Go and Do Discipleship Model

[video link]

My view of discipleship has radically changed in the last two years. I’m increasingly convinced that my role as a shepherd to high schoolers is about putting them in moments of spiritual crisis so that they recognize that they need to learn more from God’s Word.

This is in stark contrast to my previous model. Before I spent way too much time preparing them to do ministry and giving them information that just didn’t seem relevant to their walk with Jesus yet. The more I turn that upside down, putting them in situations where they know they need to learn more, the faster they grow up. When you couple that with my desire to see students take greater responsibility for themselves earlier in life… you start to see a new view of what we used to call a “description of a discipled person.

As more time goes on I see my role in disciple-making less as a manager of a program and more as a curator of the spiritual life. (see Richard Dunn’s pacing concept in Shaping the Spiritual Life of Students for that concept.)

Here are the three links mentioned in the video:

  • Dedication and Leadership by Douglas Hyde
  • Teens 2.0 by Dr. Robert Epstein
  • Inward, Outward, and Beyond’s “New Heights Project
  • I’d love your feedback and thoughts as I work this out in my life and ministry.


    44 responses to “Go and Do Discipleship Model”

    1. Tim Schmoyer Avatar

      Dude, EXACTLY! I walked away from my last experience in Haiti with this same impression. The problem I’m running into now is that I’m having a hard time communicating that shift to others here at the church. Fall ministry is launching soon and most people don’t get it. The ones who were in Haiti with me do, but it’s gonna take a while for me to make that shift here in a way that brings people along with me. Kinda frustrating how slow it has to be.

    2. Marty Avatar

      Adam, I totally agree with you, but how do you do it? I feel like I’ve tried to do this with kids here and it’s either incredibly attractive or incredibly polarizing. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing this wrong.

      1. adam mclane Avatar

        For us, we just started doing it. Being a church plant we have that flexibility. For an existing ministry, maybe you need to create a new ministry for people who want to do more and sit less? Sounds like a good thing to talk to a consultant about at say… NYWC.

    3. Greg Wilson Avatar

      Hey Adam. I agree as well. I particularly liked the idea of paying pre-Christian students to help with your VBS. I’d love to know more about that. Looking forward to reading the books you recommended as well.

      1. adam mclane Avatar

        I could explain more about it, but I think it’d be best to go and interview Chris and Kathy about it. I’ll book that with them and post that video.

    4. Nick Arnold Avatar

      I like the concept a lot. I think the kids here at the new church I just started at have been taught to “sit and listen” all their lives and are bored. I want to provide them opportunities to “go and do.”

      Could you explain a bit more what you mean by “faith crises,” though? Are these manufactured moments or are you looking for them where they already are? And what exactly are they? 🙂

      Thanks for your dedication to what you do.

      1. adam mclane Avatar

        Well, Hyde discusses how communists design opportunities for new converts to get in over their head. By putting them in situations where they are backed into a corner about their beliefs… they hold onto what they believe about communism but don’t have answers to questions they are getting or know how to “win” arguments. The result is that after a few weeks of that, the young communist is basically BEGGING for information.

        So, what would creating a faith crisis for a high school student look like? As a curator, that’d obviously be up to you to determine. But it may mean asking a new or pre-believing student to teach Bible studies to younger students or asking her to go do hospice visits and take the lead, stuff like that. Maybe its taking them on a weekend missions experience that throws them into the deep end?

        The key component for this role becomes… creatively putting a student over their head AND taking the time to debrief the experience so they aren’t completely shattered.

        The thing you want is for a student to finish teaching or comforting a sick person and say to you, “I didn’t know really what to say, can you show me what God’s Word says about _____?”

    5. Joel Mayward Avatar

      Love this post! The educational term I’ve heard used for “faith crisis” is “disequilibration,” like bumping someone off their balance and forcing them to find their footing. It’s become a central part of my philosophy for discipling junior highers, especially as they begin shifting from concrete to abstract thought. That shift in thinking is fertile ground for lots of faith crises! It’s like we’re taking everything they thought they learned in Sunday school and bringing up asking deeper questions by putting students in situations where they actually have to live it out.

      I also love that the concept of discipleship at your church doesn’t begin with Christian students. It destroys that common dichotomy of “evangelism vs. discipleship” by discipling pre-Christian students just as much as Christians.

      1. adam mclane Avatar

        You bring up a great point. See, I think John 6 illustrates this pretty well. Jesus had “many” who called themselves his disciples but walked away in verse 66. That’s a ton of people who thought they opted into a life with Jesus but, for some reason, punked out.

    6. lori Avatar

      Not even sure how I landed here, but to God be the glory. This was a much needed post, encouraging post! I must admit there are times when it feels like we may be the only church left with this idea of growing teenage disciples rather than being the Wednesday night entertainment.

      My view too has radically changed. Perhaps it’s being involved with a church plant, perhaps it’s having teens who seek, perhaps being asked to “lead” a group of teens in this plant church, perhaps it’s my own inward look at discipleship, turned outward. As church plant laity now shepherding teens, I couldn’t agree with you more on “… my desire to see students take greater responsibility for themselves earlier in life… you start to see a new view of what we used to call a “description of a discipled person.” Many of these kids (all 10 of them :)) have complacent Christian parents (even in a plant church) so they need a bit of “shoving” when it comes to discipling. Just spent some time listening to Alex and Brett Harris challenge my two teenagers to “Do Hard Things” at the Rebelution Conference here in Atlanta…pushing them out of their comfort zones and making the ministry more about verbs than nouns. “DO, MOVE, ACT, LOVE”

      Love the “radical” ideas of reaching out, and thus becoming a “curator of the Spiritual Life…” It is not my goal to entertain, but rather give them the opportunity to learn discipleship, the Jesus way.

      Thanks for the resource links…can’t wait to check them out.
      It’s been a blessing!

