Out of Context: Kara Powell
Is it time to welcome kids and youth back into the center of church life?

From "Is the Era of Age Segregation Over?" an interview with Kara Powell in the current issue ofLeadership.

"[The church] realized in the 1940s that we were not offering teens enough focused attention. So what did we do? We started offering them too much. All of a sudden churches had adult pastors and youth pastors, adult worship teams and youth worship teams, adult mission trips and youth mission trips. And there's a place for that. But we've ended up segregating–and I use that word intentionally–our kids from the rest of the church. Now we tend to think that we can outsource the care of our kids to designated experts, the youth and children's workers.... I think the future of youth ministry is intergenerational."

Kara Powell is the executive director of the Fuller Youth Institute at Fuller Theological Seminary and a former youth pastor. To read the rest of her interview in context, pick up the Summer 09 issue of Leadership journal or subscribe by clicking on the cover in the left column.

August 14, 2009

Displaying 1–10 of 13 comments

Tom Pounder

August 20, 2009  3:24pm

I've been in Youth Ministry for over 12 years and believe that Kara has some great points. It is probably too late to say that we should go back to the good old days because we are where we are. I'm sure no one said years back in the '40s that we should segregate the generations and offer babysitting to the youngsters. Rather, it was out of the heart to reach a younger generation for Christ. Therefore, what we have to do is to find ways within our own churches to intentionally integrate the generations. Kara is right on, but like most things, there are no magic potion that will be a fit for all. The key is to begin the discussion in your church and try to find ways to integrate them all. At my church, we are still working through it, but by constantly talking about it and having to face the issue, I believe we are moving in a positive direction to church integration. http://notamegachurch.wordpress.com

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Dan Kimball

August 18, 2009  2:37pm

I love Kara's thinking... Having been a youth pastor for many years and doing all types of attemps with bridging activities for youth and the whole church - my question is do we put too much focus on "intergenerational" being defined as seeing youth and adults sitting in the same worship gathering on Sunday? Almost every time I hear the arguments made and then descriptives of what they envision it is normally the picture of youth sitting in the main church gatherings with the adults as what defines "intergenerational church". I wonder if that is the wrong, or at least not most important thing to envision or focus on when we think intergenerational. Perhaps, the focus should be on defining what we mean by "church" and focusing more on intergenerational church activity that occurs all week long - mentoring, adults being more involved in youth ministry, mission trips - and the "church" throughout the week vs. only on the specific worship gathering on Sunday trying to see youth be in those as what often (at least in my experience" seems to be the image of what people think of with this. Those are some lunchtime break thoughts as I read Out of Ur and Kara's wonderful thinking.

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August 17, 2009  9:12am

I think that crossing this generational gap is going to be a two way street. It will require bringing youth into 'normal' church life and ministry but also adults seeking to building mentoring relationships with students.

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Prophetik Soul

August 17, 2009  8:38am

Much of what passes for church youth group and usually just babysitting. Its one of the reasons why I got out of vocational youth ministry. I favor integration of youth in the service. They are at that crucial time where they can become just narcissistic and focus only on their needs or we can learn how to sacrifice their pleasures and give to others younger and older. My son is 11 right now and I desire that for him even though he is only in middle school. So he helps in nursery, in the summer camp for elem. kids and will soon help in other areas. Its not all about him and its not all about us adults either.

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August 16, 2009  3:22pm

Josh, not sure if this fits your idea of "intergenerational worship", but at all three of our worship services (2 traditional/blended & 1 "contemporary") our youth read the scripture. In our "contemporary" service 1 of our band members is in our youth group and another is joining us. We do have some dedicated things, but we also try to include youth in all areas of the life of the church. Some are more involved then others, but that's true of adults too. We have to rely on volunteers for most ministry. We do have a paid youth director, but they also help with Children's ministry which is overseen by a volunteer. Parents have the option for kids to go to Children's Church, or not. Some do, some don't, no one thinks anything about it either way. To change how a church views youth/young adults/whatever is going to mean a change in the church's culture. Not always easy. Some people aren't going to like the change.

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Mel Walker

August 15, 2009  9:38am

Kara's right that traditional youth ministry has too often segregated the generations with different rooms, different music, different pastors, different philosophy, different approach to ministry, different programming, etc. But, let's not over-react and "throw the baby out with the bath". Peer ministry has significant validity. That's why our youth ministry forefathers saw its' importance. The key is balance and intentionality - let's balance age-specific ministry with intergenerational ministry and let's be intentional about developing growing intergenerational connections in the church. Let's also be intentional about giving our kids real ownership and meaningful involvement in THEIR church. And let's be intentional about helping our students transition into the overall life of the church. In so many youth ministries, we kick them out when they graduate from high school and tell them to go to "big church" and they hate it. They do not have any meaningful relationships with adults and feel out-of-place there. We must ask ourselves if our kids are more loyal to youth group than they are the church. The truth is that the generations need each other!

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Sam Andress

August 14, 2009  8:23pm

Age segregation is one of the most toxic results of boomer leadership in the church in America. But my suspicion is that it's rooted in their deifying of late-modern marketing tools and "target" groups. Essentially most of the mega-church peddlers hold a marketing theology. Thus our churches have come to more reflect the deeply divided culture around us than the inter-generational body of Christ.

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Rev. M.keith bufford

August 14, 2009  6:14pm

How interesting, I have never quite understood why we divide what Christ has united; the Church! The message is the same for all ages. The redemption for lost Sinners young and old, there is no distinction why do we distinguish? I am 43 years and have been a Christian since the age of 18. I married later in life at the age of 33. Then all of a sudden I became an adult male a Man in the church. Before that I was a Signal, I was put in collage and career groups, and signal groups but never an official Adult member of the Church. It is time to stop dividing what Christ has united by His sacrifice. Children, Teens, Signal Adults, Married Adults, and Senior Adults are all in Christ and Christ is in all, and should share in the life we have inherited from Christ in worship and all aspects of Church Life. Rev. M.K. Bufford

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Josh Lunde-Whitler

August 14, 2009  4:02pm

I'm a youth pastor; our church has recently decided to dedicate itself to intergenerational worship and ministry. Anyone know of any other churches that have done this well, that we could research? Specifically, what does a "truly" intergenerational worship service look? Any guidance would be great!

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Steve Patton

August 14, 2009  3:03pm

I've said it time and time again, as a 29 yr old, I feel like youth ministry has become more of a celebration of youth culture than a celebration of Jesus.

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