So I’ve been reading up a bit about youth culture in a book called “Engaging the Teenage Soul” by Walt Mueller and he makes a statement that says if the church is not willing to listen to the questions our young people are asking then they will go to people and places where they will be listened to. Often where they go comes as a surprise to the church. To make matters worse when we do answer them, often the answers we respond with, which we believe are biblical and evangelical, and are well-intentioned, many times misses the mark. Why? Because we have cookie-cut answers, a one-size-fits-all response to questions being asked and often these answers are not even applicable to the questions being asked. The questions being asked are changing, as a matter of fact it has already changed, so how can we have answers for questions that we don’t know are being asked?
What I often wonder is, “what is more important? Is creating a platform, a space, for them to ask questions more important than the answers themselves?” Is by allowing them to ask questions enough to show that they are taken seriously?
Is Christianity not revelation? A process, sometimes even immediate, where Jesus Christ reveals himself to us through the written word, the spoken word and creation, through a life-long process where we work out our salvation in relation to this revelation of God. Should youth ministry not be more than just wanting to give our young people answers, answers we think they should know but a journey, a life-long one of learning and experience the God who was always actively involved in the lives of his people?
I am not purporting that we base our understanding of God merely on experiential knowledge but I think often times this learning experienced is removed and only factual and head knowledge is sought after by those who seem to posses the answers.
So how do we engage young people with the gospel of Jesus Christ?
- Create a platform, a place, that is free of judgement so that they would have the liberty to ask questions and to speak their hearts and minds;
- Listen to their questions without wanting to give them the answers which we believe are the correct ones, instead allow God to speak into their lives;
- Walk with them through this enigma called life and allow them to experience what God has done in your life in theirs.
“Learning how to live from experience is part of the human condition” says Suzy Welch. From her statement one can read it as it is not so much that we have to experience things to be able to relate to living but learning to live from those experiences. How many bad life experiences have totally derailed people completely from life’s journey? I sometimes wonder if it is entirely necessary to experience things in life to say that “I have lived”? I think that there is a bit of narcissism in that even a bit of judgement, “you haven’t experienced that, so you have no authority or right to speak to me about it”. I wonder how that type of mentality impacts on our next generation of we are so quick to impart such judgements or opinions? How many of us has even been ruled out of parenting due to these statements? Or even ministry? I definitely have not and will not experience everything that my kids will experience. But then again, does experience qualify us for life?
I am also of the opinion that we do not have to experience everything in this life to know right or wrong, good or bad. Just take a look around you and that should also be our learning curvature in life. I have seen this and that with my parents, therefore I do not have to experience it in my personal capacity, I have learnt the lesson. What about learning from history, famous people, politicians, the homeless, the addicts, children, teenagers? We have so many people experiencing things that I wonder why we have to be so arrogant as to say “I want to learn through my own mistakes”. I am not advocating that we do not live our lives, or that we live such cautionary lives that we become hermits and become secluded in our thinking and lifestyles. What I am saying is take heed when someone who genuinely cares about you gives caution.
This past week I had experienced something that so many people have warned me about and from, and if only I had heeded to their advice I would have been spared much grief and disappointment. This was a typical example of where I did not have to experience something myself to experience it (Yet in my heart I knew what the outcome would have been). How can I safeguard my heart from such future experiences? How can I protect myself from myself? How can I live a full life without potentially risking a complete derailing? Life is tough as it is, why still stack the odds against yourself?
My question thus:
- Is it really that important to experience things personally to know the outcome?
- Can we not learn from the many stories and people around us and save us from much grief and struggles?
- How can we advise and encourage the next generation if we are so arrogant and judgemental in our opinions of experience?
I wonder… Well that was just my experience on this take in any case!