    7. […] Check out what he says over on his blog and contribute to the discussion in the comments below his post. AKPC_IDS += "7847,";Posted on August 3, 2010 […]

    8. Walter Avatar

      This nails it on the head so much. The balance to teach in explaining truth and then have to apply it in situations is seen constantly in Christ with His disciples. How we do it today and also to do so in providing constant test situations all weighs heavily on me to synchronize. Can this be done consistentyl and for a long time (sustainability)? I am thinking out loud (I pastor and also still am the youth pastor of a 80-90 attendee church in the HOuston area).

    9. Adam McLane Avatar

      Really cool stuff, folks. Thanks for rocking the discussion.

    10. Phil Avatar


      Great post! I totally agree! It’s all about creating the need to want to grow. When we spoon feed students, is it any wonder that they grow up to be consumer driven adults who expect the pastor to feed them every Sunday?

      Experiences, challenges, and a socratic method allow students to own their faith and leave a lasting memory of why they needed to learn what they did.

      Here’s a challenge I think many youth workers face: It is easier to buy “canned” material from large churches or youth ministry organizations who have large programs. These large churches are not always flexible enough to be able to follow the kind of approach you are talking about. It is these churches who are producing a lot of the “canned” material that smaller churches are buying up. All we seem to be doing is copying what we think is “success”, but in fact is not.

      I sure hope that youth workers can start to think independently again and begin to create environments that will challenge students to struggle and think through their faith… It’s either “fast food” (canned) ministry or “growth producing” organic ministry… Bottom line: Listening to a 30 minute message and filling in the blanks as they go simply does not produce ownership of faith in the long term… In my opinion 🙂

      Adam, I appreciate the challenge this presents to all who are in the trenches of youth ministry. We need to hear this again and again… Thank you!

    11. Jeff Goins Avatar

      Great vid. Loved the music, but prob not necessary the second time around. Heh. Accidental loop? 😉

      Well said, Adam. I love Jesus’ method of discipleship – a “follow me” approach that involves challenge and testing as opposed to a “come and please don’t leave” that has become the norm for many youth ministries and churches. I like the idea in the NT of proving ourselves to be true disciples of Christ, while providing plenty of “on-ramp” opportunities for those who are seeking truth.

    12. Bo Grimes Avatar
      Bo Grimes

      An old joke: Adam turns to Eve as they leave the garden and says “I think we’re living in a time of transition.” We all think our time is a unique time of crisis, innovation and transition.

      As a father of 5 and a Director of Christian Education and Youth who has been involved with youth groups for over 15 years, I can’t help but wonder if our efforts to reinvent the wheel every other day (in a global, connected world) are being effective. Are our youth better able to resist becoming captives in Babylon because of the way we do youth ministry?

      Some of the best books on education I have read are many decades old. Some of the best disciples I know are in their 60s and they came through Old School Sunday School and youth programs.

      Despite all the vigor and innovation, energy and passion in youth ministry today these sad facts remain:
      * According to Dr. Gary Railsback up to 50% of evangelical college freshman will forsake their Christian beliefs by their senior year of college.
      * According to George Barna:
      o 2 out of 3 Christian teens will evacuate the church after they graduate from high school
      o 63% of our teens don’t believe Jesus is the Son of the one true God
      o 58% believe all faiths teach equally valid truths
      o 51% don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead
      o 70% don’t believe an absolute moral truth exits

      Will putting them in moments of spiritual crisis provoke them to turn to God’s word if they are already basically Biblically illiterate and their friends and family are not formed and informed by the Word?

      Many youth find soccer drills dull and boring and just want to play. Basic training in the military is full of drudgery. Diagramming sentences was boring as all get out when I was a kid, but I can structure a sentence infinitely better than the Tweeting generation.

      Worship, discipleship and spiritual growth are work. Paul Bosch writes: “I have a friend who maintains that worshippers should leave the church on Sunday morning after worship is over in a sodden sweat. That may be overstating the case a bit. But I’d want people to feel they’ve got some work to do when they enter the church.”

      How, exactly, do we think Jesus was taught the complex Jewish prayers, or Torah? And how did he teach? He used what we would call lectures and stories; he showed by example and then sent his closest 12, the ones he was training to feed his sheep when he was gone, out on practice runs. But the teaching (Rabbi means teacher) came first.

      And not just from and through Jesus. Each and every one of his disciples had been raised in the Jewish faith, learned how to pray, heard the Law and prophets again and again proclaimed in the Temple, participated in the rituals and celebrations of Jewish liturgical worship, so that when they heard Jesus they had the foundation in the old covenant that allowed them to understand the new.

      In an effort to get outside my own cultural ethnocentrism and my own parochialism I ask myself: Why are churches in the 3rd world where they do not have are money and technology growing so fast? How are they teaching their youth the faith? How did Christians in earlier times manage to teach the faith to their kids without all the tools and resources we have today? Why were they able to do it better?

      Here’s a snip from an article called “Education in colonial America.”

      “Education in early America began in the home at the mother’s knee, and often ended in the cornfield or barn by the father’s side. The task of teaching reading usually fell to the mother, and since paper was in short supply, she would trace the letters of the alphabet in the ashes and dust by the fireplace. The child learned the alphabet and then how to sound out words. Then a book was placed in the child’s hands, usually the Bible. As many passages were familiar to him, having heard them at church or at family devotions, he would soon master the skill of reading. The Bible was supplemented by other good books such as Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, The New England Primer, and Isaac Watt’s Divine Songs. From volumes like these, our founding fathers and their generation learned the values that laid the foundation for free enterprise.”

      Sound boring to me, but it worked. The question isn’t is it boring, but will it train them to know the Shepherd’s voice? What is the goal? To grow in faith, hope and love or not be bored? I know it does not have to be either/or, but we are raising an entire generation of youth who have a fundamental expectation about everything they do:

      Oh, teacher, lead me not into boredom and deliver me from striving.

      1. adam mclane Avatar

        Thanks for your comment. I just don’t buy into the concept that you need infinite preparation. Less prep, more action.

