Review: Divided

Before I begin this review I should disclose something that is not a secret.  I am a youth minister and for the past 15 years I have earned at least a portion of my income as a youth minster, so I obviously have a bias as I watch this film and write a review. I wish the film had begun with disclosures as well.  It is a well-made film, but it is not a documentary, it is a propaganda piece for the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches.  The film, however, begins with the “documentarian” saying, “As a filmmaker, I set out to find answers.”  He did not set out to find answers.  He set out to promote his viewpoint.  This is perfectly fine, and it does not make the thesis of the film less worth discussion.  It just should have been made clear.

If you want to form your own opinion, you can watch the film for free until September on vimeo, or on the film’s website.

Before dissecting the thesis of the film, I’ll address some of the issues it brings up.  Are there problems with youth ministry as it has been carried out over the past few decades?  Yes.  Undeniably there have been those who simply view youth ministry as a “keep kids out of trouble” activity.  Sometimes youth ministry has erred by making the assumption that busyness is equal to spirituality.  Many youth ministries are supported by the personality of the youth pastor rather than the Holy Spirit.  There is not nearly enough Bible literacy within youth ministries.  Finally, there is no denying that many students leave the church when they get a driver’s license.  These are all valid issues and they need to be considered.  If possible they need to be solved.

However, not all of the things the film lists as shortcomings of youth ministry are actual problems.  Students having fun at a rock concert is not proof that youth ministry is failing, and it is not proof that the students are not spiritual.  Nor does a youth ministry in which there are video games on the premises or fun trips and fun activities on the calendar suggest that there is also not spiritual growth.

The thesis of Divided comes at the 30 minute mark.  After addressing many of the previously mentioned problems with youth ministry, the most significant being that students often leave the church, comes the following statement.

Is it possible the crisis we are seeing in the church today is a form of God’s judgment on the church… for doing something completely against the command of God [in order] to solve a problem with the youth?

The film suggests that the entire concept of youth ministry is not only absent from the Bible, but that it is unbiblical.

Divided says that the problems found in modern churches are a result of the unbiblical nature of youth ministry.  To be clear, the film says that all age-graded teaching of any kind is not only unbiblical, but it has roots in paganism.  It is a very unfair criticism of Robert Raikes to suggest that he developed Sunday school out of a pagan philosophy.  In fact, it is openly untrue.  The suggestion, that because churches have classrooms on either side of a hall that they have bought into a sort of neo-Platonism is patently ridiculous.  (And seriously, where else are classrooms supposed to go in relation to a hallway?)

A second criticism I would direct toward the film is that there is really no scripture offered to suggest that age-graded teaching is unbiblical.  It is well-established that the primary discipleship role belongs to parents.  However there is nothing, either in the Bible or the film to suggest that the church cannot or should not  have a role in discipling children.  The Bible makes it clear that there is a role of mentorship that should occur within the confines of church fellowship.

Every responsible youth minister I know is aware that the church and the family need to work together.  Aware that ideally the church should walk beside the family and supplement the work of the family.  This tension between church and family is being addressed in many places.   Every youth minister I know is working to resolve it, and it is the reason for significant movements like Lasting Divergence  and Orange.  When this approach is brought up in the film (36 min) it is immediately dismissed with only one brief comment.

There are a few things that Divided does not address at all that would certainly shore-up the filmmaker’s argument.   First, do students in family-integrated churches leave church at a substantially lower rate?  The film does not say, it really only criticizes.  But if this approach was a definite solution to the problem, it would be helpful to present some data.  Secondly, do churches of this sort have any approach to students with uninvolved or non-Christian parents.  If the solution is to let the parents disciple students then are they simply giving up on the hoards of students whose parents do not disciple them?  And if the solution is to come to church and be mentored by a “father figure” what is the fundamental difference in a deacon/elder and a youth pastor.  Finally, is it better to have a few years of influence in the lives of children, especially those with uncommitted or un-Christian parents, and have them leave church when they turn 16, or for these students to have no church influence whatsoever?

In conclusion, I find Divided flawed in a number of ways, most significantly that it does not prove its thesis.  However I believe that it is an important film even if it merely gets people considering how to address some substantial problems in the church and youth ministry.

I know this was long, but if you are still reading, feel free to comment.  And if you are a youth minister, I'l especially like to hear your comments.

Best of the Best Web Junk 2010

This is going to be only the most awesome links and videos from this year of best Web Junk Remember the Pheasant with 138 legs?

