Most of us love speaking to students, sharing our wisdom, pontificating on spiritual realities and how Jesus wants to help them in their desperation. But if we are quiet for just a second and allow space for students to share what they really think, what their true convictions are, what they really think of Christianity, I think we will all be a bit surprised. My encounter with students, my students, my friends' students, students from all over the country is that students' worldview, self view, and moral view is in stark difference from yours. Students know how to play ball in the adult world, they know what to say and how to get ahead in the verity of social contexts they find themselves. When they are with their parents, coaches, every different teacher, and in our student ministries, they put on different hats in order to survive / thrive in each context.
But what would happen if we took a step back and really listened, without our own agenda? What would we find?
- Students' lives are not in total chaos and they are not depressed in dire need of salvation or hope. Their lives are just fine. And if not, they don't know any different, so what you might see as awful and hopeless is simply the world they inhabit.
- Students have absolutely zero understanding of sin. Your morality is not their morality. As long as they are open-minded and tolerant, and don't intentionally hurt someone else, then they are good people. Live and let live.
- If there is sin, then you are the one who is actually living in it. You have judgmental and self-righteous attitudes and try to put your morality on others.
- Sex and sexuality are of uttermost importance to them, and the church's traditional teaching on both have no place in worldview of our students. "Hate the sin, love this sinner," sounds to our students like, "Separate, but equal."
- Students have no need for organized religion and feel absolutely no guilt or shame for their lifestyle choices, for their past experiences, and especially for not coming regularly to youth group.
- It is obvious that youth group provides some social need for students because they keep coming. But it is also obvious that the actual religion we attempt to pass on rolls off their back like water on a duck. When they no longer have a need for the youth group community, or when it becomes toxic for them, or they graduate, then they bounce.
We are idiots if we think that a growing youth group, or youth group attendance at all has anything to do with their acceptance of Christianity or their spiritual maturity.
All of this is to say, this is some bad news! Substitutionary Atonement combined with an emphasis on purity and not drinking too much are totally foreign concepts that have zero meaning in our student population. I would say that this is some bad news. Thankfully, the gospel is good news! And I think that the gospel still is good news. But we are barking up the wrong tree!!
My next post I will wrestle through what how I think the gospel still is good news and a needed paradigm shift in our understanding and approach to discipleship. FUN!
What do you think? Am I a heretic? Do you see similar trends? What are the felt needs of students? How does the gospel speak into those? What are your solutions? Game on peeps! The world is changing. Scratch that! The world has changed and the church needs to do some hard work, intellectually and spiritually if we are going to have any sort of impact on this next generation.