I read today an article by Cameron Cole of the Rooted blog. He posted this article on the Gospel Coalition site, 5 Tools Needed to Reach Today’s Teens. I must say that I fully agree with these points, but I believe there is an even bigger more essential point that Cameron assumes on the outset. One that cannot be understated or glossed over.
Before I reveal my additional point to his 5 tools needed, let me summarize his article and recommend you read it in full to get a much deeper appreciation for each point.
- Knowledge about the canonization of scripture: More often than ever we face questions concerning authority. How can we be sure God’s Word is authoritative for 2013? If teenagers do not trust the bible, they will not have the foundation essential for Christian doctrine or practice.
- Developed Theology of sexuality, especially homosexuality: Teens today are bombarded with competing truth claims. We need a balanced and biblical answer for these questions. If we do not speak boldly with truth and compassion on these topics, the biblical message will be drowned out in a rising tide of unbiblical messages. While homosexuality is a hot topic, we need a balanced view of all aspects of sexuality. Teens need instruction on what a proper biblical heterosexual relationship looks like, as much or more than warnings of improper relationships.
- The ability to teach the Bible in the greater context of redemptive history: While telling your own story is important, teens today want to be connected to a bigger story as well. They want to know there is meaning and purpose behind how we got to where we are today. Explaining the grand narrative of redemptive history and then describing our chapter in that story is very powerful.
- A Theological, not only moral, understanding of Sin: This is very important. Teens need to understand the eternal weight of actions not just focused on consequences in relativistic society, but in a view of an eternal, unchanging, completely perfect God. Teens today recognize the futility of just slapping sin on the wrist, but need to understand why.
- Understand Adoption as an Element of Salvation: In a culture of divorce and superficial relationships the opportunity to be a part of a true community can be life changing. Teens place a huge value on relationships. Since this is true, the biblical concept of “Koinonia” (greek for doing life together, i.e. fellowship) when righty applied in a church should be a significant factor in discipleship and life change. Teens long for meaningful relationships, this need is met first in Christ and then His bride.
Read the full article by Cameron Cole. It reminds us of the inside life that teenagers really are living day to day. To best reach this generation we need to understand how to connect.
Which brings me to my addition. In my 6+ years of full time youth ministry I believe a colossal step is being assumed by Cole, that needs to be clearly articulated constantly to all adults who work with teenagers. This is so important that all the above points completely lose thier meaning when this is absent.
- Personal Holiness and Passion Cannot be Faked: If you want to work with teens, prepare for your life to be examined and imitated. Teenagers can detect a fake in a heartbeat and once this is sensed they will turn off. Why do teens leave the church? In many cases it is because they see conflicting examples in their parents on whether or not church is important. As a leader, it doesn’t matter if you can wax on the details of the Canon, refute homosexual marriage, and recite the history of the church. If you are dead spiritually, do you really want mold teenagers in that same pattern? To be open and honest with a growing relationship with Christ is what teens need to see first. Before any other questions come up they have got see something real in your life. This cannot be assumed, it must be intentionally cultivated in the life of any christian, leader or not.
I am so thankful for guys like Cameron Cole who are striving to make youth ministry better. We all benefit from reminders like this. And it is my prayer that I can add to the conversation and push us all one more step toward Jesus.