        I’m not arguing that we keep people ignorant and unprepared. I’m saying that putting them in situations where they don’t feel prepared will actually make them WANT to be less ignorant and more prepared.

    13. Jeff Avatar

      I think there needs to be balance. I came to Christ through traditional Sunday school and youth group and am now a pastor of Student Ministries myself. We go on mission trips and I think they are beneficial. We allow both non and Christian students to come on these trips and also encourage there parents to come. However I don’t think I could base a ministry on this. This is a part of the ministry.

      I also don’t think that as a father I would want my daughter learning from non Christian students, my fear would be that they would stear them in the wrong direction. When it comes to raising children we want them raised in the truth. I think investing in families is huge. Teaching parents how to teach, model and disciple there children, as parents are the primary spiritual care givers of their children. I think there needs to be a rounded approach of teaching and learning through experience. Also we have to leave room for the Holy Spirit to work in whatever we are doing, he is truly the one who does the work, not us.

      I think for us to label one approach as the best, or the one to use is arrogant. God has brought people to himself in many ways. Through traditional ways, through some of the new stuff, and through things that none of us have heard of. Just thinking we have to be careful to give one thing a stamp of approval, and not give merit to other ways that God is working. I myself am constantly reviewing what we have set up and praying that God will use our best efforts, because ultimately it is God who does the work, and only through him can we accomplish anything.

      1. adam mclane Avatar

        “I also don’t think that as a father I would want my daughter learning from non Christian students, my fear would be that they would stear them in the wrong direction.” You Pharisee. 🙂

        There are no “one size fits all” solutions. If we stopped approaching our ministries as “experts coming to save the day” and started acting like missionaries new to a culture, we’d get a lot further. I don’t know your context. But I’ve worked in small towns, big suburbs, and now inner-city. In all of those contexts I would say… we need to stop babying Christian kids and placating parents. It doesn’t work. We’ve lost generations. They need to be shown a better way to walk with Jesus than coming, siting, and learning. There is a place for that. But they have to want it first. (see Dunn’s book)

        In most communities the combined impact of the church reaches less than 5% of the population. If you approached your community more as a missionary and less as a church staff member, you’d leave the church kids behind. They aren’t going to get any more saved than they are already. And its not the church staff’s job to disciple them, anyway. (Duet 6 is tough to get away from)

        1. Jeff Avatar

          No need to get upset, I admire your passion, but not so sure about calling someone a pharisee! Never did I say about babying kids, but they do need to be taught the truth, teaching is important, both experiential and through being taught, that was all I as saying. Over half of my youth group is community kids and I am very involved with the community, and I agree there is no one size fits all, I guess that was the point of my previous message. Sorry if I offeneded you, not my intention, however maybe you need to think about how you respond to messages, even if they may upset you somewhat.

          I know my daughter will learn things from non-Christians, but when it comes to learning about the truth of God and her telling other people it needs to come from her family and fellow believers. I do not want to hide her away from non-Christians either, Spiritual formation starts when they are a baby from the parents and works through both experiential teaching and sitting down and being taught. Anyway, maybe we are misunderstanding each other, you have some valid points and I am not meaning to take away from them.

          1. adam mclane Avatar

            Jeff- sorry, I was being sarcastic with the Pharisee comment. Not upset in the least. Sorry if it wasn’t clear.

    14. Joel Mayward Avatar

      @Bo Grimes and @Jeff,

      I can’t exactly speak for Adam, but it sounds like what he’s advocating isn’t a “let’s abandon the teaching of doctrinal truth to students,” which I perceive you’re seeing in this approach. Instead, this is a call to rethink our motives and methodologies of how we communicate that truth, to shift from a “telling” model to a “pacing-then-leading” model (another promo for Richard Dunn’s fantastic book on discipleship). There is still a vital place for teaching–even teaching in an up-front teacher sort of way–but the central driver for discipleship moves from a transmissive approach (transmitting Biblical information) to a transformative approach (wrestling and struggling with Biblical truth).

      1. adam mclane Avatar

        Thanks Joel, you said it well.

        As I’m still working through this model, my thoughts are at times well articulated and at others poorly articulated. Thanks for filling the gap between what I hoped to say and what I didn’t say.

        One way to look at what I’m advocating in this post is that we have, largely, separated the Great Commission into two sub-categories of program. One is Go and the other is make disciples. What I am saying is working quite well in my life is a “while going, make disciples” concept. It’s not perfect and the scale of it sucks… but it is effective.

        My opinion is that we spend lots of time and energy answering questions students don’t have and very little putting them in situations that force them to ask questions.

    15. Bo Grimes Avatar
      Bo Grimes

      I’m not replying to any one person, just thinking with my fingers about the last several replies. I certainty don’t think it’s an either/or as much as a both/and, but my general sense–and not just about the church, but education, culture and society in general– is that we almost make an idol of “innovation” and “freshness.” I worship in a highly liturgical tradition, and it never becomes rote or ritual for me because I seek and encounter Christ in His “present risenness” (Brennan Manning’s phrase) each time I worship. But so many in my denomination think it’s dull and boring and dead.

      Worship should be the grounds for all we do, the wellspring of our daily lives, and worship takes training, like a sport. There’s a bit of hubris to our conviction that we are living in some different time uprooted from past and place because of technology. And I think we are out of balance in our efforts to incorporate and accommodate so much of the methods and trends of post-modern, secular thinking.

      There are a lot of great organizations and activities for kids, wholesome, fun, exciting, be it sports, the Boys and Girls clubs, Scouting, band, etc. We offer one and one thing no one else does; Jesus Christ.

      I keep pondering on Jer. 6:16. Here it is in the NIV followed by The Message:

      This is what the LORD says:
      “Stand at the crossroads and look;
      ask for the ancient paths,
      ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
      and you will find rest for your souls.
      But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

      God’s Message yet again:
      “Go stand at the crossroads and look around.
      Ask for directions to the old road,
      The tried-and-true road. Then take it.
      Discover the right route for your souls.
      But they said, ‘Nothing doing.

