The National Center for Family Integrated Churches (NCFIC) is promoting a youth group survey that is limited in scope and usefulness. Currently, it is only being promoted through a Facebook posting on the Christian Post page.
With the non-objective title of "Is 'Youth Group' Even Biblical," the biased nature, whether intended or not, is already present. The limited and even misworded options evidence further bias. Although a youth survey of this type is needed, the survey's usefulness is limited since it has only three questions:
The First Question
The first question is innocent enough: "Are church 'youth group' programs a biblical way to reach young people?" Unfortunately, without knowing what "biblical way" means to any given respondent, this study will not really show what anyone believes concerning this question.
For instance, youth groups are a "biblical way" if that means anything that is not contrary to the Bible or is consistent with the general rules of the Bible (compare the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 1, paragraph 6). Some may even argue that the light of nature may demand the creation of youth groups.
Furthermore, the word "youth group" is never defined. If the NCFIC's propaganda movie, Divided, is any indication of what this word means, then "youth group" is any and all horror stories from the nightmares of concerned parents.
The only options to choose from are as follows: 1) "yes"; 2) "no"; 3) "it's complicated".
The Second Question
The second question, "Does modern youth ministry concern you?," is vaguely worded. "Modern youth ministry" (a different concept from the first question about "youth groups") is a concern for some if that means all horror stories from the nightmares of concerned parents. Or perhaps the respondent thinks "modern youth ministry" does not mean their ministry but includes all the other ministries that preach a watered-down Gospel. At the very least, the question is too general (and thus too uncharitable) since most people know little about other church youth ministries.
The options are limited to 1) "yes, we're losing our kids and it's clearly not working to train mature believers"; 2) "it is too shallow and entertainment focused"; 3) "both"; 4) "no, it's not perfect, but it's striving to relevantly communicate the gospel." There is no option such as "maybe: some youth ministries enact godless principles; others are simply too shallow; still others offer the wrong Gospel; but others are the best type out there by reinforcing parental authority, being useful in the church, and teach the full counsel of God and the fear of the Lord."
This option is probably missing because the NCFIC, in principle, does not believe that such a youth ministry can exist by definition. The organization's flag-ship book, A Weed in the Church, argues that even if fathers were properly instructing their children and youth groups were Bible-centered with only one-hour a week age-segregated meetings, it would still be wrong (p.57, 218, 222, 225).
The Third Question
The last question is a relevant question, "Does the Bible give clear direction and boundaries for discipling youth in the church?" Because it is an important question, there should have been a serious effort to offer better options to choose from.
The first option is misworded: "No. The Bible gives us the gospel, but how to reach youth with it is up to us to figure out in each generation." This is a mischaracterization of how some people think about the issue because it strongly implies an "anything goes" mentality. How many churches officially endorse sinful actions in youth ministries?
The second option probably fits the intent of the first option: "Yes, but there is a lot of flexibility since the Bible doesn't say much about specific methods." This is likely a (for lack of a better term) minimalist approach that would reject outright sinful activities and principles but would use questionable approaches rejected by a more conservative mindset.
The last option is obviously the correct option as far as the NCFIC is concerned, "Yes, the Bible gives us all the direction we need to disciple youth and constrains us from using worldly innovations." But this vaguely worded response includes options that many respondents may not agree with: rejection of age-segregated ministries, Sunday schools, youth group, etc. But since this is not stated, anyone who chooses this option would be choosing the NCFIC option, whether they knew it or not.
In fact, an important question that could be added would be something like this:
"Is the use of age-segregation inherently wrong? Mostly wrong? Never wrong?"
But does the NCFIC really believe that all the direction we need to disciple youth is included in the Bible? Of course not. The formation and function of the NCFIC to help facilitate youth discipleship is not a direction explicit in the Bible.
A robust youth ministry study would be a good thing. The intent behind this limited survey is genuine and sincere. Hopefully, any future efforts will combine genuine and sincere motives with a meaningful and unbiased survey.
[More about the family integrated church movement, here]