is "contrary to the ministry patterns of Christ...Modern youth ministry is also inherently destructive in its impact. It divides the church by creating generational division and multiple cultures instead of a unified body...I hope we are now at the end of this 50-year failed experiment"; and modern youth ministry is "a weed that gained root in the church"; and "This slippery slope of age segregation leads to the isolation of an individual's perspective to one that only looks outward from within the confines of (an) age group and excludes the lessons that can and should be learned from previous generations."

Now that Brown's film Divided has gone viral, the debate is becoming more heated. (As a former youth pastor in three different states and Canada, as well as an executive director of Youth for Christ, and now a professor of youth ministry at a major Christian university, after reading all these comments, I have reached a stage of being really ticked off). These are fiery comments that demand a response.

OK, there is one thing I tend to agree with: "We now have almost three generations of children who had no father who walked beside them, but a youth group instead" and as one homeschool representative responded, "Scott Brown and others make it sound as if we tend to abandon the youth during this time, turning them over to the influence of other teens and ungodly models more than to the influence of godly mentors and the family."

Regardless of where a person stands on this issue, the movement seems to be picking up steam. I attended the first D6 (Deuteronomy 6) conference in Dallas in September 2009 and have attended annually since. Frankly, I wanted to see where it was headed in regard to the FIC movement. Upon attending the past conference (2011), I was pleasantly surprised that there appeared to be an intentional strategic plan to include children and youth ministry juxtapositioned with family ministry. There were 2,000 - 3,000 people there. D6 also has its own family-friendly--"dads, moms and grandparents are the primary spiritual leaders in the lives of their students"--curriculum. Some of the attendees weren't overt FIC people, but you knew there was an undercurrent. The emphasis was on homes and families, and no one was going to argue against that. Also emphasized: dads being the head of the household and being responsible for the spirituality of their family. OK, still no problem. Also emphasized: parents being responsible for the education of their children. No debate here. (Homeschoolers tend to resonate with this thought at a level and involvement that others may not be as enthusiastically embraced.)

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