Multempire - Thoughts on Youth Ministry

Clearing YM Noise Away

Posts tagged faith

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How I feel about most conversations on pop-culture religion blogs.  I’ve been working on understanding anti-religious memes and trolling that happens on most religious topics in mainstream media, but honestly - what it all comes down to is the response from the movie Billy Madision.  Seriously, I hope Facebook does civilize the web by requiring trolls to come out of the dark and have a face.  If you agree, feel free to reblog this.  Two points for Civil Debate and Civil Society.

For my blog on how the United Methodist General Conference is trying to hold themselves to a higher standard (which I believe is a base line standard for all conversation), read see and view here.

Filed under Civil Debate Holy Conferencing Billy Madison Trolling Religion Conversation Debate Faith Hope Comments

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Adam McClane Feels Youth Ministry's Cup is 95% Empty - I Respond

Excerpt from Adam McClane’s Blog.  Read the full article at his blog HERE.

You don’t need a scientist to measure impact if you know basic facts about your community.

  • How many students are in middle & high school in your community? How many students attend a youth ministry in your community? Divide.Probably less than 10% of the eligible population. (If you factor in students who attend youth group by choice… this number dramatically falls, doesn’t it?) 
  • How many years has the current model of youth ministry been impacting your community? 20, 30, 40 years? How much have churches grown as a result?At best, church attendance has flatlined over the past 20 years, likely declined compared to 30 or 40 years ago. 
  • You might be able to point to a couple of exceptional examples. (Communities of great impact or individuals greatly impacted) But for the amount of effort, amount of investment, in most communities the impact is pretty small.

It’s not that the wrong people are in youth ministry, it’s not that they are uneducated, don’t care, are lazy, or even under-resourced. I actually think the frustration, the quitting, angst, and the burnout we see in youth ministry is because we have the RIGHT people working 24/7 [largely] on WRONG strategies. [More fairly, their current strategy is OK, just limited in impact.]

That’s not tearing down at all, is it?

My point is that the strategies we’ve used to date have a finite impact. We can look at 40 years of history and say “youth group” will impact less than 10% of any given student population. (How much more evidence do you need to see that this is true? 50 years? 100 years?)

My Thoughts in Response:

Adam - I know your heart is right, and looking at the stats it looks grim, but I see things quite a bit differently.  There is a big picture here and a few factors, I feel, are shaping the tide.

First, your stats are right.  That is the impetus to do what we are doing.  As a person who has just gotten into full time youth ministry within the last four years (after seminary), I’ve chewed on the seemingly grim reality.  But there is more.

Second, the big picture affects the little picture.  Culture moves in waves, and with this transitional phase of American culture, people are saying “Am I religious?  Is God real?”  America was in a similar state prior to the Revolution (Jefferson thought that everyone would be a Unitarian in 40 years).  Look at the Books of Judges, Chronicles, Samuel and Kings.  So much perspective on how generations choose their loyalties. Good or Bad, those who serve the faithful have to continue on in faith that God is working the big picture for the greater glory of Himself (and not necessarily the church itself).  With some of the sins of the people of the church, is it a surprise that people are re-evaluating their stance toward organized faith?  It is a heated topic, but scripture and history are a way to gauge some of this.  

Third, Smal things can lead to Big Things.  We have to remember church history.  In Methodism, John Wesley started with one Small Group, that would eventually revitalize Anglicanism, start Methodism, and lead to the end of Slavery in England.  Small sparks lead to big things, and we have to be faithful.

I’m an optimist by nature (the glass is always 95% full IMHO, because God is greater than… I’ve seen amazing things happen in individual youth, and I’ve seen youth that carry a flame into their cultures (which can be very dark).  But God is always doing a work.  Even if Christianity becomes more monastic and is pushed from the public sphere - we are here, reminding all people that the God that created you loves you and wants your whole focus to be on Him and the transformation of the whole world.  

I feel that we are on the cusp of some great movements in world Christianity.  I’ve learned in ministry that sometimes you have to persevere, wait, and see what God is doing, when everything has already fallen apart.  That’s how we know it was God, and not us.  

Thanks though, Adam.  Your thoughts get my thoughts going. This is by far my favorite blog. Kudos.

Adam’s Reply:

Interesting perspective in light of church history. The reason Wesley (and Whitfield) had so much success? They did a little missiology and built a ministry around where people were at instead of trying to force them into church. ;) 

The Conversation Continued a bit.  I am Thankful for Adam’s insights:

  • Adam McLane Daniel - See, like I said in the post, you can point me to points of success individually or even specific group examples. But we have 40 years of evidence that the current model isn’t enough. My post wasn’t calling for the end of YM at all. I’m just saying that we need to dream about new ways to impact the lives of students. I’m not satisfied with 3-5-10% of adolescents. That’s not theologically appropriate to me.
    30 minutes ago · Like
  • Daniel Griswold This is a hard topic because there are so many moving parts. I agree on the impetus, but I’m worried about discouragement. In history there have been times when things seemed dark, but pointing to a refocusing on personal holiness, and working with the few who are coming alive, God works in their lives to create a network of change for the future.
    10 minutes ago · Like
  • Adam McLane This statement in the post, “My point is not to tear youth ministry down down. It’s to rebuild. We can’t think about the future until we can make a sober assessment of what our tribe has accomplished.” If my premise that a sober assessment isn’t encouraging, I apologize. The intent of my words was to help us dream.
    8 minutes ago · Like
  • Daniel Griswold 
    Thanks Adam. The dreaming element is big and I’d like to see more of that. Perhaps it is just that there are so many voices out there that to a youth minister in the field, it feels like there is an echo chamber purporting the fact that we are “failing”. I worry about younger ym’s and those who read blogs as they tackle tough situations. Likely I should give ym’s more credit though, especially the ones that will persevere and make a differences.

