There is a crisis. Christian youth are rapidly leaving evangelical churches for the world. This well-recognized disaster has been the topic of significant discussion in recent years for both church leaders and modern new media. DIVIDED follows young Christian filmmaker Philip Leclerc on a revealing journey as he seeks answers to what has led his generation away from the church. Traveling across the country conducting research and interviewing church kids, youth ministry experts, evangelists, statisticians, social commentators, and pastors, Philip discovers the shockingly sinister roots of modern, age-segregated church programs, and the equally shocking evidence that the pattern in the Bible for training future generations is at odds with modern church practices. He also discovers a growing number of churches that are abandoning age-segregated Sunday school and youth ministry to embrace the discipleship model that God prescribes in His Word.

We saw the statistics done by researcher George Marner indicating back in 2002 that around two-thirds of young people are going to leave the church. That's a shocking statistic. Recent New York Times article asks, why are so many people in their 20s taking so long to grow up? Kids are flocking out of the church. America is on the same track as the European Union.

Whether you want to go at the alarming high of 88% or the biased low of 40%, it's a crisis and everybody knows it. Why are young adults leaving the church? We're teens becoming fake Christians. We had some wrong thinking about youth work for a long time, a number of years, that fun and games and flashiness somehow brought transformation, we're realizing it really doesn't. Are we losing teens even before graduation?

The issue of young adults dropping out of church has been a hot topic for several years, calling into question the long-term effectiveness of youth ministry. I ask myself, if 80% of these kids are walking away from the faith, and have in the 80s and the 90s, how many of my children do I want to see walk away and go to hell? Which four of my five children do I want to lose? We're losing about 40% of them by the end of middle school and another 45% by the end of high school. In other words, we're losing them way before college.

88% of the children raised in evangelical homes leave church at the age of 18 never will to return. I don't need statistics to tell me that my generation is abandoning the faith. I've watched it happen with my own eyes. The sad reality is, and it seems my generation as a whole has no respect for the church. They don't respect God's word and they don't want to grow up.

I've got serious questions. What inspires kids to turn their backs on the church. What gives him such contempt for Christian maturity and responsibility? Is it an issue with the church, the kids, the parents? Scripture says to train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

What part of this verse did we miss? As a filmmaker, I set out to find answers, and what I found out shocked me, and it saddened me. But I also discovered some hope, in what may seem like the most obvious place of all. My name is Philip LeClair. This is my journey.

I grew up in a church structured with programs, and went to Sunday school like most everybody else. Every Sunday was the same scramble for the family to get to church on time. I had some great Sunday school teachers and I learned a lot of things. But for the most part, it was more of a time for me to have fun and be with my friends. Afterward we'd go through the regular church service and church would wrap up and we'd go home.

That was basically church for me. Then I turned 13, which happened to be the age for me to graduate to our church's youth group. It was then that my dad really started paying attention to the teens coming out of the youth ministry. They had great programs for teens, the typical games and fun stuff. It's usually mixed with a Bible teaching of some sort.

But something really concerned my dad about the teens he saw coming out of the ministry programs, Which left him asking, is this program designed to teach the teens in the church helping or harming them? For one of the first stops of my journey, I headed to one of the largest Christian gatherings of youth in the state. Just held over an hour from my hometown of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. I'm here to talk to kids about their experience in youth group. Do any of you interested in going on camera?

Or doing a film on youth ministry? On a scale from 1 to 10, how effective would you say your particular youth group was in terms of sharing the gospel and reaching the teens? For reaching the teens I'd say on a scale of one to ten, as far as that church it would have been like a four. Eventually my parents pulled me out of the youth program. Of course I was disappointed.

A lot of my friends were there and at the time I thought my parents were being unreasonable. But I went along mostly because I didn't have much of a choice. What was it about your last youth semester that brought him in? He was just a really cool guy. He could really relate to a lot of people because he was younger.

He was really hyper and he was just a great teacher. I mean, he mentored you. I know a couple times he got me out of school just to go play a video game with him. Youth group every weekend, just get to hang out, talk to people. Like, really get to relate to people about it.

And, yeah, like, youth trips and missions and whatnot. To be honest I think there's a time to get serious but there's also a time to mess around. A lot of these kids I've noticed like in my youth group they just go to church and go through the motions They just clap along with the worship songs, they listen to the message, you know. It's more of a club for them. Just a bunch of us go to Sunday school and hang out and talk and stuff.