      I’ve been reading a new book by Michael Slaughter, Change the World: Recovering the Message and Mission of Jesus. Savage writes: “Who we are and why we are here are realized as we live and serve God together in community under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. The values of this community are not established by trends in media, art, politics, or economics. Those values change with every generation. The values of the Kingdom of God are eternal […] If the world is ever going to take the good news of the Gospel seriously, then we must take a serious look at our paradigms for ministry, repent, and realign our priorities and resources with the message and mission of Jesus.”

      Savage stresses that we need to shift from attractional evangelism to mission evangelism. He argues that we need to move away from trying to create quality programming for every age and life stage in much the same way that a cruise ship is a “self-contained fortress of programming for every age and interest.” In this model the congregation members are like customers picking and choosing from the buffet.

      On the other hand, mission evangelism “parallels the priorities and focus of a mission outpost in a challenging place of great human need.” We all are, after all, resident aliens sojourning in a strange land. The mission outpost is a more apt analogy than a cruise ship for what the church ought to be.

      It just feels to me like those who occupy that mission outpost have to be equipped by intensive training in worship, prayer and Biblical literacy before we can begin to do it. It seems many of our kids have been trained from years of spiritual atrophy and attention span destroying technology and parental inattention to expect church to just be nothing but a fun, entertaining time with friends.

      Bottom line: no one has ever “done church” the way we do it now in America. There were no youth groups and men’s groups and seeker services and “contemporary” worship (all worship is contemporary both with our contemporaries and all the saints in heaven), and two and three services on Sunday and on and on.

      It feels to me like we are reacting, that we feel like we have to clamor to play catch-up and seize the attention of the youth with what we think is a kind of dynamic equivalence with their other experiences in the world, and it doesn’t seem to be working.

      Just maybe it’s time to “stand at the crossroads and look,” and “ask for the ancient paths,” Some of those that come to mind: Acts 2: 42 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” How can we say sitting and listening is outdated?

      Acts 3:1 “One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon.” The new Christians continued the practice of praying a specific times of the day.

      Acts 4: 1-2 “The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking [just speaking] to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.. Then onto verse 18: “Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” Then we see in 23-24 “On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.”

      Despite the fact that Christianity was a new covenant, fresh, dynamic, revolutionary, those first Christians saw that all of the shadows of the past were signposts to Jesus, and they continued in worship, prayer and teaching in much the same way. Maybe Satan doesn’t need to try and disrupt our teaching because it’s such a distracted, undisciplined mess he doesn’t have to.

      There is no way to get around that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” We must come before we can grow, and we must grow before we can go. That is the model Jesus used. He called his disciples, then he equipped his disciples by teaching, then he sent his disciples.

      I don’t know. The new models just don’t seem to be working, not in the church and not in the schools. Despite all the innovation in education, test scores and literacy drop year after year. College teachers lament that they have to remediate most of their students.

      Sorry. I’m not trying to disparage anyone at all. I feel the weight of lost generations. I can’t tell you the number of youth I see who are in church on Sunday and then out dancing in next to nothing to crass, demeaning music, grinding their pelvises into one another on Friday night.

      I just wonder if in trying to be relevant we haven’t “innovated” ourselves into irrelevance.

      1. adam mclane Avatar

        Excellent comment. Thanks for your well-thought-out response.

        1. Bo Grimes Avatar
          Bo Grimes

          Thanks. I hope you haven’t taken any of it as criticism. I’m in the same position as everyone else: struggling to figure out how to disciple youth (and even adults) in what’s looking more and more like Babylon. How do we train them to not eat “the king’s meat,” but still be able to live, work, play, celebrate and study with and among those who are not of the “royal priesthood”?

          Daunting and discouraging at times, but hopeful because of the knowledge that others are facing the same challenges and that we can connect and share. Thanks for starting the discussion.

      2. Joel Mayward Avatar

        “There is no way to get around that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” We must come before we can grow, and we must grow before we can go. That is the model Jesus used. He called his disciples, then he equipped his disciples by teaching, then he sent his disciples.”

        When Jesus equipped his disciples through teaching, it was nearly always in the context of traveling from one place to another to preach the Gospel of the kingdom. There was movement, action, teachings based likely on everyday observations, all rooted in the Scriptures. Jesus both taught as they sat and listened and taught as they walked.

        When he sent out the 12 disciples in Luke 9, Jesus had equipped them to preach the Gospel and heal the sick. They come back rejoicing. Later in the chapter, when the crowds were hungry, Jesus told the disciples “you give them something to eat,” giving them the opportunity to put their faith into action. It becomes a veritable faith crisis for them and a teachable moment for Jesus to reveal more of His power and glory. Then Peter, James, and John experience the transfiguration. When they come back down, there’s a boy tormented by a demon; the disciples who only recently were healing people can’t cast out the demon. Right after that, the disciples get into an argument about who will be the greatest in the kingdom, with Jesus carefully listening to their conversation and finally interjecting with his own teaching about the least being the greatest. In one chapter, we have Jesus teaching and discipling his followers in a wide variety of ways, but it’s almost all on-the-go training.

        Great articulate thoughts in your comments, by the way. I’m thinking it’s more of a both/and discussion too.

    16. Bo Grimes Avatar
      Bo Grimes

      A much shorter comment. How many people here have youth whose biggest priority seems to be getting bullets for a college application? Doing, doing, doing, reinforces that. In a way, worship and teaching and prayer are filters. If you don’t want to learn about Jesus, talk to Jesus or worship Jesus, your hands can not possibly be working on his behalf.

      Two people working side-by-side hammering nails into a Habitat house. One is doing it for a bullet on her application; one is doing it because his girlfriend is; one is doing it because Mom and Dad are making her; one is doing it “as though for the Lord.” Only one of them is truly serving Christ.

      We have to be taught in who’s vineyard we serve.

