youth ministry: getting people to fiddle with God

July 22, 2010

Are you a teacher, parent, youth mentore? Watch this TED talk. Yes go on, watch it now:

You can download it from here.

We struggle with youth ministry. And I say this not because of all the youth who are leaving the church. I say this because when I look at young adults, I see people who have been drenched with theology which are really harmful, in my humble opinion. We’ve sent our kids to 11 years of Sunday school, and if you’re in a super congregation, 11 years of whichever other youth activities, sometimes amounting to 3 events a week, and after 11 years they are stuck with theology which are really harmful. And here we are, me and you, and probably we’ve been through this process as well.

I get my confirmation class last year, and they are somewhat terrified of challenging God. But then they dig into Genesis since they have to make a sermon from it, they struggle with the narrative of Jacob fighting the man and then being told that he has fought with God (Gen 32). The theme of there sermon by the end of the year was that people may challenge God and ask God questions. And this isn’t some wild and wonderful insight. This is the tradition we’ve been in, but which we seem to be suppressing through the models we present to kids in youth ministry.

This year they get into the confirmation class, absolutely sure that God is on our side and not to be found with anyone whom ain’t a Christian. So we were reading 1 John 4. And we read it again. And we are still reading it, and then sharing what we see. And it’s challenging the popular theology that we were fed for so long in school openings, classrooms, CSA meetings, Sunday schools, and also church.

The task of youth ministry should then be to get youth to play, to fiddle, with God, or at least ideas about God, in such a way that they can grow up to have useful skills in doing theology in their daily lives – this meaning that they can bring the resources concerning God into conversation with that which face them in their lives.

2 Responses to “youth ministry: getting people to fiddle with God”

  1. Tiaan Says:

    On the Genesis-passage: after a line from a Chris Tomlin-song where he sings “You wrestle with the sinner’s heart” I was led to that passage too. Interesting when you go do some exegesis and semantics on it is that the term used for God in this passage could also refer to other gods/bad spirits or such. Doesn’t make the passage any less meaningful, I just found it an interesting insight, as I know we always go the route of “we can challenge God”. Not that I disagree! But it makes it an interesting reading: Jacob fought with his “demons” and with men, and conquered. It can encourage us when we have to face our own “demons”, if you get what I’m saying. Just an observation.🙂

  2. michaelrowancurle Says:

    The genesis passage is my favourite in the whole Bible. The youth I speak to are tired (I’m sure) of me saying that Faith means wrestling with God and losing. Yes, I think that God’s renaming was ironic. You can’t really say you won when the One you wrestled dislocated your hip with a touch. We have to learn to reject our culture’s obsession with being ‘strong and write’ and learn to be weak and unsure and to trust Jesus. And we have to teach teenagers this too. Good post!


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