A Balanced Approach

Dan Lenington on September 11, 2014

Tightrope walker

As a youth pastor, I am interested in finding the most biblical and effective environment for the preparation of children and teens for a lifetime of service and outreach for the cause of Christ. Unfortunately, there are two extremes that each hinder this purpose in different ways. One extreme is what I will call the integration error, and the other is what I call the isolation error. The integration error permits children and teens to fully experience worldly influences without the constant reinforcement of a biblical worldview. The isolation error, on the other hand, seeks to remove children and teens from any interaction with the world for fear that they will be corrupted. Every family falls somewhere on the spectrum between these two sides. Some are much closer to one extreme or the other.

I was raised in a conservative family in a rural setting. We had few neighbors and only occasionally did I have a neighbor my own age. We also homeschooled for most of my grades. However, I had weekly contact with teens and kids at church and other activities. These were mostly Christian kids from stable families. On the side, my parents were involved in reaching out to children from difficult situations in two of the three churches we attended. However, it wasn't until I turned 15 that I got a full dose of what the world is like. I started a job at Wendy's and came face to face with underage smoking and drinking, promiscuity, frequent cursing, and rough attitudes. I was somewhat shocked to see how my peers in the world behaved. Rather than creating curiosity in me, it quickly turned me off to their lifestyle because I could see how empty and miserable they all were. God used this experience and my dissatisfaction with the spiritual tone in the two Christian schools I attended to push me toward youth ministry.

As I think about my experience and that of many other Christians, I'm reminded of the words of Christ. John 17:14-16 says, "I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." We could summarize by saying, "We need to be in the world but not of the world." We need to be in the world and interacting with the world so that we can be salt and light (Matt. 5:13-15), but if we become like the world, our salt has lost its savor and our light has been hid. Paul makes a similar statement in 1 Cor. 5:9-11, "I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat." Paul was commanding Christians to avoid spending time with Christians in sin but not to avoid the unsaved. Salt and light are only useful in places that need salt and light!

Many families struggle to find the proper balance between integration and isolation. In fact, the balance may be slightly different for each family. I know families that have been destroyed by public school and some that have been destroyed by over isolation which bred rebellion. I also know families that have survived public school and been salt and light there, and I have known homeschooled children that have thrown off their standards to run headlong into the world (these are not the norm, however). Each parent must find the proper balance for their family's individual needs through observation of their children and much prayer. My goal with the youth ministry here at Grace and Truth Bible is to provide a structured environment where teens and children can meet their peers and learn to be a witness in a closely supervised structure. We want to bring unsaved children and teens to church where they can be saved and discipled. We also want saved and growing children and teens to have an opportunity to be salt and light to their peers. This is why we have a two class structure for both the children and teen age group starting Oct. 1st. The teen Foundations class and the children's Bible Club classes are designed for unsaved or new believers, while the teen Disciples class and the children's Master Clubs classes are designed for saved and focused youth. As a youth shows evidence of salvation and a desire to grow spiritually, he is invited to join the advanced class where he can be challenged to grow in the Lord. The teen classes and the children's classes are combined for their respective game times and activities to provide a structured environment for our children and teens to learn how to be salt and light. We are excited about the great opportunity for balance this new structure will bring to our children's department!