Kyle Chatham has posted a helpful article about why his church ended their college service. He cites the following two reasons:
- It is much healthier for students to experience the intergenerational life of the body of Christ than to have their own service in isolation. Experiencing the whole ministry of a church while in college, not just a customized slice, better prepares students for a lifetime of church involvement.
- It is best for the rest of our congregation to draw on the passion and enthusiasm of these student-saints, as well as for these students to gain from the wisdom and discipleship of older believers.
I am happy to see the continual movement to bring all the church under the authority and accountability of those whom God has put in place (for He has indeed called men to this specific purpose). In an interesting move, Chatham states the following:
I respect many pastors who’ve led their churches to multiple services and sites, and I am not saying that those are wrong approaches. However, our ideal is gathering together as a local church in a single assembly.
Why doesn’t Kyle simply say that these are wrong approaches? Or at the least that they are unhelpful? I do not know the reasons, but I wish he had said as much. This statement hints of the pragmatism of the day, “Whatever works for you…” as if the guiding principle should be what generates results.
The problems that college-only services fail to deal with are their lack of accountability to the church elders and the perpetuation of “adultolescense”. When a young Christian man or woman is no longer under the direct authority of their parents, to whom do they report? Their ‘accountability group’? And equally as troubling is the perpetuation of the adolescent problems that plague the college generation. College groups are a manifestation of our cultural obsession with age-specific marketing: College students have their own issues that are unique to them that are unlike any other demographic. What is interesting is the inherent discounting of the ability of college students to incorporate themselves into the larger church and inform and strengthen them (as Chatham helpfully seeks to do, see point 2).
There once was a time that once a boy reached a certain age, he was considered a man, regardless of his abilities or not, and was called on to act like a man, in spite of his age. Certainly he would stumble and need the help of his elders (age-wise), but that was the process of entering manhood. Now, instead, young people are isolated and their specific, culturally generated problems are addressed as if solving them will be the silver bullet to help them in their spiritual walk with Christ. Certainly these should be addressed in some fashion, but one of the best ways to help a 19 year-old stop caring about his looks (and in turn finding his ‘identity’ in Christ) is to have him help out a 75 year-old widow who needs her lawn watered and mowed. When you see real problems, it makes you much less concerned about your petty ones.
This is what I wish was brought up in these discussions about multi-generational ministry. Even the word “multi-generational” is odd, the bible doesn’t seem to worry too much about “multi”, it assumes everyone contributes to each other, regardless of age, race, gender, or social-status. It’s possible that Chatham wouldn’t go as far as I would in stating college-only services (held in place of the main church service) is unhelpful, but I believe the biblical and societal evidence is quite contrary to college-only church-services.