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youth ministry

Free their minds…

Free their minds… and their hearts will follow. (Sorry En Vogure, I changed it.)

Is the primary task of my ministry to cram as much of what I know into their heads or is it to teach them how to think? Rhetorical, right?

Wrong. My actions say the former while my brain says the latter.

Think about the typical day of your students as it relates to adults.

  • Early morning: An adult tells them to get out of bed and get ready for school. (Either by word or edict)
  • Morning: A parent tells them to get in the car, get out of the car, to have a good day, etc. If they ride the bus they might make a couple words of small talk.
  • School: Adults are largely in charge of the classroom and do most of the talking.
  • Between class time: Students cram a few minutes of conversation with friends as they dash from place to place. (Adults dictate the parameters of this.)
  • After school: Coaches instruct, students listen and obey.
  • Home:Have you done you homework? Your chores? How was your day? Tell me about….

To overgeneralize, most interaction students have with adults is either structured or adults talk at students. They are almost always put in a position of learner or otherwise lack power.

We would all say that they have power to own their faith. But are our interactions with our students validating that or putting them in a powerless position?

It’s relatively rare that a student would have a conversation with an adult.

It’s even more rare that a student would have a conversation with an adult where the adult does the majority of the listening and the student does most of the talking. (The adult in the lesser role while the student is in the power role.)

Shaddup Already!

As this Fall has ramped up and I’m starting to get to know my small group of guys my inner dialogue is, “You don’t need to talk at, just listen. Listen. LISTEN.

The best thing I can pass along isn’t what I know. It’s how I think. I don’t care that the guys in my small group know what I know or have answers for everything we’re talking about. But I desperately want them to know how to find stuff out for themselves, to compare and contrast what people are saying, to not just grab wisdom for the sake of acquiring knowledge but actually discovering the source of wisdom.

Sure, I want them to know what God’s Word says about this and that. But I really want them to know how to wrestle with things in a way that moves/changes them.

Curate vs. Dictate

I can’t do that if I do all the talking. I’m not helping them learn how to think critically if I tell them what I know. They will only grasp hold of their faith, truly own it, if they can articulate it for themselves. That means I am not in their lives to tell them the answers. I am there to teach them how to find the answers themselves. 

My theory is that I need to talk less and less for them to think more and more. That means my job is less to provide answer and more to create questions. Which is good. Because I have lots of questions. And I’m really good at creating doubt.

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.

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