Culture At Large

Forget being cool--just be relevant

Andy Rau

Forget elaborately staged youth group activities, flashy presentations, and painfully-hip music ministry--that stuff is so 20th century. Kids today are more interested in serious spiritual teaching, not way-cool stylish pop-culture ministry--or so claims a Time article from last month. From the article:

Youth ministers have been on a long and frustrating quest of their own over the past two decades or so. Believing that a message wrapped in pop-culture packaging was the way to attract teens to their flocks, pastors watered down the religious content and boosted the entertainment. But in recent years churches have begun offering their young people a style of religious instruction grounded in Bible study and teachings about the doctrines of their denomination. Their conversion has been sparked by the recognition that sugarcoated Christianity, popular in the 1980s and early '90s, has caused growing numbers of kids to turn away not just from attending youth-fellowship activities but also from practicing their faith at all.

(Obligatory disclaimer, just to get it out of the way: obviously, not every youth group that employs slick and pop-culturish ministry methods is watering down the Gospel message.)

I'm not a youth minister, nor do I play one on TV. But if I were, news like this might actually come as a relief--trying to redecorate the Gospel in the style of every new pop culture trend just to get kids' attention must be spiritually and emotionally exhausting. The challenge of being relevant to modern youth remains, of course; but it's good to be reminded that the Gospel message, stripped of our theatrical attempts to boost its pop-culture appeal, retains its power to change hearts and minds. Kids aren't dumb, and it doesn't surprise me that spiritual honesty and relevance will speak to them more powerfully than hip but shallow endeavors.

(Spotted over at Relevant Church, which in turn links to some additional commentary over at InkTank.

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, The Church