A controversial new documentary movie contends age-graded Sunday school and youth ministry are doing more harm than good.

In Divided, young filmmaker Philip Leclerc sets out to discover why so many people of his generation are leaving the church. The answer, he says, is the “hipster Christianity” approach to youth ministry, centering on fun and games with Bible study tacked on, and the notion that youth pastors are more qualified to train children than their parents.

Leclerc acknowledges grouping kids and age and developmental stages makes sense on the surface. In the Bible, however, parents are given the responsibility for religious instruction of their children.

The modern idea of age-graded Sunday school, youth ministry and children’s church came from somewhere else. When it started in the 1800s, Sunday school was intended for poor children without Christian parents. In most American churches today, Leclerc insists, Christian fathers relinquish their leadership to programs based on secular educational theories instead of the teaching of Scripture.

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