    17. Sean Scott Avatar

      I, too, am going to “think aloud through my fingers” here. My gut reaction to your video, Adam, is “this is a good thing.” Of course, we need to reach and keep teenagers in Christ. So many children grow up going to church, then are lost to the temptations of the world when they hit their late teens and go into early adulthood. I certainly agree with the assessment that we do not put enough expectation on adolescents and young adults today. This is all part and parcel to the downward spiral of American society of the last 50 years. We now have adults with stunted maturity raising children who likewise grow only so far then stop. Long gone are the days when many teens had to work on the family farm or go find jobs in the cities to help feed their families. Thus, today’s teens do not have the “life crises” that often put our grandparents on their knees praying to Jesus when they were younger. But our grandparents also lived in a much different time when there were far fewer things to distract them from their faith and society was much more in line with God’s purpose.

      As with most anything, one cannot simply find a blanket solution that works for everyone. This approach might work for some teens, while others would not even allow themselves to be placed in this situation. But I am all for anything that shines the light of Christ to anyone. If it saves one soul, then it is worth it.

    18. Jeffrey Dick Avatar
      Jeffrey Dick

      Good discussions – appreciate the many thoughtful comments.

      While in Haiti, I kept thinking how wonderful it would be to bring a group of young people there. No amount of teaching would really prepare them for the experience of working with the children we met. Yet to see the church in action, to see young adults serving Christ with their lives there, to see families still believing in a living and loving God while living in poverty – powerful experience.

      We have a group going to a global village event this weekend – a good adventure is in store. As we look at some of our planning for this year, more get out and do is in store not just for our youth, but for our children as well.

      What is good for our youth, is also good for our adults.

      Look forward to the video on the summer interns. As always, thanks for stirring the pot

      1. Bo Grimes Avatar
        Bo Grimes

        “While in Haiti, I kept thinking how wonderful it would be to bring a group of young people there. No amount of teaching would really prepare them for the experience of working with the children we met. Yet to see the church in action, to see young adults serving Christ with their lives there, to see families still believing in a living and loving God while living in poverty – powerful experience.”

        My sister’s church goes to a very poor part of rural southern Mexico every year. I have sent two of my kids and plan on sending the youngest in a few years. I think places like that or Haiti are best.

        Last year I led a group of kids to New Orleans for the ELCA tri-annual Gathering. We did some work projects in the Lower Ninth Ward, but I was disappointed overall The kids would stand in line for an hour at Starbucks, but wouldn’t wait 10 minutes to go into a museum. And they loved looking for souvenirs. I wondered “What’s the point of getting souvenirs from a city where all you did was shop for souvenirs?’”

        They loved the music each night in the Superdome, but didn’t have the patience with the speakers, even though they were dynamic, or with the training sessions in the Convention Center.

        Somewhere like Haiti or Mexico, though, no distractions, no entertainment, no shopping. This is what I have been trying to get at. Here in America they have been trained to be distracted and the distractions are ubiquitous, Even on a combined mission/learning/worship trip to a city devastated by disaster.

    19. Michael Novelli Avatar

      ?Love the discussion. This is making me want to read Dunn’s book!
      Sorry in advance for the long post… I am just stirred by this topic…

      ??Adam asked, “So, what would creating a faith crisis for a high school student look like?” That is such an excellent question. I wonder if we are not the ones who created a crisis as much as develop an environment that is welcoming and stirring the crisis that is already surfacing in adolescence (instead of trying to avoid it, surpress it, etc.) That would tie into your idea of being a curator. This idea of a crisis of faith is interesting. James Fowler and John Westerhoff, both experts in faith development, concluded that crisis is necessary for us to come to an owned faith.

      I resonate so much with what Phil said: “Experiences, challenges, and a socratic method allow students to own their faith and leave a lasting memory of why they needed to learn what they did.” And also really was caught by Joel’s statement, “but the central driver for discipleship moves from a transmissive approach (transmitting Biblical information) to a transformative approach (wrestling and struggling with Biblical truth).” Is that from Dunn’s work. It is really resonating with me.

      I understand some of Bo’s concerns. Experience or innovation for the sake of being different or new can be shallow. It often ends up just being repacking of the old. I don’t think the point of this is innovation; it is effectiveness. We must continue to ask the question, “Is the way we are teaching and communicating our faith effective in our context?” What Adam and others seem to be advocating is ACTIVE learning. I would suggest that learning that is not active, is most often not effective.

      Bo seems to suggesting that we just need to be more disciplined, and if we are disciplined “sitting and listening” will still (always?) be effective. I am not so sure that a teaching approach that is one-direction (i.e. lecture) was ever highly effective in helping people learn. Cultures oriented around high literacy and conceptual thinking are better adapted at integrating what they learned by listening. But American culture, and most around the world have been moving away from a literate based approach to learning for the last two decades or more. Media and technology are key drivers in this.

      Most people throughout the ages learned best through active engagement. Liturgy, ritual and the Hebrew approach to learning was (is) highly active and dialogical…and perhaps more effective? Jesus and the disciples also adapted teaching methods that were culturally relevant for their time, and surprisingly active. Storytelling is probably the only form of one-way presentation that has transcended cultures and ages. Sadly, it has been lost by the modern church, replaced with didactic propositional approaches.

      The questions that still seem to be surfacing for me are… What are transformative approaches to teaching (passing on) our faith in an American context? How might we help others embrace and embody a deep faith in Christ?

      Perhaps we need to reverse what we have been doing…maybe the leaders need to be the ‘listeners’ and the students the ‘doers’ and ‘teachers’. This would require a new approach, tools, and environments that empower students toward discovery.

      1. adam mclane Avatar

        You are welcome to leave long, thoughtful, contributing comments whenever you’d like.

      2. Joel Mayward Avatar

        I first heard the term “transmissive” in Wilhoit’s “Christian Education and the Search for Meaning,” but Dunn may speak about it too, I just don’t recall. And Dunn’s book is definitely worth your time.