We just hang out, you know, not hanging out at church, you know, but we'll hang out and then we'll go to church, you know, and do church things, but still have fun and bring youth in by doing fun things, you know, in the community and stuff. I guess you could say that not being part of the regular youth activities took a little getting used to. I mean, to me and my friends, youth group was church. And not being part of it was seen by some in the church as judgmental, or as if my family was abandoning the church. I don't think it was an easy decision for my dad to make.

As I grew older, I saw something that saddened me. I watched as many of my own friends drift away from God. It didn't happen overnight. By the time they left home for college, many of them had actually walked away from the faith. I like to expose our kids to the same stuff and culture, like what our world is about today.

A local Christian concert started to open my eyes. Kids are being told that the fun music of the world can bring them closer to God. Just to get exposed to other things as far as Christian culture would go. The concert was amazing. I've never felt this way before.

And what I've known myself as to be a screw-up, and I'm gonna change that tonight. Um, it's probably one of the best that I've ever met you so far. This one was like off the charts. My back hurts, my mohawk is flat, and my voice is almost gone. And we have to shave our head again tomorrow.

That means something right there. I think we all know my generation needs to abandon the world and plead to Christ. But yet here, I see no distinction between worldliness and Christianity. It occurred to me, if the Church is allowing worldliness in here, and calling it Christian, how can I trust the Church not allowing the brokenness of the world and elsewhere, and calling it Christian? I see an emphasis on music and entertainment, but no real emphasis on Bible teaching.

And if the Bible is taught at all, it's usually for a very short time. What came as a sort of shock to me was that in the process of interviewing local teens, I found that almost every kid I spoke to rejected the belief of a young earth as stated in Genesis. A young earth or an older? A young earth or an older? It's obviously millions of years old.

Billions of years old. I think we have an... Can there be a middle-aged Earth? I would say probably about millions of years old. But it was definitely created in six days.

Millions of years. The Bible is its figurative language. It's not literal. I don't think the Bible cares to answer that question. That's one of the questions of this day.

But you know what we tend to do in our churches, our Sunday School and with our kids? Oh, don't worry about that, but trust in Jesus. To be stubborn and not answer that directly, my response is whether or not it was created literally in six days or crossed millions of years, Jesus still died on the cross for me. But see, we need to worry about that because that's a question if we can't answer. It shows the next generation that we just have this blind faith and we don't really believe this book and it's not real history anyway.

Mature Christ followers disagree on this topic, you know, like they're all Bible believing Christians but you can disagree on this topic, you know, some believe it was made in six days and others believe, you know, and sort of God directed evolution over, you know, millions of years. If you can't trust this part of the Bible here at the beginning and you're told you can use man's ideas to reinterpret this, we don't have to take it as written, well, Wait a minute, what about the rest of the Bible? Why are you telling me to take that as authoritative? In the process of co-authoring Already Gone, Ken Ham recently teamed up with statistician and market researcher, Britt Beamer, for a significant research project to find out why kids are leaving the church. I went to Orlando to meet with Mr.

Beamer personally about his research. Welcome to the Beamer's. How you doing? Come on in, come on in. You know, when I look at the company, you know, when you've interviewed nine mega-sumers, we've done almost 2, 000 different studies.

I've probably studied every market in America as a significant market. Did we lose these young people when they went to college? Because the premise has always been, well, when these kids are at home and they're under parental control, they're rock-solid Christian citizens. But when they get to college and they get out of an uncontrolled environment, into a totally uncontrolled environment, then all of a sudden they say, boy, I can do what I want. I was surprised by the fact that so many kids had fallen away even before they had gotten to college, but the shocker was is the number of people in middle school and in fifth and sixth grade in middle school was almost equal to high school.

That was what was shocking to me. About 43% of them we lost in middle school and grade school and 45% of them we lost in high school and 10% when they got to college. Ninety percent of people basically had so many doubts before they ever got to college, you could drive a semi-trip through it. What's happening that leaves such huge doubts in the hearts of kids? Clearly, whatever we're missing is happening while they're still at home, with their parents.

And as the title of their book indicates, long before they even left the church, most of my generation was already gone. I heard about two youth pastors in Tacoma, Washington that I knew I had to interview. Carl DeArbin and Jamie Davis have been on quite a journey of their own. So what's your experience in youth ministry? Where have you guys been?

