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Open Forum on Youth Ministry

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1 Open Forum on Youth Ministry
Discussing Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church by Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean Begin with Prayer

2 Review of Sessions 1 What is going on?
Youth are not hostile toward religion; they think religion is a good thing or a very nice thing to do, but it does not matter to them very much. Youth lack the ability to talk about their faith in Christian terms. They lack Christian vocabulary to describe and interpret their world. When youth do talk about their faith, the faith they describe sounds unChristian—Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

3 Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (default position of most teens)
A god exists who created and orders the world and watches over life on earth. (Deism) God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions. (Moralistic) The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself. (Therapeutic) God is not involved in my life except when I need God to resolve a problem. (Deism/Therapeutic) Good people go to heaven when they die. (Moralistic)

4 Review of Session 2 What should be going on? The Four Cultural tools:
Creed – a confession of what we believe (The Christian peculiar God-story) Community – family and congregation enacts/models the Christian peculiar God-story Call or Pursing a Purpose – a strong sense of Christian vocation Hope – trusting in God’s faithfulness to renew all things.

5 Review of Session 2 What should be going on? Christian Instruction
Telling God’s story and enacting God’s story is the heart of Christian instruction (or formation) It invite people to practice religious practices that embody the peculiar God-story It clarifies the church’s understanding of who God is and what the world is. It shapes our ability to participate in the Christian community. It provides the means for discerning our call as disciples and for claiming our hope in God’s future.

6 Review of Session 2 What should be going on?
Adopting a Missional Imagination “We are not here for ourselves.” The church as waste. The church gives its life away so that others may find life in Jesus Christ. Mission means participating in the very life of God, taking part in the “to die for” love of Jesus Christ, which is the purpose of the Church. Mission is not a trip, but is part of our very identity and calling. We are disciples who are sent out into the world to bear witness to the truth in Jesus Christ.

7 The Pragmatic Task: How should we then engage?
What steps can we take to respond to “session 1” and apply what we learned in “session 2.” Put theologically: How can we help young people live into their baptism?

8 Parents Matter Most: The Art of Translation
Chapter 6

9 Parents Matter Most “The best way to get most youth more involved in and serious about their faith communities is to get their parents more involved in and serious about their faith communities.” -Christian Smith with Melinda Denton “It is always a “miracle” when the conversation behind the wall decisively impinges on the conversation at the wall, when the imagination of the community can break the dominant rationality. Miraculous turns are, in fact, what church education is about.” -Walter Brueggemann

10 Parents Matter Most Martin Luther was convinced that Christian formation began with youth ministry, and he was convinced that youth ministry started at home. According to Dean, research shows that parents matter most in shaping the religious lives of their children. Children are influenced by the adults’ appreciation of God’s word and the way they discern and respond to the Holy Spirit’s presence in their lives (Dean, 2010, p. 112).

11 Questions to Think About
Does sharing your faith with teenagers (or your own children) feel intimidating? Why or why not?

12 Behind the Wall or On the Wall
Dean uses the work of Biblical scholar, Walter Brueggeman to describe two kinds of conversations that are important for Christians to have: “Behind the Wall” conversations - talking with other Christians where you use the church’s distinctive language, symbols, and assumptions. “On the Wall” conversations - talking with non-Christians and using language, symbols, and assumptions that are more prevalent in the broader culture.

13 Discussion Does our congregation do a better job preparing our youth for “behind the wall” or “on the wall” conversations and why? Is it important? Is one type of conversation easier for you or for the teenagers?

14 Belief vs Trust According to Dean, “belief may enable us to approach Christ as a curious bystander, but our investment is abstract. Trust opens us to God relationally as we submit ourselves to divine love, which awakens our desire to know Christ better for ourselves.” (Dean, 2010, p. 119) Trust does not depend on what we comprehend but on who we love. The law called upon Jewish parents to show their children godliness - teach them, talk to them, embody for them their own delight in the Lord 24/7.

15 Discussion Think of your own faith - Are you more of a believer or a truster? Does it matter? Think about the teenagers you know - are they more likely to believe in Jesus Christ or trust Jesus Christ? Why?

