Friday, March 08, 2013
My Point - Exactly
The house lights go down. Spinning, multicolored lights sweep the auditorium. A rock band launches into a rousing opening song. "Ignore everyone else, this time is just about you and Jesus," proclaims the lead singer. The music changes to a slow dance tune, and the people sing about falling in love with Jesus. A guitarist sporting skinny jeans and a soul patch closes the worship set with a prayer, beginning, "Hey God …" The spotlight then falls on the speaker, who tells entertaining stories, cracks a few jokes, and assures everyone that "God is not mad at you. He loves you unconditionally."
After worship, some members of the church sign up for the next mission trip, while others decide to join a small group where they can receive support on their faith journey. If you ask the people here why they go to church or what they value about their faith, they'll say something like, "Having faith helps me deal with my problems."
Fifty or sixty years ago, these now-commonplace elements of American church life were regularly found in youth groups but rarely in worship services and adult activities.The phrase "arrested development" comes to mind when it comes to my generation and church. I remember when I was a high school kid, pumping up Young Life to my friends - they all viewed it as "substitute church." - Well, maybe if I go to YL, my parents will let me skip church on Sunday. - Young Life was intended to be a gateway to church, not a substitute for it.
The rest of this very informative article looking at the social forces that shaped both church and culture is fascinating and should be read. Then they get to the consequences:
Still, churches new to juvenilization would do well to consider its unintended consequences. Juvenilization tends to create a self-centered, emotionally driven, and intellectually empty faith.In their landmark National Study of Youth and Religion, Christian Smith and his team of researchers found that the majority of American teenagers, even those who are highly involved in church activities, are inarticulate about religious matters. They seldom used words like faith, salvation, sin, or even Jesus to describe their beliefs. Instead, they return again and again to the language of personal fulfillment to describe why God and Christianity are important to them. The phrase "feel happy" appeared over 2,000 times in 267 interviews.How to handle the situation is something I agree with completely:
I believe one key is to renew our commitment to the church as an intergenerational family, in which each person has a unique role in helping the others toward our shared goal of maturity in Christ (Titus 2:1-15; Eph. 5:21-6:4; Col. 3:18-4:1; 1 John 2:12-14). Adults need children and adolescents to draw out their committed love and provide concrete opportunities to care for others. Adolescents help adults reconnect with the passion of a life devoted to Christ, what he called the first love of the Christians at Ephesus (Rev. 2:4). Young people need adults in their lives who are modeling a vibrant spiritual maturity. One reason no one wants to grow up in America is that many adults don't make their life stage look very attractive.The first place I would start is rather than counter-programming youth ministry to adult worship (if they are still distinguishable in your churchj is that I would insist that youth ministry feed the youth into church - that particpation in adult worship was expected and encouraged.Technorati Tags:church, youth, minitry, maturity
Teenagers can legitimately follow Christ in adolescent ways, including participating in age-appropriate youth ministries. But those ministries must also help youth catch a vision for growing up spiritually. Churches full of people who are building each other up toward spiritual maturity are not only the best antidote to the juvenilization of American Christianity, but also a powerful countercultural witness in a juvenilized society.
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