Drawed a Thrown

Good Quiz






Best Web Junk (December 24)

A couple of these links I have been sitting on for a while in case I had a week with no good web junk.  Well, this is the last regularly scheduled Best Web Junk of the year. (Next week is best of) so I will share them today. Really neat aerial images

What if you printed the internet?


It's Christmas Eve.  I have seen this video posted in Facebook like 30 times this week plus Adam posted it on his blog last week.  But it is neat and it is appropriate for this week's Best Web Junk [youtube=]

Best Web Junk (December 10)

This video would be impressive even if it wasn't the former home of Louisville being outfitted with UKs court. [youtube=] I know everybody on the internet has seen this already, but this is without question the best thing I have seen on the web this week.  Whoever did it is awesome and whoever did it has too much time on their hands.  Seriously, Wow. [youtube=]

Best Web Junk (December 3)

This story makes perfect sense.  A city truck drives through your building so the city fines you for owning an unsafe building.  Of course. In general flash mobs are neat.  This is the first one I've ever seen with no dancing, and the first one where there is real singing.  It also has the highest percentage of gray hairs I've seen in one..  Enjoy [youtube=]

I don't know what's more impressive, that this kid built this instrument (instead of playing Rock Band in all of his free time) or that he's so good at playing it.  I am thoroughly impressed by this video. [youtube=]

Best Web Junk (November 26)

I usually don't put serious things in my Best Web Junk.  But this is the best thing Ive read this week

Since I'm already showing Graph jam some love in this best web junk.  Here's another brilliant one.

Almost all of these new Muppet videos are great.  This one is no exception.  [youtube=]

Thanksgiving is this week

I post this video to remind you of James 1: 2-3 "Count it as joy when you face trials of various kinds."  Trials make us mature in our faith.  This video is a perfect example of that.  We should be thankful even for hard times. (Important, don't watch this video around others if you don't want them to see you cry.  You are going to cry when you watch this.) [youtube=]

Best Web Junk (November 5)

This week has been largely about politics, so I thought I'd show you a video for Best Web Junk that features a politician. The Ds had a bad week so I'll show you one that features a D.  Also I saw Al Franken do this 15 years ago and thought it was neat, so I taught myself to do this in a particularly boring history class.  For an entire 4-week class, every doodle in my notebook was a of the states and how they fit together.  I made an A in the class and was quite good at this trick by the end.  (I'm out of practice now though so the states become all warped and the sizes are off.)   [youtube=]

Best Web Junk (October 29)

The kid who did this is going places. Not anywhere that math is required, but he is creative and this is awesome. Dangit, it turns out that awesome pic of a hunter & a mountain lion was fake

Best Halloween costume of all this year

A highlight of every year.  When a car gets smashed by a giant pumpkin If you just want to see the vid, here it is. [youtube=]

This guy claims that Galifianakis wasn't in on it but this interview is funnier than any of the Between 2 Ferns I've seen [youtube=]

Best Web Junk (October 22)

Are you looking for the perfect gift for someone's 50h birthday?  Here's a suggestion - A giant mosaic of their likeness made out of toast. I've seen a lot of political attack ads in my lifetime.  I pretty much hate them all.  But "He kicks children in the face" is so awesome that I can hardly believe it. [youtube=]

Best Web Junk (October 15)

Carving pumpkins can be fun. Unless you click here and then feel inadequate forever This is quite enjoyable.[youtube=]

This video is a bit twisted, but it eliminates the need for any amnesia kisses.  That always bothered me.[youtube=]

Best Web Junk (October 1)

All of the HISHE videos are brilliant, but this one I like particularly because I never thought about why he just doesn't stop Luke from falling. [youtube=] And since you can never really get enough Star Wars-related cleverness I present a preview for a movie I would totally go see. [youtube=]

Best Web Junk (September 24)

Today in the best junk of the web we have 2 videos. This first one really speaks for itself[youtube=]

Secondly, a backwards music video.  I think these things are neat.  Not so much because of the effects but because people had to pronounce the words backwards to make their mouths not look wrong[youtube=]

Best Web Junk (August 20)

I have been getting this same 3-part red-ring pretty much every other time I turn on the X-box lately so I enjoyed this.  But my NES was definitely done years ago Such a sad story

In other news.  Apparently guys will check out girls even if it is dangerous

I am fascinated by how stuff works and how stuff is made, so this link is right up my alley

This is world yo-yo champion Jensen Kimmitt and this video is pretty much amazing.  Like 10 times in this thing I thought he had the yo-yo in an unrecoverable knot.  Seriously, it's amazing.  Also, where did the world go for awesome yo-yo videos before youtube was a thing? [youtube=]

If the yo-yo didn't impress you, this definitely will [youtube=]