          1. Bo Grimes Avatar
            Bo Grimes

            Like with most Google books prior to 1927 (I think); that is, those not yet in the public domain, the full book is not available. There are frequent gaps of multiple pages, like the one between 154 and 160.

            So buying the book would be better. I just did.

    20. Bo Grimes Avatar
      Bo Grimes

      “Bo seems to suggesting that we just need to be more disciplined, and if we are disciplined “sitting and listening” will still (always?) be effective. I am not so sure that a teaching approach that is one-direction (i.e. lecture) was ever highly effective in helping people learn.”

      Not really. Let me affirm that any and all learning is active and relational, even sitting and listening or reading. Listening is a core discipline, and listening sometimes takes solitude and stillness rather than activity and engagement. How many times did Jesus say “He who has ears, let him hear.” In Psalm 40, David says “You have given me responsive ears.” The Hebrew literally means “You have dug ears for me.”

      Great word picture. We need to have our ears dug out or else we will be think Israel when Jeremiah told them in 6: 10 “Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the LORD is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it.”

      If you carefully read Hebrews looking for it, you will notice the sense we are commanded to use the most is hearing. The theme kicks off right from the start in 1:1-2: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe Then it continues at 2:1 “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away,” and never lets up. God speaks; we listen.

      In his commentary on “Hebrews,” Thomas Long writes: “This [meaning the recreation of a broken and wounded world] is beyond the range of the eye, but not beyond the range of the ear. We can not see the world being created and restored through the Son, but we can hear it. We can not see the victorious Son seated at the right hand of God while his enemies–oppression, hatred, deceit, and death–are placed under his feet, but we can hear this word. In worship and confession; in the mouths of preachers, teachers, prophets and other witnesses; in all places where the gospel takes on the sound of faithful human speech, the very speech of God breaks forth.”

      God is a talker after all. He had no need to speak the creation into existence, but right from the start He was pointing us to the living Word of Jesus Christ. Listening is active, not passive. God’s revelation is an active penetration into our world and our listening should also be active; that is, obedient hearing, but we can not do the word until we first hear it though faith.

      Hebrews 4: 2 “For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.”

      I guess what I’m suggesting in content over context. In in book a just started this morning, The Seven Checkpoints for Youth Leaders by Andy Stanley and Stuart Hall, they lay out the problem, and I had to come back here and share it because they’re saying what I was trying to, only much better.

      “Our students are being raised in an entertainment-orientated culture. Just about every morsel of relevant or irrelevant information they pick up is being served to them on a platter designed to stimulate the senses. If it doesn’t entertain them, they aren’t interested. This is why so many of us have rushed to create high energy, entertainment-driven contexts for our ministries. And so we should–as long as the content doesn’t suffer. But it is hard to stay content-focused when the “show” takes up so much time and energy. How do we keep the substance in the driver’s seat? What can we do to keep the music from drowning out the message? How do we ensure that our students walk away from our youth ministries equipped to enter the next important stage of their lives?”

      They argue that “in our attempts to remain methodologically relevant, many of us have dropped the ball when it comes to being intentional about the message.” They describe the purpose of their book this way: “This book is not about context. This book is about substance. It is about content. The book is about what you should communicate to your students, not how to communicate it. It is about instilling timeless principles in the hearts of teenagers to better equip them to live in their ever-changing culture.”

      Everything I have tried to poorly express has been about making sure the message isn’t lost; that we must be equipped by the content before we can apply it to a context. Human nature hasn’t changed, and God made us people of the Word and is constantly “speaking, arguing, pleading, wooing, commanding, telling stories, conversing, and generally spinning words across the lines between heaven and earth since the beginning of time.” (Long)

      And he has told us to listen; he has dug ears for us; he designed us to “walk by faith and not by sight,” and made us so that “faith comes by hearing.” I am very concerned that in the drive to be innovative and relevant to students who have not been trained to listen, and taught that listening is not passive but is active and relational, we are doing them a huge disservice.

      If we are aware of this and put the content ahead of the context, we should be able to use the new methodologies fine. And maybe some of those new methodologies should be focused on teaching our kids something that is being lost in our culture: How to listen. Not how to hear words being spoken, but how to listen to them, think about them, engage them, apply them.

    21. Michael Novelli Avatar
      Michael Novelli

      Bo, I resonate with so much you are saying. We must make sure the message isn’t lost…lost in entertainment, experiences and lost in layers of proposition. The Biblical story must be central in shaping who we are. But most sermons are a didactic argument of propositions supported by scripture and illustrations. What do you think this approach subtly communicates? That is probably an entirely different conversation!

      I applaud your value of listening. Listening is essential to life and faith, and a skill and discipline that must be cultivated. The most important listening is cultivating a heart and mind that is listening to the Holy Spirit. To cultivate listening takes experiencing good listening, being listened to (from us the teachers and adults) and coaching toward it. It often is best cultivated through conversation and dialogue. I think it also involves stirring the imagination and the intellect.

      Like many forms of learning, listening is only active if we choose to engage that part of us. Sitting people down and talking at them each week doesn’t cultivate listening. I am familiar with the verse, “faith comes by hearing…” And hearing may be the starting place for faith. But how do we “hear” something? Is it only audibly? Is that how we “hear” God all the time? The Hebrew people and Jesus used so much symbolism, story and tactile learning because it was (is) effective.

      The act of listening in itself is a (one) funnel that allows us the opportunity to process information and experiences. Learning (and faith and transformation) does not come just by listening, it comes by integrating what we experience (which includes what we hear) into our own lives.

      So how do we give people opportunities to deeply process what they are hearing? I think that the bombardment of entertainment in our culture is dulling our natural abilities are to instinctively process and integrate what we hear and experience. We are experience junkies, and we take in information for the sake of the experience, and evaluate by how much it entertains or stirs our emotions.

      I am suggesting that we need to provide prompts that help each other think deeply and naturally about what we hear and experience, and what it could mean for our lives. This includes reflection, participation, dialogue, tactile involvement, study, articulation, etc. These forms of interaction cultivate listening in us…listening to others and most importantly listening to the Holy Spirit.

