Divided the Movie: a Youth Ministry Documentary Film

Is modern youth ministry contrary to scripture?

That is the core question of Divided the movie, an hour long youth ministry documentary film by Philip and Chris Leclerc. It is backed by The National Center for Family-Integrated Churches, so naturally the film is biased towards youth being integrated into a church service rather than in silos of age segregated classrooms.

Divided the movie leads with George Barna’s 2002 research that around two thirds of young people are going to leave the church.

We’re losing about 40% of them by the end of middle school and another 45% by the end of high school. In other words, we are losing them way before college.
– Ken Ham

For now, you can watch the free documentary online at DividedTheMovie.com. If you are a pastor, youth minister, or children’s minister, I recommend watching it regardless of your theological stance or methodology. It presents some very good thoughts that run cross current against the mainstream Western church system of how to disciple youth.

With that said, Divided the movie has also received its fair share of controversy and criticism, specifically that it is too one-sided. So watch the documentary then balance it out with a few key thought leaders that have already weighed in on the discussion:

Mark Oestreicher // The Youth Cartel:

>> Let’s start with that straw man thing. If you’re not familiar with the phrase, the idea is that it’s easy to tear down an idea or set of ideas if you construct a fake version of the idea in the first place. That approach is employed throughout the film.

>> Throughout the entire film, the “experts” (who are all from an extremely right wing edge of the church; there’s not even a moderate interviewed) are there to offer soundbite, emotionally packed, fear-tinged, support of the film’s points.

>>  There was no genuine journalism. What there seems to have been is a well-funded donor with a pre-determined set of agenda items.

>> I want us all to talk about this stuff, because I think it’s massively important. I applaud the filmmakers for taking a risk.

Walt Mueller // Center for Parent/Youth Understanding

>> My feeling about the film after one initial viewing – that this is an extremely biased film that was not made as a result of Philip Leclerc’s stated desire to embark on a fact-finding journey, but rather that the film was conceived and made with a bias and agenda that existed long before the first clip was ever shot.

>> Divided is a not so much a documentary as it is a promotional piece for the National Center for Family Integrated Churches.

>> Divided is a film that asks some very good questions and addresses some issues in youth ministry and the church that must be addressed. There are things we need to repent of in youth ministry.

>> Viewers need to remember that what they are seeing and hearing in the film is mediated. Sadly, it’s mediated in an imbalanced manner.

>> I believe that the film asks good questions about age-segregation in worship. It just shouldn’t happen. I’ve been trumpeting that for years and so have many others in the youth ministry community. But again, there are times when we can separate from each other to be nurtured in age-appropriate ways.

Tim Challies

>> What Leclerc does is what so many documentarians do: he chooses his representatives very, very carefully. He chooses the intellectuals of the FIC to represent his view and chooses the young and foolish to represent the other side. It’s hardly subtle and not at all fair. He builds his case on a cliche.

>> I think we need to see it for what it is. This is a movie that heavily promotes a very obvious agenda. It does not take long for us to learn that Leclerc is a member of a Family Integrated Church and that he has been for many years. This then casts doubt on this journey he is taking. Is it a true journey to learn a better way to do church? Or were the questions answered long before the film shoot even began?

>> Perhaps my biggest disappointment with the film, then, is it lumps all non-integrated churches together.

>> It majors on the minors, making family integration the pivotal and central doctrine for the church. It identifies a genuine problem but attempts to solve it in a way that elevates methodology instead of the gospel message.

Personally, I think it is a great documentary because it covers unchartered ground. It challenges status quo thinking and gets viewers to ask questions.

Yes, it is very biased, but what documentary isn’t? (rhetorical sarcasm) I’d rather have the bias be blatant than a cleverly subtle approach that hoodwinks my worldview. I, too, wish it had a balanced panel of experts. But as with any documentary, it is the viewers’ responsibility to balance it out by researching other facts and perspectives.

What’s your opinion?