Some modern churches have the notion of a "Youth Group", it is characterized as the following:

  • a dedicated "Youth Pastor"

  • consists mostly of younger (middle school + high school + college students)

  • a bit more modern in worship (drums + guitars)

  • some belief that adults / youth should receive different messages

I am not aware of any such distinction mentioned in the new testament.

Is there any historical evidence that "Youth Groups" existed in early church history?

  • 4
    Note that the idea of teenagers/adolescence is a comparatively new one. I think it is considered to have only become accepted widely as a stage of life last century.
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 5 '15 at 3:23
  • 1
    Historically, children were considered smaller adults, because they could work on the farm, work on the job, or be married off. What we now regard as "child marriage" was once thought of as common and normal. Children would receive their education most likely from whatever priest was in the vicinity.
    – Double U
    Jan 5 '15 at 3:32
  • 3
    So you're saying: historical church did NOT have a (1) separate message for parents, (2) separate message for students, and (3) separate message for toddlers? Jan 5 '15 at 3:40
  • 3
    The whole concept of 'youth' is pretty much a modern invention. Middle-schoold and certainly high-school people would have been conisdered adults. However 1st century Jews would certainly have had special classes for 'not yet adults'. Jan 5 '15 at 3:41
  • 1
    @unregisterednewb Any church that gives a different message to those different groups is a terrible church. It may present the same message in different ways, but that's just appropriate. The apostles did that in Acts...
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 5 '15 at 10:05

In Catholicism "youth ministry" is so recent that it was not available when I was growing up. We had CCD, which Protestants call Sunday School, but we were still expected to attend Mass with the adults. CCD was scheduled at a different time, and not always on Sundays. Students who attended Catholic schools did not have to go to CCD because they received religious instruction in school. These days many parishes (including my own) treat children like catechumens in the ancient church. That is, they attend the first part of the Mass (the liturgy of the word) with the adults, then they go off with their instructor to a classroom for a youth ministry of some kind while the adults have the liturgy of the eucharist. This never happened before Vatican II reformed the liturgy. The ancient church had no idea of a youth minister. Usually a parish only had one priest, so the catechumens would have been taught by a deacon. But the catechumens were usually adult converts. Children were baptized as infants, were taught the faith in the home, and attended the Mass with their parents even as infants.

  • 2
    It is also Paul's advisement that children are taught by their fathers, not someone else.
    – fгedsbend
    Mar 17 '15 at 7:21
  • @fredsbend God a reference for that? I can't think of anything in the Bible that would discourage others from teaching children in addition to their parents.
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 17 '15 at 13:03
  • @curiousdannii I'm probably thinking of Eph 6:4 combined with 1 Cor 14:34. Combined with a few other verses and cultural factors (male leadership of the family was very important) I think I could make a good case that "Youth group" didn't exist because the father/husband was the primary education source for the family.
    – fгedsbend
    Mar 17 '15 at 15:41

Did the notion of “Youth Group” exist in the early church?

The concept of "youth group" is relatively recent and parallels the development of classroom type education for children starting in the 1800s.

The Biblical model of instruction is more family oriented and follows the apprenticeship model of instruction over the classroom model.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

The classroom model of instruction has roots in the Hellenistic academy and could be found at the time of Jesus with the adults who were studying from revered Rabbis such as Gamaliel.

Acts 5:34 Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space;

However, the limitations of such instruction can be seen

1 Corinthians 8:1 Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.

Acts 5:38 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:

Gamaliel who was considered one of the brightest and best had followed the classroom path of instruction and when it came to something important such as knowing if Jesus was from God, the best he could come up with was "if".

The relationship between Paul and Timothy reflects more of what the apprentice model of instruction was supposed to be.

2 Timothy 2:1-2 Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

The word "son" indicates a familial and relational element that was largely displaced as early as the second century as things like catechetical schools (classroom oriented) became more widely used.

The early church did not so much ignore the instruction of children as left their instruction to their parents. However, the nature of "instruction" was changed and as children were being taken out of the family for schooling starting in the 1800s, the church followed the practice with age segregated instruction and activities.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .