Shane Claiborne by Lars Verket on Flickr. Some rights reserved.
If you still have teenagers in your church, you might want to think about this quote from Shane Claiborne of The Simple Way community in Philadelphia. I found it in Philip Yancey‘s new book, ‘Vanishing Grace‘:
I am convinced that if we lose kids to the culture of drugs and materialism, of violence and war, it’s because we don’t dare them, not because we don’t entertain them. It’s because we make the gospel too easy, not because we make it too difficult. Kids want to do something heroic with their lives, which is why they play video games and join the army. But what do they do with a church that teaches them to tiptoe through life so they can arrive safely at death?
University Chapel 16 by Adam Fagen on Flickr. Some rights reserved.
The Church Times is carrying a piece on why young people leavechurch, or how they stay but their faith changes and adapts at university. Slightly misleadingly, it is called ‘Why young people turn their backs onchurch’.
However, it makes interesting reading. Of particular note is the way the report emphasises the way the church no longer holds moral sway, not only over society, but also over her own members. Hence, those young adults who remain in the faith accept major social changes, especially in the area of sexual ethics – they live together outside marriage, they are happy with abortion, and they support full gay rights. There are a few conservative exceptions, but the overall pattern among those who stay shows a ‘durable’ Christianity that has adapted to a new social milieu, rather than one which challenges popular ethics.
So – is this a work of the Holy Spirit in calling Christians to see things differently, or is it spiritual compromise?
Curiously, the same publication is also carrying an article by the theologian and social commentator Vicky Beeching called ‘What gets me out of bed on Sunday‘, in which this former pioneer of contemporary worship says that the apparently irrelevant and counter-cultural aspects of much traditional worship are the very things our society needs for the truths and practices they communicate.
What do you make of this?
Conventional youth work is not effective, says Seth Barnes of Adventures In Missions. If you want to see teenagers in your church grow as disciples of Jesus Christ, take them on mission trips – for at least a month at a time.
To find out why he advocates this, watch this video:
A youth group at Cornerstone by Steve White on Flickr. Some rights reserved.
Here are seven issues that are relevant to teenagers today. If this is a reasonably accurate list, then what does the Good News look like to young people experiencing these? What Gospel themes would you identify as being relevant to them?
Perhaps one area where the message of Jesus might touch youth such as those envisioned here would be in the area of true self-esteem, rather than the ways it is presented in society. The Christian message sees people as made in the image of God, offered redemption in Jesus Christ and being heirs to the promise of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling.
Does this list shed any light on how the church might faithfully relate to teenagers?