This is from a conversation on Gordon-Conwell’s Youth Ministry FB page.

Filed under Adam McClane Response Reaction Youth Ministry youth life optimism practical growth discipleship Christianity Faith

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Interlinc offers resources for Youth Groups seeing Soul Surfer: The Bethany Hamilton Story

Click the title (Above) to check out Interlinc’s resources for youth group.  A lot of young people are going out to see this movie which is about a Christian surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack but got back up and started surfing again.  There is a mini-documentary that is also available for youth groups, but I’m impressed that Sony Pictures picked up this story and decided to release it to America’s wider audiences.  Check it out if you haven’t seen it yet. 

Filed under Soul Surfer Resources Interlinc youth ministry movies film Sony Pictures Release entertainment faith story surf surfer surfing Bethany Hamilton sharks

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If you have ever attended a session with Rob Bell, such as his “Everything is Spiritual” tour, or watched a “Nooma” video with your small group, you know that Rob Bell is a talented communicator.

Bell has come out with a new book that is the talk of Evangelical Christianity called “Love Wins” in which it appears that he comes out with a Universalist version of the faith in which it doesn’t matter what you decide on this earth about God and Jesus Christ - in the end God is Love, thus, all people will eventually be won over by God.

Watching this video, however, Bell politics his way out of answering the question of whether he is a Universalist or not.  The debate started even before his book was released when John Piper and others read the promo summaries of his book and Piper, a reformed Christian leader, wrote the tweet “Farewell Rob Bell”.  A twitter firestorm erupted (seeing that Bell is a pretty hip guy and lots of people follow him there) and hashtags surrounding Bell actually trended as Christians talked back and forth for and against a book that hadn’t even come out yet.

Book reviews are starting to come out, and traditional theologians are starting to speak against Bell’s views that seem unscriptural.  We all, out of ignorance or sometimes purposely, we emphasize different parts of scripture.  Probably because comprehending God’s vastness, we tend to want to fit God into a box.  Bell here, wants to emphasize God’s Ultimate Love, or God Being Love itself. 

It is hard to follow his reasoning, however, when you strip away the modern notions of love as being merely a Romanticized Love in the vein of The Song of Solomon, and realize that true love involves Refining and Discipline and Justice.  The different aspects of love need to be held together in tension - not even as a Paradox, but as parts of a whole.

While we hate to think that someone that is a good person by our standards may end up in a state of being totally and completely alone, separated from God and the Righteous forever, we have to remember that with Free Will and the ability to decide how we live our lives, there are consequences to our actions. See the Gospel of Matthew on the Sheep and the Goats - there is a stern warning to decide here and now.

It is plain that the world was created for us to enjoy.  God created the world and humankind was to tend it for the Lord.  Never our own possession, but a gift.  But rebellion against God and living for ourselves - even when humans do good for others benefit.  If we live our lives with Humanity or any part of Creation as an idol before our Creator - we are separated from God already.  We make a choice every morning who or what we will serve. 

Christ died for all, and all may accept Him as Lord and be washed of our injustices, our sins, our rebellion - but God set it up so our decisions matter.  That is part of human dignity.  We decide and God delights when we decide to live for Him.

Rob Bell really needs to grasp with this a little bit more, and perhaps when more have read his book, he’ll say it was just an exercise in Conversation, but right now we all need to decide scripturally where we stand on the Doctrine of the Afterlife.

What are your thoughts?

Filed under Rob Bell Hell Heaven Afterlife Religion Mars Hill Church God Good and Evil Life Decisions Faith Christianity youth ministry debate discussion church politics

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New Christian (former Atheist) Wrestles with the Presence of God, Presence in Evil Places, and Discerning the Whether there is a Good Question - Very Interesting (Click to View Article)

Just read this article by a guy named Ben, who has recently come to Christianity.  He has found some answers but is grappling with the problem of evil, God’s presence with evil people, and discerning whether there is a good question to hang on here.  Very interesting and a good read for anyone trying to get into the mind of those we are spreading the good news to.  They haven’t grown up with God, and we need to understand that.  Click the title to jump to article - it is worth it.

Filed under evangelism faith questions wisdom questions faith american grappling youth ministry modernity post-modern

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Lifeway Study on the Priorities of Millenials (click title to Jump)

Thanks to @fullerfyi for bringing this Millenial Study to attention.  Posted by The Christian Post, this article talks about a study done by Lifeway into the lives of 1,200 people born between 1980 and 1991.  The study had some interesting finds about priorities and faith.  Here are some excerpts here:

Sixty-one percent of Millennials place family at the top of their priority lists, followed by friends (25 percent), education (17 percent), careers/jobs (16 percent), spouses/partners (13 percent), and spirituality/religion (13 percent).

Other responses to the open-ended question include: finances (12 percent), happiness (12 percent), raising kids (11 percent), health (10 percent), activities (9 percent), well-being (9 percent), the future (5 percent), nature/pets (5 percent), and use of time (4 percent).

Total percentages exceeded 100 because respondents were permitted to list more than one priority.

The results on Spirituality/Religion - Very Interesting:

While overt Christian messages are relatively few in number, some place their relationship with Jesus at the top of the list.

Even so, two-thirds of those who indicate they trust Christ as Savior mention nothing about faith, religion or spirituality when asked to name what’s really important in their lives.

Others who list the importance of faith were the churched (31 percent); those with graduate degrees (23 percent); and those claiming to be broadly Christian (18 percent).

Only 3 percent of the unchurched mention faith, while 2 percent of those who claim no religious affiliation say faith is important in their lives.

Filed under studies millenials youth ministry priorities living life faith