WIRED WORD…………The article below is going to guide our discussion this Sunday at Peace at 8:30 in the Fellowship Hall. I look forward to hearing your ideas and ways that Peace can better engage our youth with the Bible!
After Weeklong Retreat With Youth Group, Pastor Shares Impressions About Teenagers
The Wired Word for the Week of July 2, 2017
In the News
David Gushee, interim pastor of First Baptist Church of Decatur, Georgia, recently had what he describes as “a weeklong immersion experience” with his church’s youth group while they were on retreat together in Panama City, Florida. Afterward, on the church’s website, he shared with his congregation what he called “a completely unscientific set of impressions about characteristics of today’s teenagers.” That article was then picked up as a column by Religious News Service, where it was published under the title, “My Visit to the Land of Teenagers.”
Gushee started by noting that just about every one of the two dozen kids in the group was born in the 21st century, either in the year 2001 or soon thereafter and thus have no memory of 9/11 and were too young in 2007-2008 to be aware of the financial crash. “I wonder how much their consciousness has been shaped by historical events at all,” Gushee said.
What the kids seemed to know a lot about, said Gushee, were the words of every contemporary song they heard from every music collection they listened to from multiple iPhones during the six-hour drive to their retreat site. They were also up on the latest memes from YouTube, Twitter and other virtual reality media, the pastor said.
Gushee observed that the kids all had iPhones. None had a phone from any other provider. He soon realized that the only way to get the phones out of their hands during the retreat was to ban them.
The pastor was pleased to see that the kids were completely and unself-consciously inclusive racially. “They are real easy with each other across racial lines, almost as if the lines no longer exist for them,” Gushee said. “I thank God for where they are on this. They have much to teach their elders.”
Of concern to Gushee was the fact that only about half of the young people had any real familiarity with the Bible, and even those who did, though they had grown up in the church, “apparently hadn’t been taught much,” he said. But, he credited those kids for bringing with them friends who had no religious background.
The agenda for the retreat gave Gushee five sessions to give the kids an overview of the Bible, but he found that he had to start “almost entirely from scratch,” explaining the organization of the Bible, including such basics as the book/chapter/verse system, the main sections and “the whole Israel and the church thing,” the pastor said.
This led Gushee to conclude that for most kids, Christianity is no the longer the language spoken at home, as it was for many of today’s adults when they were young. “Ariana Grande, Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran, and the meme of the week are this generation’s native language, while everything else is a second or third language,” Gushee said.
Thankfully, the kids seemed eager to learn, Gushee observed, but added that the challenge is “daunting.” “How do we communicate the Christian faith in such a way that kids will care enough to first make the effort to learn this new language, and then decide that they want it to become the central language in their own life?” Gushee asked.
Additionally, Gushee asked, “Are we attempting a direct challenge to the mainstream culture that is wired directly into their brains via their earbuds, or are we merely supplementing it with a new addition? And in a cultural moment relentlessly tuned to the new and latest, how do we make a 2,000-year-old religion seem anything other than musty and ancient?”
From what he observed at the retreat, the pastor drew two additional conclusions:
First, it’s important to use modern Bible translations when teaching kids about the scriptures. “No more King James Version, ever,” he said.
Second, it’s necessary “to draw meaningful connections between what is going on in their lives and what is said in the Bible.” Gushee explained that “Job’s question about why innocent people suffer, Ecclesiastes on whether life is really meaningful, Song of Solomon on romantic passion, and the prophetic cry for justice, Jesus’ teachings about love of God and neighbor — these and much more still speak if we know how to help students draw the connections.”
More on this story can be found at these links:
The Big Questions
1. There is a saying that “Christianity is always just one generation away from extinction.” What do you think that means and do you agree? Why or why not? Someone also said “God has no grandchildren.” What does this say about the importance of a vigorous church membership training system for young people?
2. If you had five sessions to teach kids something about the Bible, what material would you cover, and why? Would it be all New Testament? Which parts of the Old Testament are essential to teach? Would you try to present the arc of scripture from the Garden of Eden to Revelation? Would it be verse oriented? story oriented? Why?
3. What is your answer to Gushee’s question: “How do we communicate the Christian faith in such a way that kids will care enough to first make the effort to learn this new language, and then decide that they want it to become the central language in their own life?”
4. What do you do in your family and/or in your church to make the Bible’s lessons more relevant and important to teenagers? What has worked, in your experience, to open a teenager’s heart and mind to hear the word?
5. Is youth ministry a priority in your church? Why or why not? Is it something everyone is involved in? Do you expect the youth leader or leaders to do the whole job? How are youth involved in weekly worship?