Below is a portion of an email I sent to my friend Scott Brown who is a pastor from NC and also the leader of the National Center for Family Integrated Churches, www.ncfic.org. The issue that I wrote about was those claim that the Rabbis of Jesus time had youth groups and so should we.
I was reading your post on the NCFIC site today about those who claim that the Rabbis had youth groups and so should we. It seems from the last two verses of the Old Testament that one of the main purposes of John the Baptist in his ministry was to call fathers to repent of this very issue – giving the hearts of their children to others (human “experts”, Greeks) to mold. God says that if this turning of the hearts does not happen he will smite the earth with a curse. The Jews were cursed terribly as a nation. Those who did heed John’s call of repentance became the first disciples of Christ.
A study of the Gospel accounts reveals that the first disciples of Christ were part of large families. There are 3 sets of brothers in the 12. At least 3 fathers heeded the call to turn their hearts to their children and their families were incredibly blessed. Jonah had Peter and Andrew, Zebedee had James and John, and Alphaeus had Matthew, James, and Jude. Also, it is worth mentioning that the man who Christ said had no guile, Nathanael, was also identified with his father. Nathanael is also called Bartholomew which would be son of Talmai or Ptolemy. The Biblical pattern that is reaffirmed over and over again is that men disciple their sons and prepare them to be in ministry with Christ. Christ was not just some other Rabbi and He certainly was not a youth group leader. He was the goal of these fathers and because these fathers had the hearts of their sons, they could point them or even better take them by the hand and lead them to Christ.
Depending on your eschatology, you may also see this turning of the hearts as the main issue before Christ comes back. I believe that Malachi 4:5,6 also has a second Advent application. The way children obtain knowledge seems to be one of the main issues of history from the garden to the new heavens and new earth.
In this post I wanted to start the discussion on this website about how we make disciples in the church beginning with how we disciple or educate our children and young people. This question is one of the main threads woven through the entire fabric of the scriptures. Youth groups as a method of discipling our children and young adults simply do not fit the biblical pattern. More to come on youth groups and in general, education and discipleship.