16 Sharing “Somewhere along the way, an adult in your life, a parent or grandparent perhaps - shared something with you for no reason other than the sheer joy of sharing with you something he or she loved, hoping you would delight in it too.”

17 Sharing “We learn best what we love most.” Is sharing faith a labor of love?

18 Discussion Christ wants us to feel love for and from him, which means that handing on faith must mean sharing our love for him, and not just information about him. What would change if our church recruited adult volunteers to “mentor” youth and show their feelings about God versus just sharing their faith.

19 Translation Guidelines for translating faith with young people
Behind the wall conversations must be had: Guidelines for translating faith with young people The best translators are people, not programs The best translators are bilingual The best translators invoke imagination Translation can threaten the people in charge

20 Translations explained
The best translators are people, not programs When we attempt faith formation through programs instead of people (ex. when we shuttle teenagers off to youth group without engaging them in behind the wall conversation about faith at home), they hear the gospel as a wooden translation, a vision of the church that is distorted, stilted, and usually bland.

21 Translation explained
The best translators are bilingual Reframing the Word of God in the vernacular of adolescents does not mean dumbing down the gospel or punctuating Scripture with cyberslang (lol). It means building a hospitable space for the gospel using local materials that let newcomers immediately participate in Christian tradition while gradually acquiring a faith vocabulary.

22 Translation explained
The best translators invoke imagination The conversation on the wall shouts conditions for acceptance, but the discussion behind the wall refuses to foreclose on God’s creativity, and supplies young people with the imaginative tools necessary to resist the Assyrian view of reality. Basically, without this language of transformative imagination, young people have only the worldview in which Jesus Christ could not make any difference. On the wall, where this language is spoken, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism makes perfect sense.

23 Translation explained
Translation is dangerous Translation often threaten the people in charge. Once you translate the gospel, this allows them to reflect on the Bible themselves. Translation in all its forms - cultural, symbolic, linguistic, human - gives voices to the mute who now can contribute different readings of the gospel to the Christian conversation. This includes youth ministry. Young people can read the Bible - this is not really the issue. The real issue is… why would they want to? When have they seen joy in this and differences made because of this? Anna Carter Florence states we have to make the Word of God available to young people by communicating that reading the Bible is wonderful and liberating and then they can employ this power for unforeseen purposes.

24 Discussion React to Dean’s statement:
“If we say we want to translate the gospel with young people, this is what we are saying: we are willing to put the very power of the gospel itself—the very power of the Word of God—into the hands of teenagers, people who do not view culture the way we view culture, who do not hear God the way we hear God, who will not worship the way we worship, who will not ‘do church’ the way we want them to simply because they will be listening to Jesus and not to us.” What might happen if teenagers get their hands on the gospel in your congregation?

25 Things to ask your teens
How do you think your teens would respond to these questions? Does your family talk about faith together? Is it easy for your parents to talk about their relationship with God? Do you believe Jesus or trust Jesus? Why? Do you feel your congregation trusts you with the gospel? Why or why not? Why is reading or having access to God’s Word important?

26 Break 5 minutes

27 The Art of Testimony Chapter 7

28 Talking Ourselves into Being Christian
Language shapes and forms our reality “Charles Taylor … believes that ’inarticulacy undermines the possibilities of reality’ and warn that ‘religious faith, practice, and commitment can be no more than vaguely real when people cannot talk much about them.’ The grammars, vocabularies, dictions, and accents of particular languages shape us into people with particular identities and imaginations.” (142) So if we can’t talk about Jesus, then we can’t imagine and act what it means to follow Jesus. Language has a world-creating power. Think of Genesis 1. “Teenagers who have trouble articulating what they believe about God also seem to have trouble forging a significant connection to God—and youth who do not have a language for Christ are unlikely to imagine an identity in Christ.” (142)

29 Talking Ourselves into Being Christian
Developing a Christian vocabulary We must learn to talk our way toward belief. Sing and reflect on hymns Example: Holy,Holy, Holy (Nicaea) Look back to the saints before us (their lives and their teachings) Know the ancient creeds Listen to sermons Memorize and study Scripture Active participation in the worship community Listening to personal testimonies—How is God at work in my life? Share a time when God’s story and our story collided. “teenagers learn to articulate faith by hearing adults articulate theirs.” (152) Learning Christian vocabulary is not an intellectual exercise, it is a social exercise.