      I would suggest that if we truly want to become listeners and observers of God’s Word who allow that story to integrate and transform us, then we must provide several avenues for that to happen. Those avenues cannot just be one-directional communication (sitting and listening), they must allow information and experience to come from many directions, and prompt us to express how God is implicating us by what we are hearing and sensing.

    22. Bo Grimes Avatar
      Bo Grimes

      I agree, excellent questions for contemplation. If I am really listening to you, and I am, I will engage those questions thoughtfully, and I will.

      I guess I’m also a little defensive though because I feel like people aren’t hearing what I’m really saying. I have never argued, or meant to if it was expressed or processed that way, that lecturing and listening are passive. I am a part-time Director of Christian Education and Youth. I am in charge of children’s Sunday school, youth Sunday school, adult Sunday school, youth groups and seasonal programs.

      In no class I teach for any age group or youth meeting I lead do I lecture. I use videos, interactive games, music, powerpoints, graphics, etc. Even “lecture” is usually dialogue in that any decent teacher welcomes and encourages questions.

      There is a dynamic between hearing and doing, even with math. A teacher tells, then demonstrates, and then the students practice, ask questions, listen and watch, and then practice again.. What I am suggesting is that hearing comes first, and we can’t put the cart before the horse. Obedient hearing is what we are after, but the obedience follows the hearing, and we need, again and again, to always be brought back to “what we have heard.” I think that there is currently a lack of focus on listening and too much on doing. That’s all.

      Good example, I think: How did Jesus most likely learn carpentry? His father told him something like ” When finishing always go with the grain of the wood.” Then he said “Like this” and showed him. Then he said “Now you do it.” Maybe Jesus said “Why, abba?” So Joseph says “If you go against the grain you will remove to much because there will be more resistance.” Then he grabs a rough board and says “Here try.” When he’s done he says “Did you see the difference?” Jesus: “Yes, abba, thanks for explaining that to me. I will always go with the grain when doing finishing work.”

      Now, true listening is that when Jesus is given his first finishing job to do and he goes with the grain. Many of us might not and here our fathers say “Weren’t you listening? I said that’s not how you do it.”

      You write: “But most sermons are a didactic argument of propositions supported by scripture and illustrations. What do you think this approach subtly communicates?”

      I’m not sure, but it’s not all bad. For one thing I wonder how it is that despite 2000 years, the sermon is still vital to worship?. One of the reasons I drifted into Lutheranism is that it is not so sermon-centric, but we still have them. To me this suggest that there really is something to what precedes the passage of Romans I have been quoting:

      Romans 10:14-17 “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”[
      But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”

      In that commentary on Hebrews I mentioned, Thomas Long nails it. This is going to be long, sorry:

      “The Preacher [how he refers to the author because Hebrews is a sermon] is not preaching into a vacuum.; he is addressing a real urgent pastoral problem, one that seems astonishingly contemporary. His congregation is exhausted. They are tired–tired of serving the world, tired of worship, tired of Christian education, tired of being peculiar and whisper about in society, tired of the spiritual struggle, tired of trying to keep their prayer life going, tired even of Jesus. Their hands droop and their knees are weak (12:12), attendance is down at church (10:25), and they are losing confidence.”
      “We may recognize the problem, of course, but the Preacher’s response may astound us. what is most striking about Hebrews is that the Preacher, faced with the pastoral problem of spiritual weariness, is bold enough, maybe even brash enough, to think that christology and preaching are the answers. The Preacher does not appeal to improved group dynamics, conflict management techniques, reorganization of mission structures, or snappy worship services [or dynamic youth programs, or better communication techniques, or contemporary cultural methodologies or ________ fill in the blank.]”

      “Rather, he preaches–preaches to the congregation in complex theological terms about the nature and meaning of Jesus Christ. This Preacher does not float around the surface where the desires of the people cluster eagerly around this or that fad; he dives to the debts, to the hidden places where profound symbols work on the religious imagination to generate surprise, wonder, gratitude, and finally obedience.”

      “As strategies go, the Preacher’s approach to ministry is so out of phase, so counter-intuitive, so in violation of the notion that congregations are allergic to serious theological thinking, that it probably should be seen as refreshing, and maybe even revolutionary.”

      The fact is two of the gifts are the Spirit are preaching and teaching. A good preacher or teacher, one who is replying on the Spirit and who has actively and responsibly developed his gift, will preach and teach with words that tickle the ears of the listeners and stimulate their imaginations, but they can not do the work of hearing and imagining for us.

      I take notes on a sermon. I go home and ponder it. I look up other passages that either affirm or challenge what has been said. I talk to my family about what we have heard. I write about it. It’s very much an active process. But first I have to hear it.

      What I am afraid of is that preaching and teaching have come to be seen as so out of date as methods, so inapplicable to our cultural context, so boring and dreary that they will be seen as archaic and lifeless, and people will not even bother to sit still for it, and something vital and precious will be lost.

      But I never have thought it should be all we do, that there is no application, no hands-on. People have to be taught that listening is an active engagement with the speaker through our sanctified imaginations and with our responsive ears. If we really listen, God will speak to us through a sermon, a lecture, a temple talk, a conversation, a powerpoint, a video, a song, a book we read alone or the babbling of a brook.

      So I return to my original question: “Will putting them in moments of spiritual crisis provoke them to turn to God’s word if they are already basically Biblically illiterate and their friends and family are not formed and informed by the Word?”

      If they have not first heard because they have not been taught how to listen to the Word, how can they turn to it as a resource in a moment of crisis?

      Three years ago when I was misdiagnosed with congestive heart failure at 41 with 5 kids at home but before I learned it was a misdiagnosis, how did I know to proclaim: “Because your steadfast love is better than life, O Lord, I will praise you.” Or, “Through my flesh and my heart may fail, you O Lord, are the strength of my heart.”

      Because I heard it, and heard it, and heard it.