What have you done? I was the classic youth group kid. I went to youth group growing up, had a great relationship with my youth pastor and a lot of respects. He was kind of a hero and a big influence in helping to push me towards doing youth ministry. I met my wife because of youth ministry.

My story was basically when I started going to Bible school after I got out of the military, I started asking some questions. And I started seeing some of the results of the youth ministry and youth activity and asking, why are these kids not walking with Christ anymore? Why are they not glorifying God in their behavior? That's what frightens me so much about having done so many of these kinds of events, where we have attracted the masses, just because I just don't know. And the end results, again, we put a lot of money into making these events, with very little fruit to show for it.

I mean, we had a good time, and it was fun. I still go to bed that night wondering, what was that for? With the exception of having smashed watermelons like Gallager, what did we accomplish tonight? Author Brent McCracken, a self-described hipster, age 27, recently authored his first book about ups and downs of being hip in the church. You just wrote this book, Hipster Christianity, and it's getting a lot of press.

What have you seen? Writing this book, what drove you to this conclusion? I think the role of hip in youth ministry has unfortunately been rather large in the last few decades. And maybe going back to the 60s and 70s when youth ministry really started to develop and the youth culture at large and culture became this huge force. I think youth ministry doesn't necessarily have a lot of biblical support in terms of specific verses that talk about, like, you shall create a youth group.

I mean, there's a lot of things in the Bible that aren't clearly spelled out. Ideally, the relaying of scripture and biblical knowledge from parent to child is something that should happen naturally. I think that would be preferable to having a youth pastor or someone else fill that role. But I think a lot of parents maybe don't feel equipped. They don't have Bible training.

They've never been to seminary, and maybe youth pastors have, and they feel like those people are the experts, and I want them to be the ones to really teach my children. Is the point of youth pastors to cover for parents who don't feel equipped? And are youth pastors more qualified to train children than parents? I must say, that's a lot of trust we place on youth pastors. It seemed like a logical step to go straight into the gurus of modern youth ministry, So I traveled to Chicago for the Youth Ministry event of the year, hosted by Simply Youth Ministry and Group Magazine.

Why are you guys here today? What's going on? We are here for the youth ministry conference. The packaged approach did not change much. The same fun, the same games.

Hey, interested in saying a couple things on camera? Good. Youth ministry yourself? What would you say is the most successful way to bring kids in? Honesty.

Honesty. I don't know if that gets them in the door. I mean sometimes some kids you know it it takes the big showy you know MTV generation to get them in the door but whatever it is that gets them in the door and in you know in that same vicinity of you just being honest. See this generation is crying out for something authentic. We are gonna have to think how can we present the gospel in a context that's relevant to their lifestyle.

They don't want to know about what the third toe on Daniel's vision was about. They don't give a rip. They want to know how to deal with what they face tomorrow. So we're going to have to present forms of the gospel that are highly relevant, highly relational. If they see us being real and authentic, that's going to draw them even more because that's what they're not getting anywhere in the world.

I know what the modern church often means by being authentic. It's just to be yourself. But just being yourself doesn't fill the longing for something real, for truth. My business mentor, Trent Jacobson, has often defined authenticity for me in regards to branding. We're all yearning for authenticity.

And when I'm talking about authenticity, authenticity is what's real. The church has destroyed its credibility with young people. We know in consumer branding that The fastest way to break trust is to promise something real and then deliver something fake. Building trust really is the process of making promises and keeping promises. And the value of that trust is directly proportional to the uniqueness of the promise and the meaningfulness of that promise and our ability to keep it.

The reason we put so much emphasis in building trust is because people put value in that which they trust and they put no value in that which they don't. Is it possible that the church has promised truth but delivered foolishness instead? Is a craving for something real honestly being filled with real truth and real relationships? At the conference, I listened to youth ministry guru Doug Fields. I interviewed speaker Walt Mueller, veteran youth leader Jeannie Mayo, and Rick Lawrence, editor of Group Magazine, all champions of youth ministry practices.

I was amazed to find One concern that surfaced is a consistent frustration with everyone I talked to. You cannot out-impact a parent. Even the best youth pastor in the world can't out-impact a parent. So that presents a problem for youth pastors because they have to work in partnership with parents. There is no, should we?

You have to. Because if you don't, if you shut down that outlet then you're basically saying I'm going to have very little impact in kids lives. The family is the place where spiritual nurture takes place. I think we need to admit that there's been a problem with youth ministry over the last couple of years. Youth pastors themselves would say one of their biggest challenges is parents who themselves don't see their discipling role in their kids' lives as primary, or they see its importance, but they don't know what to do.

