John Stonestreet of Summit Ministries has some direct counsel for the church’s sacred responsibility of passing the torch to the next generation, and it’s totally in sync with what Brett Kunkle at STR is doing.
[O]ur key concern in regards to the next generation is that they “get” Christianity. Our primary focus should turn from whether Christian students like church, or whether they think of Jesus as their best friend, or even whether they know why they believe what they believe…. Primarily, if Smith and Denton are correct, our focus should be teaching them what Christianity is because, simply put, they don’t get it….
How is it that students who are so deeply engrossed in church culture and who have more access to the Bible, Christian literature, youth programs, and other resources than any generation that has lived since the founding of the Church, can be so confused about what Christianity actually is and why it matters? How is it that they possess such a truncated, neutered view of the Kingdom?
1. …Entertainment had destroyed our ability to think and prioritize. We lack discernment. We care about irrelevant things and ignore what is actually important
Unfortunately, the Christian community often responds by heaping “Christian” noise on the rest of the noise. Attempting to be “relevant” to students, we instead contribute to their appetites for distraction. Entertainment has made us silly and Christian entertainment has made our students silly Christians.
2. …Often, our approaches to youth ministry sanctify adolescence. Whereas teenagers have the capacity—and thus, I would argue, the calling—to think deeply and broadly about their culture, confront evil and injustice, and champion the truth, they instead are encouraged in their adolescent narcissism. We present a neutered Gospel, only about them and their needs, lacking vision (Proverbs 29:18).
3. …Today’s students enter a world of runaway biotechnology, postmodern social constructions of gender, virtual online identities, family redefinition, distorted understandings of beauty, and multiple sexual orientations, each of which fundamentally challenge our concept of humanness. Further, our culture has largely embraced Darwin, trivialized Scripture, and relativized truth, and has therefore left few stable resources to negotiate this corporate identity crisis….
4. The battle of ideas is often the battle over definitions. Asking students, “What do you mean by that?” has never been more crucial. Assuming that we share definitions, or that traditional definitions will go unquestioned, with the emerging generation is a mistake with significant consequences. Among the more crucial words needing careful definition include God, human, truth, faith, Gospel, Kingdom, evil, tolerance, male, female, pro-life, justice, marriage, family, freedom, rights, responsibility, and the good life….