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Youth Ministry as Reviewed by CNN…

by Joe Pursch on August 31st, 2010
In an important interview, author Kenda Creasy Dean argues that most teenagers in American churches have a case of “fake” Christianity. No less venerable a secular outlet than CNN.COM covered this story. I think there is much to ponder and to consider improving about the way we are approaching youth ministry as revealed in the content of the interview. Have we once again underestimated the hunger for the Word and for risk-taking faith that God Himself may have brought into the hearts of young men and women in this present generation? When even the secular world we are trying to reach argues that we may have presented a sanitized and un-engaging version of the faith to teens, I think that’s a wake up call. It’s also the reason that whenever I speak to any audience, and in particular to any audience of younger people, I always attempt to speak “up” to my audience, not down to them. What I mean is this: I speak to them believing that God is present and working in their hearts to give them both a hunger for His Word and the supernatural ability to understand and receive it as I open it up. The excerpts from the interview that I’ve included for you below are great, but you really need to read the whole interview if you are parenting or discipling teens today. The full interview is here. Below are some excerpts:

“Dean says more American teenagers are embracing what she calls ‘moralistic therapeutic deism.’ Translation: It’s a watered-down faith that portrays God as a ‘divine therapist’ whose chief goal is to boost people’s self-esteem.”

“Though three out of four American teenagers claim to be Christian, fewer than half practice their faith, only half deem it important, and most can’t talk coherently about their beliefs, the study found. Many teenagers thought that God simply wanted them to feel good and do good.”

“No matter their background, Dean says committed Christian teens share four traits: They have a personal story about God they can share, a deep connection to a faith community, a sense of purpose and a sense of hope about their future.”

“The Christian call to take risks, witness and sacrifice for others is muted, she says. ‘If teenagers lack an articulate faith, it may be because the faith we show them is too spineless to merit much in the way of conversation,'” wrote Dean, a professor of youth and church culture at Princeton Theological Seminary.


What a challenge to parents, pastors, youth pastors and other leaders.

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