So often they're offloaded, their kids, to kind of be the service providers for their faith development. So that's a frustration for a lot of youth pastors today. We all know that this youth culture is the most unparented we've ever seen in America. You know, they're parented by media, by technology, but not usually by their parents. I was stunned to find that at the Youth Ministry Conference, the biggest frustration here seemed to be that parents won't get involved.

When you look at the family, right, that's where discipleship and nurturing takes place. Unfortunately, we live in a world now where Half of families have suffered through divorce. And so the church has to be the family. Derwin Gray pastors a church that involves teens beyond the fifth grade in the meeting of the church. Every ministry context is different.

At Transformation Church, where I serve as lead pastor, Our biblical philosophy with students is that they are a part of the church. Students do not need to be segregated from the church as a whole, but they must be integrated into the church. I think it's a great thing in that it's not new, it's biblical. I don't want to be a poster board for this way of church and the other way of church. I've been in relationships where family church and every other church is wrong and I'm like dude You just you just you just cannot do that Chuck Beaumont has been involved in a church plan where they fundamentally Restructured the programs of the church around local small groups The bottom line was when we looked at scripture and then we looked at the church, like if you just read scripture, you would not come up with what we had.

We do youth ministry in the context of community. We don't have a separate age stage ministry. You see youth throughout the scriptures, but it's the parents' job to disciple. So if we have a role in discipleship for kids, ideally it would be working with the parents to help them, right? That's ideal.

And it's not what every church needs to do. I mean, trust me on that. Like, it's, you know, but it's uniquely what we're called to do in our context So, you know It initially makes sense to group kids by age because they all seem to be around the same place in their learning journey Need to be learning specific things at specific times There was something that Chuck bohmar said and others had said too. I just couldn't shake He basically said that if you used scripture as the basis for your church, you would never end up with what we call youth ministry. But if he's right, then this philosophy of education and discipleship that is so prevalent in the church today, came from somewhere other than the Bible.

Of course, youth group is very modern, but we've had Sunday School for a while. I started to research this, visited university libraries and even went into the Library of Congress where I pulled out some of the primary source documents, and what I found out at first was fairly straightforward. Robert Rakes is seen by most as the father of the Sunday School movement. After inheriting his father's magazine, the Gloucester Journal, At age 21, he began his career as editor of the social reform magazine, championing prison reform, attempting to improve prisoners by educating them. After his efforts in prison reform failed, he then turned his attention to the children, who flooded the streets from the factories on Sunday.

Again, he attempted to improve these children through education. The idea was to instruct kids who weren't able to get a real education. The teaching included at times, reading, writing, math, and religious instruction. But he also discovered something surprising and fascinating. As Sunday schools turned into a movement and gained in popularity, there were pastors and Christian leaders who saw error in what was happening.

They spoke out strongly against it. Reverend Thomas Burns said, Be that as it will. I repeat it again. My great objection to Sunday schools is that I am afraid they will in the end destroy all family and religion, and whatever has the tendency to do this I consider is my duty to guard you against. Is what we're seeing today a direct fulfillment of Burns' prediction?

Scott Brown is an author and pastor who influenced my dad's thinking many years ago. I sat down with him to discuss this latest book called, A Weed in the Church, which is a thorough biblical evaluation of modern youth ministry and also a detailed history of its origins. That fathers would relinquish their responsibility to teach their children and give it to the Sunday school. But you have to understand what Rakes was doing was completely outside the church. Over time though, because the movement was so massive, the church ended up adopting the basic principle.

There were lots of stepping stones that got us to the place where we segregated youth into their own cultures. There were lots of forces that brought that about. What Rakes did was really different from the modern Sunday school moment. It's a really distant relative. It goes way back to the Greeks.

It goes back to Plato. Plato believed that children should be taken away from their parents. Plato believed actually that children shouldn't even know their parents in the perfect republic. You've got Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who is one of the most famous educational revolutionaries in history. G.

Stanley Hall, you know, came in and really established a whole other stepping stone. When you get to the 20th century, you have John Dewey, who's called the father of modern education. He was an atheist, he was a hater of the Bible, he was a pragmatist philosopher, he was a signer of the Humanist Manifesto, and he embraced this whole messianic view of the state, that the state is going to rescue the children through education. So he spent his life building this age-segregated school system. The church went and adopted that age-segregated system.

