My wife, Susie, and I have four grown children. We were blessed to be involved in youth ministry during much of their childhood and I pray my efforts to prepare young Christians has had an impact on them (it’s often more difficult to reach your own children than it is to reach strangers). When people ask me about the challenges facing young people in the Church, I do my best to describe both the problem and a possible solution. Here’s what I typically say: “Young Christians are leaving the Church because they no longer believe Christianity is true. For this reason, Christian Case Makers need to make students their priority as we make the decision to stop teaching and start training. This will require youth ministers to embrace a new attitude as they design ‘accessible’ training that challenges young Christians ‘holistically’ and makes the case specifically for students.” I’ve been writing about this lately on my blog, so I thought I would take the opportunity to better explain my response (with links to my blog posts):
“Young Christians Are Leaving the Church”
We need to stop deceiving ourselves. Young people are leaving Christianity and when questioned, they typically say they no longer believe Christianity is factually true. They’ve accepted the teaching of their secular professors over the teaching of their pastors and parents.
“Because They No Longer Believe Christianity is True”
University life is taking its toll on young Christians. From the moral and behavioral temptations to the overt attacks on Christianity, students are often persuaded by self-refuting secular notions related to truth, tolerance and the primacy of scientific naturalism.
“For This Reason, Christian Case Makers Need to Make Students Their Priority”
Since young people are the one group most likely to leave Christianity, Christian Case Makers need to make this group their primary emphasis. It’s time to refocus our attention on young people.
“As We Make the Decision to Stop Teaching and Start Training”
“Training” is “teaching in preparation for a battle”. Youth ministries need to understand the importance of taking young people out into the world to engage the issues head on. When we regularly schedule encounters of this nature, our teaching will become training.
“This Will Require Youth Ministers to Embrace a New Attitude”
Passion and “teach-ability” are requirements for leaders who want to adequately prepare their students. Most of us who are working in youth ministry are probably not formally trained in “apologetics”. We need to get passionate and start learning as much as we can so we can.
“As They Design ‘Accessible’ Training”
We’ve got to take difficult concepts and translate them effectively so they can be understood and remembered. As youth leaders, we’ve got to be able to “throw the ball so our students can catch it.”
“That Challenges Young Christians ‘Holistically’”
Student ministries sometimes forget they were created for students. These young people are here to learn. We need to embrace a holistic approach that includes training in Church history, “apologetics” and theology.
“And Makes the Case Specifically for Students”
Christian Case Making, when it’s designed for young people, is robust, interactive, relevant, personal and visual. It turns out this approach is also highly effective for older believers.
It’s time to “stop the bleeding”. If we are intentional about our approach to youth ministry, we can train young Christians and dramatically change the fabric of the Church in the future. It’s much easier to make the changes and do the training now than it will be to reverse the damage later.
For more information about strategies to help you teach Christian worldview to the next generation, please read So the Next Generation Will Know: Training Young Christians in a Challenging World. This book teaches parents, youth pastors and Christian educators practical, accessible strategies and principles they can employ to teach the youngest Christians the truth of Christianity. The book is accompanied by an eight-session So the Next Generation Will Know DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.
J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, author of Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids.
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