Thursday, September 2, 2010

The goal of youth is to grow up

Is there any real relationship between what the contemporary church considers "youth oriented" and what young people are actually interested in? Not much, I think, although most Christian young people are polite about it and kind to the clueless. What most of us baby-boomers think of as contemporary is about as relevant to young people today as Fanny Crosby was to us. Even when we get it right, young people are not necessarily impressed. From a review by Todd Pruitt of T. David Gordon's Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns at The Gospel Coalition site:
.... Gordon places “paedocentrism” near the center of the present soiling of corporate worship. “Reaching the young” has become for the church what “doing it for the children” is for politicians. After all, who opposes reaching young people? But Gordon challenges this paedocentrism. “Biblically, the goal of youth is to leave it as rapidly as possible. The goal of the young, biblically, is to be mature. . . . We equate youth with youth culture, and erroneously believe that we cannot minister to the one without embracing, condoning, or promoting the other” (p. 161).

What is more, Gordon challenges the assumption of many baby boomers that pop music forms in worship is an effective way to reach young people. One of the “money quotes” from the book is, “Young people who attend a church and see a group of fifty-year-olds playing their guitars in front of the church in order to ‘reach the young’ will perhaps politely appreciate the gesture, but they frankly regard the music as being fairly lame” (p. 159). .... [more]
As a result of my lengthy experience with high school students I developed the firm impression that many teachers underestimate the capacity of students to comprehend complex materials and ideas. The problem often isn't the difficulty of the material but the inability of the teacher to translate it into understandable terms — which, after all, is why teachers exist. Jon Nielson, also at the Gospel Coalition site believes that we underestimate young people's capacity to understand solid preaching as well: "Your Students Can Handle Expository Preaching":
Expositional preaching for high school students? Are you crazy?

Expositional preaching—moving sequentially through a book of the Bible, seeking to discover the main point of the text, and making that the main point of the message—can’t work for high school students . . . can it? Don’t they need something more attention-grabbing, flashy, and topical?

Responding to this thinking, which dominates youth ministry circles, I’ve come up with a list: Top Reasons for Expository Preaching in High School Ministry. I should note that my conviction regarding expository preaching extends to the whole church. ....
Nielson's points:
  1. They can handle it. Adults in the church have pitifully underestimated the capacity of young people to grasp biblical truth revealed in the very structure of the biblical text. ....
  2. It helps them learn to read the Bible. While topical teaching can be helpful at certain times, a steady and unbalanced diet of it undermines students’ understanding of God’s Word. ....
  3. It protects us. A commitment to expositional preaching protects youth ministers from students and from ourselves. .... Only by elevating the Word of God in our teaching, letting each passage along the way dictate what we teach our students, do we ensure that we consistently and faithfully teach the revealed Word and will of God for students’ benefit.
  4. It makes you a model, not a celebrity.
Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns - TGC Reviews, Your Students Can Handle Expository Preaching – The Gospel Coalition Blog