That's why today when you walk the halls of public schools you see classrooms on each side and when you walk down the hallways in churches you see the exact same pattern of education. We adopted this model, this factory model and brought it into our views of education so that we have this notion that schooling is when we take the product, the child, and put them through a series of processes and they come out the product. This is where school to work came from hundreds of years ago. This is not some new idea from educational bureaucrats, but it's always driven the government school system. And the church, being uncritical and not being deliberate, I think embraced that idea and created, again, similar Sunday school curricula that's built on different age groups.

We have been using the segregated approach with programs and youth ministry in the church my entire life. It's always seemed like such a normal and necessary part of the church. But understanding the roots of this methodology and paganism changes everything for me. It goes back to around 380 BC, when the Greek philosopher Plato wrote it in Greek literature, the idea that children must be separated from their parents. Jean-Jacques Rousseau expanded on the Platonic thesis, saying that the education of children is more important to the state than to their fathers.

Robert Riggs promoted a social reform program called Sunday School for street children. G. Stanley Hall applied Darwinian evolution to child development theory, codifying the modern concept of adolescence. John Dewey fathered modern education, institutionalizing the age segregated classroom environment. Are these pagan seeds of division planted over the past several thousand years, now bearing their fruit in our churches?

What the modern church doesn't understand is that the promoters of age-segregated education were all men who were at war with God. If the church adopts Athens, the church will become like Athens. And that's what's happened to the church today. I traveled to Houston, Texas to talk to Dr. Vody Bockham about what the scripture actually says about discipling youth.

Dr. Bockham, good to see you. Good to see you, man. Thanks for coming. Simply, we don't have any age-graded ministries, and we do that on purpose.

We have an emphasis on family discipleship and equipping families to do what God's called them to do. The issue is we start with we have to get man to respond to God. That's our goal. Therefore, whatever makes man respond is appropriate. That's the wrong starting point.

When it comes to being innovative and trying to reach the culture and doing things that are not found in the scripture, trying to worship God in ways that God has not told us to worship him, then our innovation becomes dangerous. For example, the great example of this in the Bible is Uzzah. The Philistines have captured the ark and they've taken it away. They send the ark back. Now the ark is coming back and it's being carried in and it's falling down.

Uzzah sees the ark falling down and he wants to do something good. He loves the ark. He loves Israel. He wants to rescue the ark from falling onto the dirt and he reaches out and grabs the ark in a way that God has not expressly told Israel to touch the ark, and God kills Him. Is it possible the crisis we're seeing in the Church today is a form of God's judgment on the church?

For reaching out its hand in the sense doing something completely against the command of God to solve a problem with youth? So what you're saying is the scriptures are binding and they don't leave us an excuse. So Philip, we don't believe that the church has the freedom to go invent itself. It needs to go to God. You know, the apostles were authoritative, they were inspired.

What they did was inspire and we should emulate them. Paul said, we have no other pattern, follow my pattern. So what were the patterns in the New Testament? They were always age-integrated and they were age-segregated. We should follow that pattern.

Scripture has a lot to say about whether ministry should be age-segregated or not. There is an authoritative, binding testimony upon the Church. It's the Word of God, and the Word of God alone. So what is that example in Scripture? What does it look like?

All the meetings of the Church, Old and New Testament, are age-integrated. In the Ephesian Church and the Colossian Church, The children were right there in the meeting of the church. The Apostle Paul in his letter addresses the children specifically, right along with the parents, this whole body. He does the same thing in the Colossian church. It illustrates men taking younger men into their lives, older women, discipling younger women in the church.

It's organic. And it's definitely not programmatic. And it's absolutely not age-segregated. One might say, well, they weren't dealing with the same issues that we face today as a culture. Youth ministry is a way for us to speak to the crying world, needy world, in need of direction and spiritual leaders.

God's patterns are trans-cultural. They work in every culture, because they're from God. All people have the same sin nature, But God's word is true in every culture. And God has designed His church to become His people in a corrupt and pagan world. You guys worship together as families on Sunday.

