I have the habit of keeping articles from magazines that somehow pique my interest. But there was quite a stack accumulating on my desk and so I decided to work my way through these again. One article I had saved was from the Jan/Feb 2014 issue of Group Magazine, in which Rick Lawrence detailed some research about students and being ‘all-in’ for Jesus. Continue reading What’s Keeping Teens from Being All-In for Jesus?
It’s not often that you encounter people with the passion for youth of Peter Benson. His whole TED Talk titled ‘How youth thrive’ shows his love for young people and it encouraged me.
Peter Benson is not a youth pastor however; he’s a psychologist who does research amongst young people on their ‘spark’. By ‘spark’ he means a skill, a cause or a quality that makes people thrive, that makes them happy and whole.
In his talk, he shares some interesting statistics. Right now, there are 80 million young people aged 8-18 in the US. But only 25% of these 80 million are on a pathway to human thriving (meaning being happy, connected, kind, contributing, etc.) and the rest has fallen behind. They are lost, confused, medicated and alone. Those statistics should give anyone involved in youth work food for thought. Continue reading Helping youth thrive
I’ve heard it when I was studying for my teacher’s degree (which was 15 years ago) and I’ve been hearing it ever since and in ever increasing intensity: young people can’t concentrate and if you want to reach them with your message, you have to do it in segments of five minutes, ten at the max.
Kate John, one of the speakers at the Youth Work Summit in 2012, stated it as well. She said that the ‘standard’ for presenting the gospel to young people was by showing scenes from the Jesus movie accompanied by sad music, followed by a ten minute sermon on penal substitution. Obviously, that doesn’t work any more. Or so Kate John stated.
Last week’s post on What is the Gospel got some really inspiring and helpful comments, so many thanks to everyone who’s helping me in my journey to find out what the gospel is exactly.
Today I want to close off this short series with some thoughts on what it means to preach the Gospel. I don’t think I’ve found a definitive answer to the question what the Gospel is, but we could devote another 50 posts to this and still not write everything there is to say about the Gospel.
With every theological topic you run the risk of focusing more on theological differences than on what binds us, and I have no desire whatsoever to bring division instead of unity. So today we’ll focus on what binds us all in describing the Gospel: Jesus our Savior. Continue reading What is the Gospel: preaching the Gospel
Yesterday’s post on What is the Gospel got some really inspiring and helpful comments, so many thanks to everyone who’s contributing to the discussion about what the Gospel is. Today I just want to post links to videos of two views on what the Gospel is to encourage further thinking on this subject. Continue reading What is the Gospel (part 2)
When I was preparing my message for the youth Christmas service, I asked myself this question a couple of times: what is the gospel? You see, I decided a few years ago that I would always, always preach the gospel in a youth service, no matter what the topic was. And I have done so, to the best of my capabilities. But lately I’ve been wondering about the Gospel I’ve been preaching.
The more I learn about God’s Word and the depth of what Jesus has done, the harder it becomes for me to define what the Gospel is exactly.
The more I understand of the beautiful symbolism and deeper meaning of many events around Jesus’ death and resurrection, the more details I want to include in sharing the Gospel.
The more I grasp of the concept of grace (and I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface), the less satisfied I am with my version of the Gospel.
This post is part of the series on Preaching for Youth. When we are preaching to young people today, we’re preaching to a postmodern generation. We’re preaching to teens and students who do not believe in absolute truths, who for the most part consider all religions to be equal and who see no harm in cutting-and-pasting from different religions to create their own belief system.
But we’re also preaching to the most relational generation ever. We’re preaching to a generation that’s genuinely interested in God, in all things spiritual and mystical. When we preach to this generation, we have wonderful opportunities to reach them with the gospel of a God who loves them more than anything. That news, that message, is a gospel that will appeal to them…we just have to find a way to get through to them.
In my experience, one of the most important things to do when preaching for youth is to paint the bigger picture. We all know how little young people nowadays know about the Bible, even the ones from Christian families. Things that may have been completely normal to you and me, are an unknown and unfamiliar topic for them. But it doesn’t just apply to knowledge of the Bible books, memorizing verses, or knowing who certain Biblical characters were. This generation of youth doesn’t really know the gospel.
If you have many non-Christians in your audience, you’ll need to find common ground right at the introduction of your message. If you don’t emphasize that despite your differences you have something in common, you may lose their interest soon. The easiest way to find common ground is to tell a story, preferably a personal one, where you focus on an experience or emotion your audience can relate to.
Example: in a seeker-service about love I told the story of how I broke up with my first boyfriend. Heartbreak is something almost everyone can relate to.
2. Preach a varied gospel
Always, always preach the gospel, but don’t preach the same one every time. There are so many different ways in which to tell what God, what Jesus has done for us that we don’t need to use the same one every time. Here are some ideas:
focus on different aspects of God’s character and connect them with the Gospel e.g. love, righteousness, mercy
use the Old Testament Law to show why we need a Savior
teach on the old sacrifices that were needed and how they were a foreshadowing of what Christ would do
use the story of Adam and Eve as the very start of mankind’s descent into sin
concentrate on the concept of grace
approach the Gospel from ideas people have on heaven and how to get there
A wonderful example is the way Bill Hybels brought the gospel in his closing talk on the Power of Clarity at the 2006 Willow Creek Leadership Summit (there’s no available video online unfortunately). He focused on the concept of substitutionary atonement. That doesn’t sound like a seeker-friendly approach, but we have used that actual speech in our small group a few times and it worked every time.