FBC Buffalo: A Philosophy of Youth
The youth ministry at FBC strives to be God-centered and Biblical in all that we do. We recognize that there are no examples of “youth ministry” in the Bible, nor are there specific “youth group” instructions given in Scripture. The Bible describes the Church as whole and united, with different parts working together towards the same goal: God’s glory. If we are to have a youth ministry, it must operate side by side with other ministries towards the same end of the Church's edification. As a group, we desire to be fellow workers in building our Church into Christ's holy, loving, and obedient bride.
Our culture is backwards from the Biblical standard for youth. On the one hand, youth are neglected in terms of love, discipline, and responsible rearing. On the other hand, the childish qualities of youth are idealized and encouraged (rebellion, recklessness, immaturity through the college years, youth driven trends in popular culture). Children are broken up into different groups of age and interest, and treated as a separate subculture of society rather than true members of their parents’ culture. Our culture ignores and leaves its youth outside the circle of society, to their detriment. The Biblical model of a father and mother is hardly upheld, and even when there is a father and a mother, it is still rare for them to uphold their fatherly and motherly duties.
The Bible recognizes adults and children, not other demographic distinctions. The Bible gives authority and honor to adults, who are in turned expected to teach and nurture children on their way to becoming honored adults. That is our goal. We will maintain a youth ministry in order to minister to a real group that exists within the world we live, but not to reinforce a hard distinction between “youth” and “children.”
It is painfully obvious that God demands more than the world does of children and adults alike. We desire to reach towards God’s good model for us, without abandoning the youth around us. We wish to be a part of God’s redeeming work in the broken and lost subculture of youth, and we pray for His grace and guidance in doing so.
What our youth group is not:
We don’t view our Church as bubble wrap, with separate but proximate bubbles for youth, children, adults, seniors, etc. We pray and work towards a Church family with ministry that overlaps and people who are integrally connected to each other, with different gifts being shared from Christian to Christian. We seek the Spirit’s unity in diversity, displayed wonderfully in our shared Baptism (Galatians 3:26-29)
A parental surrogate.
Fathers and mothers are commanded to love and guide their children in every aspect of life. A child’s education in practical and spiritual matters lies at the feet of the parents. The Church shouldn’t swipe what God gives to parents, and parents shouldn’t pass off their God given duty to raise their children in love. The youth group is not a surrogate for rearing (Colossians 3:20-21, Ephesians 6:1-4), spiritual leadership (Deuteronomy 6:4-25), or discipline (1 Samuel.2:22-25, Proverbs 29:17).
A fun and games ministry.
Our focus is not to attract and sustain our ministry by being fun. That was not Jesus’ approach, and it yields insincere hearts and reflects leadership that is deceptive, unpastoral, or both.
However, we will enjoy our youth in the life God has given us in fear and awe of our Creator, and enjoy one another’s company in light of our revealed and shared treasure in Jesus Christ (Ecclesiastes 8:15, 11:9-10; 2 Corinthians 13:14).
What our youth group is:
Subordinate to the family.
The Christian family gets first priority. That means we prefer families within the Church and the Church family itself above our own endeavors as a youth group. We defer to parental authority on all matters of teaching and counsel. We instruct children to obey their parents in everything not contrary to God’s commands. Duties for youth members are not to conflict with family involvement and responsibility, or with important Church-wide functions.
What we are, continued:
The family’s helper.
We desire to encourage youth towards a respect for their parents, a fulfillment of their responsibilities, and a deep love for their Church family. We desire to help youth honor their believing parents. We desire to encourage Christian parents towards embracing their Biblical duty of nurturing their children in all aspects of life. We desire to reach the families of youth with unbelieving parents (1 Corinthians 7:13-17). We desire to reach our lost youth culture through discipling mature youth and welcoming visiting youth into our Church (1 Corinthians 9:23). We desire to foster an adoptive spirit within the Church. For the fatherless to find a father, and the friendless to find a friend within the Church we belong to (John 19:25-27). We desire to help bring together the different age groups of the church, not to push them further apart (1 Corinthians 1:10).
The youth aged person is:
Not distinguished primarily by years old. Our primary distinction is adult and non-adult, and we expect responsibilities of each to be met (1 Corinthians 13:11).
Expected to be on their way to early Biblical adulthood, not worldly upper- adolescence (Titus 2:1-8).
Treated with grace and love. Accepted as brothers and sisters in God's Church (1 Timothy 5:1-2).
Expected to receive grace with grace, and adopt the uniting attitude of Christ, serving the Church in humility (Philippians 2:1-18).
Taught the whole of Christian doctrine and spiritual matters to each child of God, not withholding anything deemed at ‘too high a level’ for youth. We find no warrant to do so in Scripture. Any Christian, no matter how young, can and should be entrusted with God’s promises and expected to care for them (2 Timothy 3:14-15; Psalm 22:9-10; Acts 2:38-39).
Encouraged and led alongside other youth members in perseverance and sanctification (James 1:2-4; Hebrews 10:19-24).
Our aim is not to build a giant youth enterprise, with our own factions within. The success of our youth ministry is not predicated on size, but on God being glorified in the Church family. We are a means to the Church’s fullness in Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23), a whole family, with Christian rearing and learning within individual families. In a broken world, we seek to be a ministry to those without Christian families and to be a link into the Church family—a ministry acting as a stepping-stone, not a substitute for family.
To the youth in Christian homes, we aim to be a helper for parents and a good support for the youth members themselves, including fellowship, counsel, Biblical training, service of the saints, and evangelism of their friends. Peers are free to fellowship and help each other as friends, but ultimate dependence in matters of teaching, rearing, and discipline is not peer-to-peer, or even child to pastor, but child to parent. Our hope and prayer is that our God will produce from our children mature Christian men and women from among our Church family, and that our ministry may be helpful in that.