And you do that because of why? I do that because I see in the scriptures, from the Old Testament to the New, in the Old Testament you find the assembly of the believers, the Jews. It was men, women, children, sometimes suckling babes. In the New Testament, you find Jesus, for instance, in the Gospels, having his disciples when the children wanted to come and hear him teach and to be around him say, get outta here. And he said, suffer the little children, forbid them not to come into me for such is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

And I just see that I think of the modern-day churches how a lot of times you'll come to the back door to come into the sanctuary and an usher will tell you, I'm sorry but your children cannot come in here. I was inspired by Pastor Houston's love for the children in his congregation and his desire to reach them the way he saw in Scripture. Not with programs, but entire households coming together with the rest of the church body each Sunday. Well, the Bible has a very clear pattern in the Old Testament and the New of young people being, number one, in the worship of the community of faith with their parents. Where we go to Deuteronomy 6, where we go to Psalm 78, where we go to the book of Proverbs, where we go to Ephesians chapter six, where explicitly we see the scriptures teaching parents to communicate the truth to their children, to do it on an ongoing basis.

When you rise up, when you lie down, when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, one generation teaching another generation, we see this over and over and over again. Children, obey your parents and the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and your mother, which is a first commandment with a promise that it may be well with you and you may live long in the land. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. It is absolutely clear that parents have that responsibility.

So, to learn more about this, I headed to Colorado to meet with Kevin Swanson, radio show host and church leader, who focuses specifically on effective Christian discipleship in the home. I was desperate. I was so desperate, I went to the Word of God. I looked up children in the concordance of the Word of God and found Ephesians 6. And it turns out Paul doesn't have much to say about youth groups.

There's these verses, these key verses, Ephesians 6, 1 to 4. Very simple. What we do is we stand up and we say, fathers, bring your children up in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord. Fathers, you're responsible. Tag, you're it, man.

We were here to equip you, to encourage you, to do whatever it takes, but man, you're it." And then we turn to the children and say, honor him, listen to him, follow him. The reason that the faith is falling apart is we don't have men who love God with their heart, soul, mind, and strength enough to teach their children God's word as they sit in their house, as they walk by the way, as they rise up, as they lie down. If they loved God with their heart, soul, mind, and strength, they would disciple their children whom they loved to the God they love. There's gotta be more love for God here. It comes down to a man standing at the cross of Jesus Christ and seeing the blood drip from the hands of the Savior who died for that man.

And if he understands that love man, he's going to go home and he's going to love God. And he's going to love his children. He's going to disciple his children to the God he loves. We have direct commandments in the scriptures everywhere that men are supposed to teach and train their own children. So we have gone with a plan B.

Do you see that? And you can pour money into it, man-hours into it, you can give your life for it, but it's plan B. It isn't the plan that God recommended and commanded. So even if there's some success in a youth group, it still doesn't make it biblical. And if it's not biblical, it's not right.

What I'm seeing is that the problem isn't just what's happening in the church. The problem is what isn't happening in Christian homes. It seems Christian parents have been negligent in carrying out their duties to disciple their own children. All right, so we've got the fathers teaching at home. They're doing their job, instructing their children in the way of the scriptures.

But what's wrong with continuing on with ministry as well? There's actually a huge movement in the church toward that to maintain a segregated ministry and Try to activate fathers But it's like it's mixing oil and water It's mixing the ways of the world with the ways of God and that always produces bad fruit well, Well, we're thankful that there really is a resurgence of equipping of fathers to play their roles. At the same time, if you continue to do something that's foreign to Scripture, you'll just continue to corrupt the church. That's one of the greatest dangers of youth ministry. It has literally turned men's attention away from their real duties and has given them an alternative, an easy alternative for disobedience.

And when it becomes as popular as it has become, it's so easy for men to fall back on that and say, because the Church authority says this is acceptable and spiritual and the way that things have always been done, well I'm just being a good Christian by going along with it. And so it's discipling men in the wrong direction. I had assumed that the quote-unquote radical youth ministries were the ones that were failing. The ones that were nothing but crazy fun and games. But while rethinking everything, I met a youth pastor who asked to remain anonymous in order to protect the reputations of the families in his church.

That focuses on Christ and a very sober approach to scripture and elevation of the Lord God. Not one of these crazy youth pastors that pushes the limits of what parents in society would call youth activities, but very conservative and very intent on strengthening the home. After seven years of youth ministry with the graduating class this year, probably 20% make a solid profession of faith. And the other 80 are either on the fence or have turned their back on God. And my heart breaks because what did I do wrong with the other 80%?