30 Becoming Christian Speech precedes practice, which precedes virtue. (150) Christian language shapes our world so that we know what to do and how to act in it. The more we act in the world, the more habits will be formed in us to make us the kind of people who follow Jesus. Example: a musician

31 The Art of Detachment Chapter 8

32 The Art of Detachment Religious congregations and other religious organizations are uniquely positioned in the array of social institutions operating in the US to embrace youth, to connect with adolescents, to strengthen ties between adults and teenagers. This could only be good for all involved. But it will not happen automatically. It will require intentionality and investment. – Christian Smith and Melinda Denton

33 Been on a mission trip? Then you will know what these words mean… Detachment and Decentering
Detachment – disentangling ourselves from whatever distracts us from Jesus Christ, so that all of our attention – and all of our lives – may be fixed upon him. The effect of spiritual detachment is liberation, freeing us from lesser loyalties so we can entertain new possibilities that Christ presents for us and for the world. Decentering – an educational approach designed to shake loose old assumptions to make room for new possibilities. In the church, decentering practices eject us from our comfort zones and bring us to a new place from where we can reconsider God’s action in the world and in us. This often occurs with physical relocation (e.g. a mission trip).

34 Some thoughts on Mission trips…
Research on the impact of short-term mission trips on both participants and recipients is mixed; lasting changes are difficult to substantiate on either side. Mission trips often provide a bonding experience for participants and recipients which must be experienced in order to be understood. Mission trips open many teenagers to the Holy Spirit’s transformation and often provide appreciated assistance to people in need. Youth leaders should foster in teenagers the adoption of a “learner” mentality instead of a “fixer” before, during and after a mission trip. Mission trips often allow for faithful reflexivity – a type of self-awareness that allows us to view ourselves and others from a new vantage point as we watch God at work and join Him where He is already working. Mission trip experiences shape us whether we are reflective about it or not; but mature discipleship depends on faithful reflexivity to integrate into our emerging identities those experiences in which God grasps us and lets us see ourselves and others differently.

35 Youth Ministry – Anxiety versus Love
We are prone to spring immediately from ideas into action, knowing that our time with youth is short – but in so doing, we risk sacrificing the contemplative space necessary for prayer, repentance, reflection, or simply the awe and delight of discerning Christ’s presence. The differences in ministry rooted in anxiety versus love is pointed out in the following chart:

36 Youth Ministry rooted in
ANXIETY… LOVE… Seeks control (How do I make kids into Christians?) Seeks contemplation (How can I be present to kids and God?) Seeks Professionals (Who is an expert that can solve the youth problem?) Seeks processes (What can we do together to uncover Jesus’ way of life?) Wants products (What book, video, curriculum will teach kids faith?) Desires presence (Who will bear the life of God among teenagers?) Lifts up gurus (Who has the charisma to draw kids?) Relies on guides (Who has the gifts for living alongside kids?) Rests in results (How many kids have committed to the faith?) Rests on relationships (Who are the kids we have befriended?) Seeks conformity (Are the young people meeting our expectations?) Brings out creativity (What’s the fresh way in which God is challenging us through our youth?) Wants Activity (What will keep the kids busy?) Brings awareness (What are the real needs of our youth?) Seeks answers (Here’s what we think. Here’s who God is.) Seeks questions (What do you think? Or as Jesus said “Who do you say that I am?)

37 Closing thoughts… We cannot undergo any transformation by the sheer strength of our own will or intellect. We have to allow God to “de-program” us from the pattern of relating to young people as projects that need managing rather than persons who need God’s love and trust. Without decentering encounters and the reflective space they make possible, we dismiss the importance of helping young people see themselves, the church, and the world from Christ’s point of view instead of ours. Decentering practices like mission trips and prayer pave the way for epiphanies, conversions, and other threshold experiences where youth glimpse who Christ really is, and what loving him really costs. Faithful reflexivity reveals our reluctance to distinguish Moralistic Therapeutic Deism from Christian teaching, since it means we must untangle God’s mission from our own.

