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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The youth of today

I had the (some may say 'dubious') privilege of leading four teenagers in Sunday school type activities on Sunday morning (I say 'Sunday school type' because they're clearly too old for Sunday school proper. Discuss?)

Anyway. I hadn't really prepared anything solid. Naughty. But the main point being that I'm hopefully soon to be setting up some youth type activity on a Sunday evening for the youth in our church. So I wanted to spend the time discussing how they'd like it to go. What they wanted to discuss. It may only be 7 years since I was officially a teenager (note the use of the word 'officially') - but 7 years is a long time. And issues have changed. Maybe the fundamental questions haven't, but the issues have.

Anyway. We started chatting just to kick off - general chit chat (which they're surprisingly good at, for teenagers). 3 boys and a girl. Not the best dynamic! Surprisingly quickly (is anything really that surprising with the Lord?) we got onto the topic of what a Christian is. Answers ranged not that far from "Someone who gets dunked" to "someone who goes to church" to "someone who doesn't go to church because they believe in God anyway so they don't need to go to church".

From that, I wrote in big red letters on a white board the question "Why are you here?" Risky.

Answers ranged from the unexpected "to grow spiritually" to the expected "cause my parents make me come". (NB: What does that say about my expectations?)

Despite the repetetive refrain of "I'm bored and I want to go home" which I heard throughout the session, we actually had some glimpses of good discussion. I asked them what questions they'd like answered...I was quite scared about the response as soon as the question left my lips! And there were some daft ones to be fair. I'm sorry to stereotype, but...teenage boys! But amongst the typical teenage boy questions and comments were the following:

Questions they asked:
1. What does the Bible say about dinosaurs?
2. Why are there wars?
3. Why are people starving?
4. What is God's opinion on homosexuality?
5. What language did people speak at the beginning of the world and why do people speak different languages now?
6. Did God make aliens?
7. Do politicians always lie?
8. Why do we have a Pope?
9. Is church just for old people?
10. What age do you stop being innocent and start to take responsibility for your own actions?
11. Why is God even relevant to me?
12. What is Revelation about?
13. What happens to babies when they die?

Statements they made:
"To be honest, I don't care about stuff like truth. I'm 15. All I care about is girls."

"I don't think we're ready for church. We need more life experience. Everything's done for us right now. If we had harder lives, like having to pay bills, then we'd need to believe in God and we'd need to come to church."

"You know something's good if you like it"

Stuff they'd like to do on a Sunday morning:
extreme ironing
read the Street Bible
not have people come down too heavy
something fun
learn about the Bible while having fun
more discussion
less discussion
re-enact Bible stories
re-write Psalms in their speak!

What happened at the end:
I had the opportunity to explain (or attempt to) to one of the guys why "all have sinned"...why all are guilty before Jesus dealt with that on the cross...why He could...what that means...and confront him with a choice. I pray he thought about that after church as seriously as he seemed to be when I was explaining it. And that God redeems my futile attempt and insufficient words.

The whole morning was a quite scary prospect. The pressure to 'be cool' and fit in and be liked was horrendous throughout. Several times I was screaming to myself, and God, "Get me out of here - make the service finish quicker!" (I knew dad was preaching so there was no chance of that...and anyway I'm normally screaming the opposite when I'm sat in church!)

But by the Lord's grace I do really feel we got somewhere. I hope I made them think...if I did it could have some interesting repurcussions!

Please pray with me as I try and tackle some of those questions and statements over the next months. I'm scared. Excited. Scared. Excited.


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