    23. Michael Novelli Avatar

      Bo, thanks for the thoughtful dialogue. I hope you have felt heard in this and not attacked. I am enjoying this and it is certainly thought-provoking.

      As I read through your recent post, the question that come to mind is, “How do you define preaching?” I could be reading this wrong, but you seem to be advocating the preaching approach of propositions supported by scripture and illustrations. Is that right? If preaching is proclamational teaching, then it can have many forms (like it does in scripture)? Which forms might be most effective in our culture?

      American culture is fast moving away from organizing our communication in reason, concepts, words and literary ideas. We are moving (back?) to images, stories and metaphors. How then should this affect our preaching? And, if people do in fact learn better by have opportunity to process individually and corporately, then why is this not more a part of our preaching and church services?

      I think your question about “putting students in spiritual crisis” is trying to get at the heart of the issue. I would contend another perspective. I think adolescents are already in an identity crisis, in which faith is a huge part. Everything is questioned, either internally or externally. So it is our role to welcome that crisis, and create a safe and caring community where we can explore the deepest questions of faith and identity…where students can find themselves in the biblical story.

    24. Paul Avatar

      So glad to see others revisiting presuppositions about discipleship! I also love this approach. There are more and more people using implicit teaching over sitting in a classroom or typical Bible study. I have been moving from my own paradigm and have found it to work so much better than the older models I grew up with.

      Keep it up!

    25. Bo Grimes Avatar
      Bo Grimes

      I would define preaching more along the lines of proclamational teaching rather than a type of propositional dialectic, and I agree it has many forms; nor is one form necessarily superior.

      Which is the most effective? Well, that opens up a new line I suppose, and maybe exploring it might help me get at something I still do not feel like I have quite articulated to myself.

      Let me pause there to say I have never felt attacked. I believe it was Thackeray who once said “A thousands thoughts I have but do not know until I take up my pen and write.” I’m trying to teach myself right now more than anyone, so any responses are good even if I get defensive because of the old man still trying to kill off the new.

      So, which is most effective? Let me tell you a story. Once in a Bible study led by a pastor years ago, the issue of evangelism came up. The members of the class were all talking about how the 4 Laws, standing-on-the street corner, passing out pamphlets were ineffective. They brought up a guy who stood on a local corner preaching.

      I chimed in. I don’t think God calls us to worry about effectiveness, only obedience. I talked about one sowing and another reaping and talked about different gifts and different calls. I concluded by saying ” I don’t want to, but if I believe that the Spirit is telling me to go stand on a street corner and preach to the passers-by, I hope I will obey.”

      I would define effective preaching not by its style or method. I would define it as the true proclamation of the Good News that is proclaimed obediently by someone who is filled with the Spirit of God in whatever time, place and manner God’s Spirit leads.

      Next. I also agree with you that we are moving from a reading culture to a visual culture, which has been the usual state of affairs. However, even a film has dialogue and a soundtrack. We still reply on our hearing as much as our eyes, just as the crowds did around the blind Homer who could still paint a picture with words that moved his hearers.

      Effective preaching will always engage the hearing, because hearing is not just auditory. Even a deft person can “hear” the Word in signs, because just like sight, it is really done in the brain, not the eyes.

      You write: “it is our role to welcome that crisis, and create a safe and caring community where we can explore the deepest questions of faith and identity…where students can find themselves in the biblical story.”

      Yes. Eugene Peterson, and the book is at home, so this isn’t exact, wrote in Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up With Your Teenager that the definition of adolescence is crisis. Again, this isn’t new to our generation, which is why I think we can still learn from the “ancient paths.”

      And yes, I agree wholeheartedly that we have to create a safe caring community for that exploration. Two things, though. First, that was primarily done in the home. The real questions for us are how do we train and equip, call and challenge parents back to that primary role? Second, in order for the students to find their place in the Biblical story within the context of Christian community, they have to hear that story; they have to have the truth of that story proclaimed to them; they have to be taught that it is true, and not just one possible path to discovering their identity, one resource in a world full of options.

      I see youth today craft a personality like a mosaic, a little from Puff Daddy, a little from Hannah, a dash of New Age, and a pinch of vegan, and on and on, and then it’s almost like they say “And let’s sanitize it all with just the right amount of church.. Perfect.”

      We never resolve our identity crises until we find our identity in the One who formed us, the one who feeds us and nourishes us in his Word and in his sacraments.

      This is what they need to hear, to hear, to hear, again and again and again in that safe environment.

      I was there to hear your borning cry,
      I’ll be there when you are old.
      I rejoiced the day you were baptized,
      to see your life unfold.
      I was there when you were but a child,
      with a faith to suit you well;
      In a blaze of light you wandered off
      to find where demons dwell.”

      “When you heard the wonder of the Word
      I was there to cheer you on;
      You were raised to praise the living Lord,
      to whom you now belong.
      If you find someone to share your time
      and you join your hearts as one,
      I’ll be there to make your verses rhyme
      from dusk ’till rising sun.

      In the middle ages of your life,
      not too old, no longer young,
      I’ll be there to guide you through the night,
      complete what I’ve begun.
      When the evening gently closes in,
      and you shut your weary eyes,
      I’ll be there as I have always been
      with just one more surprise.

      “I was there to hear your borning cry,
      I’ll be there when you are old.
      I rejoiced the day you were baptized,
      to see your life unfold.”


    26. Benjer McVeigh Avatar

      Thanks for letting us see your thought process. A huge part of this process is simply letting God work and trying to come along for the ride, and that’s crazy scary for me because I’m a control freak. Just ask God. It’s not that we don’t plan, disciple, and teach; it’s that we put students in far more realistic environments in which to see that God’s Word is true and faithful than just me in front of nicely organized rows of chairs. Prayers for your journey.

    27. Joseph Millerschon Avatar
      Joseph Millerschon

      Hello, my name is Joseph Millerschon I was just going to refer to you a book
      Tally Ho the Fox by Herb Hodges Read it if You want to catch the Stratagy of Jesus Christ.

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