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Church Leadership youth ministry

Love God, Cheat on Tests

If you believe in a loving, compassionate God you are more likely to cheat than people who believe in an angry, punitive God. This is according to a new study released called, “Mean Gods Make Good People: Different Views of God Predict Cheating Behavior” and covered in the April 30th edition of the L.A. Times.

In line with many previous studies, it found no difference between the ethical behavior of believers and nonbelievers. But those who believed in a loving, compassionate God were more likely to cheat than those who believed in an angry, punitive God.

“The take-home message is not whether you believe in God, but what God you believe in,” said Azim Shariff, a psychologist at the University of Oregon. Shariff conducted the study with psychologist Ara Norenzayan, who had been his doctoral advisor at the University of British Columbia.

Read the rest

More and more research is being done that youth workers need to unpack and adapt their philosophy of ministries to. There are studies like this, many of them, which show that Christian students aren’t altogether more moral than their non-Christian peers. (They cheat as much, sleep around as much, get in as many fights, etc.) And there are studies like Christian Smith’s work out of Notre Dame which shows that youth group graduates often believe in a god but not necessarily the God of the Bible. (Something he labels moralistic therapeutic deism.) and the Fuller Youth Institute’s Sticky Faith study which will be published later this year. (Based on what I’ve seen/heard from FYI, there seems to be some strong correlations between certain types of ministry/parenting skills and a successful transition from middle adolescent faith development to adult faith.)

Here’s what we do know:

  • There are plenty of people in America who worship the God they want to believe in instead of the God of the Bible. The first sentence delineates between a punitive God and a compassionate God. In truth, God reveals himself in the Bible as both. While we can’t fully define God with our finite minds, God has shown us that He possesses moral and non-moral attributes, the fullness of which we struggle to grasp.
  • While freedom from bondage to sin is part of the sanctification process, it is not the means nor main point of salvation through Jesus Christ. There’s a difference between being bought and paid for and going on to live a moral life. Christians believe there will be many, many good people in hell. Being good doesn’t make you any more a believer in Christ for salvation than being a Cubs fan makes you eternally optimistic. Somewhere along the way how we are teaching adolescents is leading them to believe that a life with Jesus means we can be happy sinners.
  • Much of our evangelical “nice” culture isn’t changing culture as much as its leaders would like to believe it is. I’ve never met a youth pastor who would admit that her students would cheat on test as much or more than their peers. They will always defer and say, “Not my kids.
  • Something in what we are teaching is awry if it doesn’t lead to high moral standards. While the point of a life with Christ isn’t to have flawless morals… it truly should be the by-product of a life sold out for Jesus! I don’t know what is going wrong, but somewhere, something is lost in translation.
  • Followers look up to their leaders. They behave the way their leaders do and they model their lives after them. So these studies also reveal something deeply wrong and disturbing about church leadership. We each must examine ourselves and ask difficult questions, seeking accountability. How is it that our leadership is leading to a belief that it is OK to lie, cheat, and act immoral?
Categories
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

Categories
youth ministry

Infantilization and deinfantilization of adolescence, part 1

In the last year I read and was deeply disturbed by the book, Teen 2.0. If you are going to read a book in 2011, make it that one. It shook me.

One of the primary things that Epstein brought up in the book and has dramatically impacted my view of youth ministry is the concept of infantilization. For years, youth workers (myself included) have lamented about how students are less and less mature and less and less willing to make adult steps. Epstein points out and asks us, “Why are students less and less mature?” To that question I offer something to chew on, Maybe because we’ve made them that way? And maybe we like it that way?

I’d like to encourage you in the next 10 days to start recognizing infantilization in action.

  • Where are points where we don’t expect adolescents to take responsibilities for their lives?
  • Where are points in your ministry where you take away students ability to own their faith?
  • What are ways parents are holding their adolescent children back from healthy adult behavior?
  • What are words that you use which infantilize 12-18 year olds in your life?

Don’t do anything but observe. Write them down in Evernote or on a piece of paper so you can keep track.

And then, if you are so inclined, come back and share what you’ve observed.