Tag Archives: youth

Are we teaching young people to worship worship

family worshipWe are called to make disciples of Jesus, but are we in the church often making young people disciples to something else?

I stumbled upon this question as I pondered conversations I have been having with young adults. The conversations I have regularly revolve around the worship expression of their church. Often they talk about an inability to connect with the worship; how it doesn’t relate to their life and that it’s not helping them grow in their faith.

In the research that we conducted around young adults and the church we discovered that worship styles are quite low on the list of what young people value in a church. However, if you spend enough time around a bunch of teenage or young adult Christians you will eventually hear a conversation about the ways that they struggle to connect with worship. Bluntly, they are complaining about worship.

So here is my question.

Why are they complaining about not being able to connect with worship, rather than not being able to connect with Jesus?
And this question prompts another question.

Have we inadvertently discipled young people to worship, rather than God himself? 

The fact that there is a subtle but distinct difference between these two is the exact reason this should worry us.  We could be leading our young people astray without even knowing it.
When you hear a young person complain about the worship service that their local church provides, what you are hearing is a reflection of what we have taught them to value. So much of our conversation and focus in the church is tied up in how and when and why we worship.

When we talk about young people and the church we are usually talking about whether they come to church or not. When we talk about how we can keep young people in our church, we are usually talking about worship styles or a second service. We have taught young people that the most important thing in faith and church community is how we gather together.  So the next time you hear a young person complain about the worship service at your church, remember that you probably taught them to think that way.

When was the last time you heard complaints about the lack of bible study, small groups, mentoring relationships, or faith at home practices; instead of worship styles, songs, times and content? 

What does this tell us?  What does this teach our young people? What does this disciple them to?

If the main thing is the wrong thing there is a bigger implication as well. If we are inadvertently teaching young people that worship is the main way to connect with God and grow in faith, what happens to this young person’s faith when they come to a place where they cannot connect with worship?  I wonder if it is not always the fact that young people walk away from church because they feel they can’t connect with God. I wonder if sometimes the reason they walk away from God, is because they could not connect with church.  They had an understanding of worship that was so high that it had become the main way they understood their faith. Therefore if it failed, everything failed.

I long for the day when a young person comes and complains to me that their church is not discipling them properly. What this will tell me is that their church actually has done a good job of helping this young person understand that knowing Jesus is the main thing. If that is their complaint then the church probably has done well in discipling that young person.

What is needed here is a shift. A shift away from an understanding that expects Sunday gatherings to be the primary spiritual input into a young person’s faith, away from thinking that an hour on Sunday will form the faith of a young person.

How are we learning to walk alongside young people as they grow up in our church, to help them understand that knowing Jesus is central to faith and life?  The central expression of my faith is how I respond to the grace Jesus has so freely given to me.  How are we helping them and coaching them to develop spiritual tools that help them connect with God and hear him speak into their life in any and every situation?

How can we always be pointing young people to Jesus – and Jesus alone – and involvement in our communities as an expression of that faith relationship?

Let’s keep the main thing, the main thing.

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Aussie teens value prayer over drugs and alcohol… just

159064_prayerAustralian teenagers value shopping over prayer…and prayer only just wins out over drugs and alcohol.

If you’re working with young people in the church in any way, shape or form, gaining insight into the spiritual lives of the people you are working with is invaluable. While there are many studies done in America on the spirituality of young people that is very useful and insightful for us in Australia, it is often hard to come across research that speaks into the spiritual life of Australian teens.

That is why Putting Life Together: Findings from Australian Youth Spirituality Research by Philip Hughes is such a valuable piece of research. It gives a great insight into the spiritual culture of Australian teens and what you find will be very sobering.

This book woke me up to the reality of the culture we are working in and as a youth worker – who also works within a school – this is a stark reminder of what teens actually think.

One table in particular (table 6) asked teens to rank the importance of various means to peace and happiness. Here is the ranking of what 13-24 year olds said:

  1. Listening to music
  2. Working or study
  3. Being close to nature: by the sea or in the bush
  4. Being creative artistically (like painting or craft)
  5. Shopping
  6. Prayer or meditation
  7. Drinking alcohol or taking recreational drugs

What smacked me in the face with these results were that young people find peace and happiness through prayer only slightly more than they do through drinking alcohol and taking drugs (and the difference was very slim), and they find peace and happiness through prayer less than they do through shopping.

The average young person in Australia will turn to almost everything else to find peace and happiness than they will to prayer and to God, and only just a little more than they would to drugs and alcohol.

WHAT THIS TELLS ME

  • The young people I am trying to talk to about Jesus simply do not care. Jesus doesn’t even register on their radar most of the time as a legitimate focus for their lives.
  • I am strange. The priorities of my life and what I value are way out of sync with those of young Australians. This is ok, but I need to be aware of this as I talk to and interact with young people.
  • When it comes to youth nights, and I get up and talk about spending time with God and the role that God plays in our lives – to a room that is half full of Christian kids and half full of non-Christian kids – I need to remember how far away from caring half the room is.
  • In trying to share the gospel with young people, I need to first remember that they really don’t care about spiritual things and remember all the other things in their life that are more important.
  • I really need to be aware of what I communicate about spiritual things like a healthy prayer life. Do I send a message that it is something you do because you’re a Christian? Or is it something you do because it’s connecting to a relational God that will change your life? Maybe teens don’t care for prayer because they don’t see that it makes any difference.

It’s important for us to remember and understand the young person we are talking to when conveying the gospel. Next time I stand up in Chapel at school and talk about prayer, I need to remember how very little the majority of people I’m talking to see prayer as something legitimate and important in their life. How do we communicate the life-changing message of God’s saving grace in a way that connects and actually registers? How can God become central to these young lives? How we communicate is key to this.

And just to drive it home even more: this research was predominantly conducted in Christian and Catholic schools.

What would the results look like for the general public?

What do these results tell you?

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