If even the most diligent attempts to run youth ministry programs with serious and godly content are ineffective, it seems to affirm my growing understanding that no matter how you do it, conducting age-segregated programs goes against Scripture and simply doesn't work. When I became a dad, realizing that these kids wanted to hang out with me rather than their own parents, wanting to do activities with me and be hanging out with the cool guy instead of wanting to hang out with their dad. And that really struck my heart because I wanted my son, I wanted to be a hero in my son's life. I wanted to be the one that he comes to and ask hard questions. Yeah, I've had parents approach me and say, you really need to meet with my kid.

Okay, what's going on? And they'll lay out the situation and my question would be, Okay, I'll be glad to meet with your kid, but before I do, tell me, what did you say to your kid about that so I can make sure that I'm working in concert with you and not working against you?" And jaws hit the ground. And I'll say, well, what did you say to your kid? Well, I haven't actually talked to him about it yet. Oh, really?

Okay. I believe that the view that the youth group is a necessary part of the church is the exact manifestation of the tradition mindset that the Reformation fought against. Boyd Dillinger was once a youth pastor himself, but now lives in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and the pastor of a family integrated church, a church without formal age stage or life stage programs, which brings the entire congregation into worship together. After being a full-time youth pastor for five years, successful by youth ministry standards, I look back and realize I believe I did more harm to families than I ever imagined. And I see that more as I look back because I was usurping the authority of parents, especially fathers, by having their children's hearts turned towards me with their permission.

And I look back and I wish I could go back and do it all over. I can't. But today, I can make a difference more with young people and the lives of young people through the biblical standard of fathers turning their hearts towards their children. I don't question the heart of most youth pastors, youth leaders. They're there because I believe most of them love children, they love young people.

They want to see them reached. The problem is how we're doing that. And what we have to go back to is what does the Bible say? There is something fundamentally wrong with the church's drive to say, we can do a better job at raising your children than you can. And God has appointed fathers to lead their children, not for someone else to come and do it just because they've had a college degree or some seminary training.

That does not qualify someone to all of a sudden become the spiritual leader of your family. Parents are the only ones who have the proper tools. For example, children need nurture, but they also need correction. That kind of biblical correction falls within the purview and the responsibility of the parent. The church does not wield the rod in the child's life.

Only the parent does. And the Bible says that that is a primary tool in the correction and shaping of children. I never really saw this before. Maybe there are some things in life a father just can't delegate, like loving his wife or loving his children. I think it's quite clear God gives the responsibility for training kids to the moms and dads, not the church.

And the parents delegating, outsourcing that responsibility to the church, inadvertently works to separate children from their parents and from the rest of the church. But not everyone has a family, especially in this day and age. See, the best of the problem, though. The fathers aren't doing their jobs. The families and the communities, they're not doing their jobs.

Isn't the church filling that void that the families have failed to do? Isn't that the job of a youth minister in a sense? The answer is we equip fathers to do that work, because that's who God commanded to do it. So let's raise up a new generation of fathers who are willing to obey God in that area. Not offload it to somebody that the Bible doesn't even speak about.

Let's give it to the one that God gave it to. God gives youth far, far more than a youth minister. In fact, the Bible doesn't really know anything about youth ministers. There's nothing in scripture that indicates there ever was an office in the church for youth ministers. One of the tragic effects of separating youth into their own subculture is that it creates diverse, generational cultures within a church instead of one body.

It actually destroys one of the most wonderful principles of the gospel, and that is that God brings all people together. He brings all ages together. He brings all genders together. He brings all races together. He brings the rich and the poor together.

He brings the wise and the foolish together. That's what God does. But doesn't God say to take care of the orphans and the widows? And isn't that the job, what they think they're doing? They're taking care of a knee they see in the culture.

Well, what's wrong with that is that that's not what Scripture pictures. But what scripture does picture is that there's a family, there's a church, and in that church is a vast array of gifts and relationships that are perfect for the fatherless child. If you don't have a father, come to the Church of Jesus Christ and you'll have many fathers. Come to the Church of Jesus Christ and you'll have many brothers, many sisters, many aunts and uncles in the faith, many grandfathers in the faith. When you see a lost generation uncared for, You've got fathers in these houses, in these neighborhoods, in these workplaces.

