Friday, January 15, 2010

Reaching Our Students

I found the following article on a website called Youth Worker( The author is Jeff Vankooten, founder of LivingYearz. I think it's an important reminder to us all that, no matter what gadgets we come up with, the most useful gadget we have in ministry is ourselves.

If you think you can reach us, don't blame yourselves when you fail. It's not your fault. We have changed dramatically since your halcyon days; and our values, attitudes and expectations are wildly different than yours. Don't let the costumes of our baggy pants or the awkward gait lull you into complacency. We are smart and dangerous, and our methods for navigating the world are far beyond your ability to comprehend. Resistance is futile.

We were socialized into a world of accelerating change. We never have seen Larry Bird play basketball; we have no clue who the Soviets are. Starbucks always has been on every corner. Atari predates us as do vinyl albums.

We are unbelievably adept at technology. We know you know this, but don't even try to keep up because we'll leave you in the haze of our digitized dust. We were born with a mouse in our hand. You wrote love notes on paper during third grade; we text them on cell phones. You passed atoms in the classroom; we passed bits. You might often hear the buzzing of our world in the background of yours—some call it white noise, others cyberspace, some the computing cloud; but everyone knows it is there even if they can't quite place it—like a silent fart.
Our information is organized across multiple channels, some of which you are not aware (ever heard of Twitter? Postulate?) and constantly is updating or expanding. We see you as just another channel from which we derive our information about your world—and your God. So there. Click.

We are wildly connected. Information and messages flow easily from one place to another; and we transport it with us on really cool, miniaturized hand-held devices. Our knowledge isn't housed in physical libraries, relegated to the confines of a classroom or accessed solely in church buildings and programs. I know you won't want to hear this, but you aren't the primary source of our knowledge on a subject, even if that subject is Jesus. You are just one tool among many, adding a bit of value to the overall linkage of our intelligence and spirituality.

We participate in the creation of content and emphasize social affiliations and active engagement. We are a swarming, heaving hive of connectional nodes and interactions. We are an ethnically heterogeneous group of consumers who are confident in our ability to read anything, buy anything and experience anything.

We have been so commercially indulged since our inception that the first words out of most of our mouths were not "Mama" or "Dada" but "Coke" and "McDonalds." We are bonded to brands. By age 10, we were visiting stores 270 times per year. It doesn't mean we're proud of that fact; deep down in the places we are less and less capable of accessing, we know there has to be more. Much more.

So if you decide to reach us, help us access that deepest place that not even technology or the market can penetrate. Don't package spiritual products for us to consume. Embody Christ in ways that are tangible and enduring. Love us from the core of your being. The more relationally significant you want to be, the less technology you should use to communicate to us. Use your vocal chords and tear ducts. If you want to create a piece-meal Christ that speaks to us on a perfunctory level, use all the technological tools and gizmos at your disposal. We'll hear about Christ, sure; but we won't truly know Him

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