I read an article this morning. It's main point was that when churches isolate/segregate certain demographics within the church through programs, or when certain demographics have programs that isolate/segregate them from the larger church, it becomes harder to actually be the church and build real community.
The problem is that it was titled "Is __________ killing the Church." That was not the main point being made, it was a sensationalist headline and one that turned at least half of the responses to it against it completely. Suddenly what is basically a singular story from an individual's moment of reconsidering the effects of a style of ministry was seen as another "Us vs Them" ideological issue to get up in arms about.
Seriously, the article wasn't all that deep in the first place, it didn't go beyond that one individual's "oh, hmmmm" moment. It didn't offer suggestions for integrating developmental needs with community life, and it didn't point to any of the things that cause certain parts of any ministry to be isolating/segregating, and it NEVER said that the church was dying.
So my rebuttal is as follows:
1. The Church is not dying. It just is not. What church is and how it functions is, like most other things, adjusting to a new paradigm. If you feel like something is hitting the church hard foundationally, it's just because new paradigms shake down old power structures and reform them. It'll be just fine, God's work has survived and thrived through paradigm shifts before. The people and the process just had to change. We can do that together. Which brings me to point 2.
2. The point of the actual text of the article is kind of a "well duh" for me, read the first paragraph I wrote here again and it should seem kind of obvious. We need to be able to be a diverse community where all are "in this together" regardless of differences. Yet, this was not a "well duh" for the author, this is still authentic experience, and that is important to respect.
3. "Us vs Them" and sensationalism kills that respect that is essential for dialogue, and thus for community. We're not in this together when we're turning someone's experience into an ideological viewpoint.
4. With that said, I would love to talk with the person who wrote the headline, so I can understand the choice they made and the experiences that lead them to that choice. Because nothing is cut and dry when it comes to what we do, there isn't this single "always right for everyone" way to do things. What is the "right way" is discerned in community, and will be different in some ways for just about every situation.
5. That's actually the value in not having much of how the "change these things" or any "these are the things that cause this" lists. Those lists will be slightly different for everyone who reads it, the blanket "how to" does not work. Yet, sometimes starting points are helpful. Which is why I just filled up facebook with this post.
6. We do need to think about what things in our church contribute to any group not interacting as fully as they could. We do need to see that from both the perspective of the community(church) and the perspective of the group that is "less connected." We need to be intentional about helping the whole community(church) see why what is may not be "best" and help everyone move forward together. This is slow discerning work, it changes and molds over time. What works right off the bat may not continue to work as even short periods of time pass, that though is the nature of community, the nature of church, the nature of God's work. And that what we're all up to, and we are "all in this together."
(This post was initially posted on FB without a link to the original article (which is from 2010 and why it's making the rounds today I'll never know), as though it was inspiration for this post, credit should be given. The original article can be found at http://www.christiancentury.org/blogs/archive/2010-02/youth-ministry-killing-church)