Total Church 14: children and young people

Continuing discussion of Chester and Timmis Total Church: a radical reshaping around gospel and community

Chapter 12 is on Children and Young People

Here Chester and Timmis turn their attention to youth work and offer a reorientation of ministry among young people shaped by their twin pillars of gospel and community.

The authors question whether ‘youth’ is actually a meaningful category and whether ‘youth work’ focused on young people as a distinct group will wither away. They say this because there is doubt that the majority of young people actually belong to a distinct sub-culture.

While they may attract numbers, studies from the States show the ineffectiveness of sugar coated youth activities; i.e. having a mad fun night of games all evening to attract kids and then have a short Bible talk. Their point is that in such popular models the ‘important stuff’ takes place in an unplanned ad hoc way around the fringes and bears little actual fruit as most simply walk out on church as they become adults.

The authors argue real fruit is not measured in attendance but in terms of mature disciples. Lives are changed by the gospel; the Bible is key and the means is sharing lives.

Rather than a youth centred approach, the authors argue for one that integrates young people into the everyday community and mission of the church. A key to this are leaders older than teenagers but younger than parents who have a commitment to young people and model gospel living.

The theological point here is that the church is a diverse body of believers and that young people as much as anyone else should be part of that diversity. Part of discipleship is an equipping young people to be an active part of church life – they are evangelised within the community, they contribute to the community and are included intentionally in the community. This is neither ‘youth work’ or ‘youth church’. Young people are servants, believers, and learners as much as anyone else.

And so Total Church argues for the integration of children into the church communiy with all the difficulties that entails, rather than building in a generational gap of children / adult church. Since the church is the household of God,  the goal is mutual accountability between the generations.

Again I find a lot of this good – the church I go to is a small community and maybe as a result the young people are very highly involved, including ministry activities with adults. And the ones I can speak for love church …

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