38 Promoting togetherness amongst Parents, Congregants and Youth
Not forced, but born naturally and organically in the life of the church. Encourage parent participation and fellowship during youth events (Super Bowl Party, Christmas caroling/party, Trunk or Treat, Movie nights, etc..) Congregant hosted youth events. Encourage parental participation and fellowship. Baptist Men & Women led events. Adult Sunday School organized and led events. Fostering togetherness during worship services for all ages. Parents encourage youth participation in service (choir, scripture reading, offering). Worship leaders… reach out to youth to play a part.

39 Faith Partners Connect 1 or more adults per youth
Adults would contact the youth weekly and ask spiritual questions If you committed to this, you would be giving about 30 minutes of your time per week. Adults would make themselves available for advice, or wisdom, and any other needs If there is a list of adults who would be willing to do this, then YMT can connect adults with the youth. This would be more led and initiated by adults.

40 Teen Interviews Adults
Initiated by teens Teen would seek out an adult to interview and ask interesting and compelling questions Short-term oriented, but could develop into a fruitful relationship

41 Family Religious Practices
Prayer Cultivate a prayer life in your family. Pray more than just before meals, and before bedtime. Pray in the morning, and in the afternoon. Pray for the world This will help your youth become more conscious of global life. Pray for Christians outside of the U.S. (especially in persecuted countries) Pray Christians in the U.S. Pray for your church: members, pastors, deacons, and leaders Pray for your school Pray for your children

42 Family Religious Practices
Bible Reading Read Scripture together Read through a book in the Bible Read through an OT, NT, and end with a Psalm. If you read the Bible 15 min per day, you’ll read the whole Bible in one year. I knew a parent who gave their children $100 if they read their Bible in one year. If you enjoy Scripture, then it’s likely that your youth will enjoy it too. You don’t have to know all the answers. Encourage seeking the truth together.

43 Family Religious Practices
Sabbath Keeping I don’t mean resting on Saturdays. I mean taking time to resist the cultural pressures to spend, and to be self-absorbed. By Israel keeping the sabbath every week showed the world and themselves that their God was enough, and that their God will provide and meet their needs Find creative ways to bless others Take time to do things as a family that demonstrates the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ. Do this on a weekly/biweekly/monthly basis

44 Family Religious Practices
Sabbath Keeping Resist cultural pressures by the way you spend money For example: For this month, the money we would have spent eating out together as a family will be saved to give to … This Summer we cancelled the summer vacation plans in order to give our money to …

45 Family Religious Practices
Fast Fast a meal, a day, or a week Fast from tv, entertainment, or food Fasting is not about restraining yourself from pleasure; it’s about reordering your desires for that which is truly good. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Support a Missionary/Orphanage Gospel for Asia

46 Resources for Theological Education
Books Series on themes and topics in the Bible called “Theology in Community”; you can buy them on; these books are written for lay people Suffering and the Goodness of God Fallen: A Theology of Sin The Kingdom of God The Deity of Christ Heaven The Glory of God

47 Resources for Theological Education
Books Buy at least one book on Systematic Theology By Wayne Grudem, or Millard Erickson, James McClendon Any book by N. T. Wright Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church Ask Pastor Randy or myself for more recommendations on a specific topic Podcasts Unbelievable? With Justin Brierly Defenders Podcast with William Lane Craig Reasonable Faith with William Lane Craig

48 Resources for Theological Education
iTunes U Tons of free seminary classes Reformed Theological Seminary Covenant Theological Seminary Open iTunes, go to iTunes Store, then select iTunes U Type in “Reformed Theological Seminary” in the search bar

49 Resources for Theological Education
Logos Bible Software You can buy bundles of books for reasonable price Book Club Meet weekly with people and read a book together Sunday School Class Pastor Randy mentioned that he would be willing to teach an intro to Theology if there was interest

50 Any more suggestions?

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