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youth ministry

You aren’t going to change

On Evolution, Biology Teachers Stray From Lesson Plan

Researchers found that only 28 percent of biology teachers consistently follow the recommendations of the National Research Council to describe straightforwardly the evidence for evolution and explain the ways in which it is a unifying theme in all of biology. At the other extreme, 13 percent explicitly advocate creationism, and spend at least an hour of class time presenting it in a positive light.

That leaves what the authors call “the cautious 60 percent,” who avoid controversy by endorsing neither evolution nor its unscientific alternatives. In various ways, they compromise.

Read the rest

Here’s the kicker to the article: (read carefully)

But Dr. Moore is doubtful that more education is the answer. “These courses aren’t reaching the creationists,” he said. “They already know what evolution is. They were biology majors, or former biology students. They just reject what we told them.

No doubt this article will make a lot of Christians chuckle. As a whole we aren’t big fans of evolution, nor are we fans of the compulsory indoctrination of children to the theory.

In truth– we should cringe at what this reveals about our condition in youth ministry. We do the same thing.

Just like schools can’t get biology teachers to teach evolution the way the government requires, we often refuse to change the ways we minister to students. Just like America’s biology teachers, we can read study after study or attend seminar after seminar… but we are ultimately going to teach the way we want to teach using methods we want to use. To quote the article, “They just reject what we told them.

If it was good enough to reach us, it must be good enough to reach today’s teenagers. Right? Wrong.

Truth + human behavior = no change

  • I could overwhelm you with evidence that your communication methods are ineffective. And you wouldn’t change.
  • I could show you longitudinal research proving that your programs don’t deepen a students walk with Jesus. And you wouldn’t change.
  • I could prove, from your own experience, that other methods of teaching Biblical truth could deeply impact your students. And you would not change.
  • I could show you study after study that shows that the way you do youth ministry reaches a decreasing percentage of students in your population. And you wouldn’t change.
  • I could point you to studies which show how certain types of strategies affect long-term change while others seem like they affect long-term change but ultimately don’t. And you wouldn’t change.

That’s not how change works. You and I don’t change for rational reasons. We say we do. But we don’t.

You can’t expect change from people who won’t acknowledge their failure.

Some of you will read that list above and say… “But if you showed me that evidence, I’d change.” No– you probably wouldn’t. You might say you will. But if I come back to you in six months you’d fill my time with excuses.

  • This is a big organization, it takes time to turn the Titanic. (True, but it sank in just a few hours.)
  • I couldn’t convince leadership to make any of those changes. (Um, and they call you a leader?)
  • We already had a plan when we learned those things, but we are planning on implementing them this summer. (Really? I bet if the internet broke in your building you’d get it fixed today.)
  • I want to do things differently but we run this ministry as a team. (Consensus is the way to go. Just ask the federal government how that’s working for them.)

Change is intrinsic. That’s why extrinsic evidence is often a waste of brain cells.

You won’t change who you minister to until something changes in your heart. You won’t change how your programs work until something changes inside of you. Your behavior won’t change until you take the time to internalize who you are, what you believe, why you do this, and count the cost of change.

Take a moment to read this from Alcoholics Anonymous. They deal with the same problem every day. Change starts inside of you!

Each of us in youth ministry is faced with the same challenge. We are called by God to help adults form meaningful connections with adolescents. And we are called to go and reach students with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Will we continue to do things the way we have always done them and watch the church reach 8% of the population. 7%, 5%, 2%… 1%. Or will we snap out of our trance, look in the mirror, and make the changes in ourselves needed to reverse that trend?

“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Ephesians 5:14

By Adam McLane

Adam McLane is a partner at The Youth Cartel, co-author of A Parent's Guide to Understanding Social Media, blogger of 10+ years, and a fan of all things San Diego State University Aztecs.

12 replies on “You aren’t going to change”

Wow. A scathing, but warranted wake up call. Thanks for challenging us. That goes way beyond youth ministry into all avenues of life.

I saw a write up on this report the other day and wondered what to make of it, especially given the exodus of students into homeschooling because parents don’t want their teachers forcing their opinions on their children, when it appears the teachers seem to agree with the parents.

Very interesting take on ths subject, though. And challenging.

On a side note though, have you ever taken time to see if you can distill what kinds of tweets are most effective in bringing traffic to your site? I saw the earlier tweet about writing a pep-talk to yourself and passed, telling myself I’d catch it when I opened my Reader. But your second tweet “What do science teachers and youth workers have in common” (or something like that) brought me straight to your site, in part because I’d already read the report and wanted to see your take on it. Have you ever looked at your link analytics to determine what works best. Maybe that’s more a mclanecreative type post, but I’d love to hear your insight.

Re: tweeting – Yes, this is what I do. Nearly every post is tweeted several times throughout the day. Different styles/times catch different people at different times of the day. 🙂

THANK YOU! You put into words what I’ve unsuccessfully been able to in a tactful (yes, this IS tactful!) manner for MONTHS.

Every objection you listed (long time, big org) has been a LAME excuse from our board – the HEART portion they need to hear.

“Where is your heart” has become my own personal Battle Cry the past few months, and you’ve had many blog posts on that theme to help!

Darn you. I had a post brewing called something along the lines of “Education isn’t the answer”. I hadn’t seen the study about biology teachers, though.

I’ll still write the post, as I think I’ll end up taking it a different direction.

I agree, though, sending people to a class or providing them with information doesn’t do any good.

My fallback illustration is: smokers. Why on earth do we still have smokers? There is nothing good that comes from it, and on top of it, it costs money. We’ve educated people to death (literally) about the dangers of smoking. Yet, we still have 45 million people in America smoking. Education isn’t the answer.

@matt- now you know my evil plane… to scoop you!

I agree. I think we lie to ourselves that information changes things. As soon as you realize information isn’t the answer to change; the church is in trouble. Ministries based on proclamation are doomed.

@Bradley- in this case, that was the line I wanted to use. But I needed to test a softer line because the blog post could have been taken in a negative light. So it was just a softer strategy. Do I reshape my message, tweak, adapt, and save stuff? Of course… That’s why this is a craft and not just a hobby.

Wow, Adam…this is one of the best things I have read recently. Well done, well worded, well researched, very practical, educational, and…just good. I really enjoyed this. I am going to print this off and share it with my adult leaders…this is right on!

Thought you should know – I used the “if something physical breaks at church (internet, plumbing, etc…) you’d fix it right away, right? What about when something is broken…Biblically or spiritually? Why do you drag your heels to fix that?” And, yes, presented bluntly, but tactfully.

And it worked! Opened some eyes and changed some perspectives. Thanks again for some very practical and very TIMELY information!

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