A Little Rhymy Time…

I talk with students about dangers online. There’s the great potential to access information (and I love that), but there’s also danger that I want to make sure our students are wary of. But I’m not just talking about porn (though that’s obviously something online to avoid). I’ve encountered a divisive spirit in some Christian sites that seems to want to be ‘right’ at all costs and to tear down everyone else. It’s dangerous, too.

There’s a forum that I’ve visited often, and posted at occasionally, that really seems to be in a time where everyone there just wants to fight, as opposed to actually discussing things. It’s gotten pretty frustrating, and even though I don’t post there often, I’ve found myself wasting time ‘watching the fight’ – kind of like the train wreck you slow down to see.

But today, I’ve turned those thoughts into a little rhyme for you to enjoy. And think about the productivity of your discussions. Or maybe it’s just for me to enjoy! Ha ha. Anyway, I’ve decided to pretty much stop going there, because there just hasn’t been much gained by the whole thing. Here’s the rhyme… maybe I’ll post it there, but probably not.
Just one page view and I was hooked;
The siren called me in.
I quickly clicked
The X at top,
But I’d be back again.

And so it went for many moons –
My browser’d sort and store ‘em.
These pages full of words, not porn:
An argumentive forum.

Theology and doctrine queries?
Answers: vitriolic fury.
Prideful claims and hurtful names –
The love of Christ made blurry.

I still returned though burned and battered
While Jesus’ body mocked and scattered;
Scraps on the floor,
Bolts on the Door,
I pray no wand’rer stumbles by.

For he would find a force divided,
Broken family, brothers chided.
He may decide ‘the way is shut’
And never find His Way.

It needn’t have been so, I think,
Discussion warm and free could be.
But trolls are live and sacrifice
Our desperate need for Thee…

Youth Culture

This was my entry in our church’s newsletter this week:

I’ve been reading a book by Walt Mueller called Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture: Bridging Teen Worldview and Christian Truth. It’s about learning to communicate Jesus in ways to which young generations will respond. Obviously as a pastor of student ministries, that’s an important topic to me, but my prayer is that as a believer in Jesus, it is important to you, too. We should be very concerned with communicating the truth of Jesus with students.

But, in some ways, it’s not as simple as we may think. It’s not enough to just walk up and say “Hey kid, Jesus loves you.” While that statement is definitely true, that approach to revealing the truth often falls on deaf, young ears. In many ways, youth ministry today is cross-cultural missions work. We must work to understand the youth culture that exists today (whether they’ve created it in a kind of generational self-defense or it’s been created for them by marketers) in order to communicate with students who are living in that culture.

If I were to commit my life to ministry with German people, I would need to learn German. If I gave myself to ministry with Venezuelans, I’d need to learn the Spanish language as well as Venezuelan customs, attitudes, and values. I’ve committed to ministry with students, so I need to know what they care about, what shapes their thinking, what drives their hearts and passions…

If you have kids at home, you do too. Take a look away from what fills your world everyday and examine theirs. It may be more different than you think. The youth culture in our country really does operate according to a different set of behaviors and values than previous generations.

I want to challenge you to join me in studying, loving, and reaching students in our valley. Get to know them and their world. Ask questions and really listen to their thoughts. The author of that book is also the director of a ministry called the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. Their website (www.cpyu.org) may be a great place to start taking a continually updated look at youth culture.

Who’s It?

Haven’t written in a long time, but leave it to something stupid to get me back here. There were reports yesterday about schools banning tag like that one. This is as bad as the whole dodge ball thing a few years ago. Why can’t kids be kids without living in a glass (no wait, better make that non-breakable plexiglass – or better yet, memory foam lined rubber) bubble? WE CANNOT KEEP THEM SAFE FROM EVERY BUMP AND SCRATCH! Nor should we.

I live in an area of the country that’s known for a little less hectic pace, wide open spaces, and common sense type of people. But just a couple hours away in Cheyenne, the buffalo may roam, the deer and the antelope can play, but kids can’t play tag at recess. Seriously? It’s been 40 some years since you were supposed to be able to pray in school, and now you can’t play there either?

I have a solution. Let’s get over the idea that someone else is responsible and teach our kids to do the same. Fell down and scraped your knee? You’ll be ok. Fell out of the tree and broke your arm? Hurts, doesn’t it… as opposed to “Let’s sue Johnny Appleseed and the asphalt company.”

I could go on… but I’ve gotta go pick up my daughter from school – where she can still play tag and hang upside down on the monkey bars. Then I’m taking her home to her brothers and I’m going to chase them around the house for a while!

“You’re it.”

Future of Youth Ministry

The current issue of Christianity Today features an article that is a compilation of thoughts from prominent evangelicals regarding “the next 50 years” for the church. Thanks to zus for the e-mail of the youth portion of the article (and to Marshall, who doesn’t know yet that I borrowed the issue from his inbox so I could read the rest).

There are some really good thoughts about youth ministry and where it should be headed. I really like the main point of the article, that much of what has happened in youth ministry hasn’t produced long term disciples. (I don’t want to put words in anyone else’s mouth, so read the article so you know what they actually said.) There’s a really good quote from Mark Ostereicher of Youth Specialties that talks about the disconnection between real faith and being present at youth activities. Just because a kid’s here all the time now, doesn’t ensure he’ll be involved in the church at all 5 years from now.

Another comment that really resonated with me is from Chap Clark of Fuller Theological Seminary (you may remember I recommended his book Hurt… or you may not, but it’s a great book). His comments indicated that “the greatest challenge is developing ‘a theology of intergenerational community’ that helps a whole church to feel responsible for its youth. Otherwise, he said, churches follow mainstream culture’s market-driven vision—and, like secular culture, abandon adolescents to raise themselves. ” That’s not ok. The world sees students as cheap labor, open wallets, and idle consumers and treats them accordingly. Youth ministry that panders to kids who just want to play, parents who just want a babysitter, and people who just want big crowds does the same thing. (Again, that’s my two cents, not Clark’s.)

I’m sure youth ministry will look much different in 50 years than it does now. I won’t pretend to know what exactly will change. But in short (I know, it’s too late for short), I hope youth ministry will become known for producing lifelong disciples of Jesus. The flash, the games, the hype… they can all disappear. What students cannot live without is learning to follow the lead of Jesus.
For a nice look at what editor’s have to do, check out the summary of Marko’s thoughts in first paragraph of the article, then read the expanded version of his own words on his own blog. CORRECTION: (just in case you don’t read the comments) the article’s paragraph is actually word for word from the interview. Marko’s blog has more of his thoughts from the interview.