They don't care about that lost generation, but they ought to and they ought to invite them into their homes like Job did and said, tear my arm off if I don't have the fatherless at my table and eat a morsel of my food. If a child is in an environment where there is no stability in a home. The last thing you need to be put in is something that is more unstable which is a group of peers. You can't just say let's just pull youth ministry back and you've got to in turn create the right solution which is equipping fathers, exhorting fathers to lead their families and create an environment at church, which currently does not exist in most churches, where that is possible. So if you got rid of youth ministry and said, we're going to do it with all these kids, let the fathers lead their families.

And for those who don't have families or fathers attending, put them in your family. And here's what's so dangerous about youth ministry. It's an environment that creates an opportunity for the children's hearts to be turned towards either the youth pastor or other youth workers or their peers, their boyfriends, their girlfriends, it creates that kind of environment. Almost the hearts of the fathers turn toward the children and the children to the fathers and youth ministry does by default and by its design does not do that. A lot of youth leaders without a job.

I don't think they'll be unemployed. I think their ministry focus will change. Listen, there's a lot of fathers out there who need to be exhorted, who need to be trained, who need to have an environment. I don't think they'll be unemployed. I think they have their hands full coming alongside fathers saying, listen, God has called you to lead your family.

If we just get out of our minds that the professional way is not the way to do it, it's not what we see in scripture. I started this journey with a thousand questions, and while there are still many things I'm not sure of, some things seem pretty clear. God didn't ordain youth ministry. He didn't create Sunday school. He did create the church.

And He did create the family. And he gave them both jobs to do. I resigned officially my last day here was two months ago. What's the specific thing that you saw that made you both make a decision to step out of youth ministry? The scriptures and the utter lack of evidence anywhere in scripture that youth ministry was even there, that it's recommended, that it was even thought of.

There's zero pattern in opening up the scriptures and discovering that from Genesis to Concordance that there is zero. Zero. So when I started asking questions, no one seemed to be giving me any answers. So I started reading and listening and doing a lot of research. And I came to the conclusion that, okay, the question I asked, is this biblical?

Are we doing, why is the church laid out like this? And I've seen the results, but it was being exposed to certain authors, certain speakers that first started to play with my mind. And when I first started reading this stuff, I'll be honest with you, I did not react well. I went down this road initially kicking and screaming because it was very counter-cultural to everything I had been doing, to everything that I had thought to be true. For every one of their arguments against traditional, what we call traditional youth ministry, I could not biblically come up with an argument against what they were saying, as both a dad and as a pastor, to say, how can I watch this?

Seeing the results, I've done this now in four states. This is the fourth state and the results are very similar. How can I continue to lead a ministry like this, knowing what I know and knowing what the end results are going to be, how can I allow my kids to to be a part of that? My message to fathers is a simple one and that is that God has given you an unbelievable gift. The gift of investing into the life of your children and your children's children and somehow somebody has convinced us that the best thing that we can do with that gift is to pass it on to someone else.

I got a vision. Man, we're not going to see men leading their families. We're not going to see the faith salvaged, alright? We're not going to rebuild the family. We're not going to rebuild fatherhood unless we do something radically different.

My plea to pastors is trust the Word. It is sufficient. We will stand before God, and when we stand before God, we don't want to answer with, do you see how well I helped you out by grabbing a hold to the things that fallen men had placed in the culture. In my quest for answers, my journey has taken me around the country, crisscrossing America. But I discovered that the solution was right in front of me, and far simpler than I had imagined.

Looking back, I can see the wisdom and boldness of my own father in pulling me out of these programs. And I have also discovered fathers all across America who have had the courage to do the same thing, and churches and pastors that instead of modern programs are using the pulpit and their own life examples to train fathers how to disciple their own children. A man stood up in the congregation and he said, Mr. Washer, if I do these things that I know are right, My church will kill me. And I looked at him and I said, then die.

Philip, many years ago I was on a very similar journey asking a lot of the same questions, except I was a church leader. And it occurred to me that the structure of ministry that I was promoting was contrary to scripture and that it was harming the next generation and dividing the church. And I realize that those things that we were trusting in had failed us. The crux of the matter is that progressively over the last two hundred years the Church has set aside the sufficiency of Scripture for the discipleship of the next generation. And what you've been seeing is the devastation that has resulted from that as the church has abandoned the principles for the training of the next generation.

What's it going to take? Another lost generation? Isn't it time we look past modern tradition and study God's word again, daring to abandon the broken inventions of man, and instead, obey his plan for reaching our youth. Isn't it time we structured our churches and family as God prescribes, reunited, not divided? Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh you