Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The "Yout' Ministry"--Helicoptering

Dreher quotes with approval the following from a Baptist minister's upcoming book:

Early in my ministry, I served as a youth pastor in a Baptist church near an Air Force base in Mississippi. Like every other Evangelical youth minister, I received all the advertisements from youth ministry curricula-hawkers, telling me how I could be "relevant" to "today's teenagers." The advertisements promised me ways I could "connect" with teenagers through Bible studies based on MTV reality shows and the songs on the top-40 charts that month.

All I knew how to do, though, was preach the gospel. Yes, I knew what was happening on MTV, and I'd often contrast biblical reality with that, but I fit nobody's definition of cool -- including my own.

A group of teenagers, mostly fatherless boys, some of them gant members, started attending my Wednesday night Bible study. Some of them arrived at the church engulfed in a cloud of marijuana smoke.

I found they were't impressed with the "cool" supplemental video clips provided by my denomination's publisher. They laughed at Christian rap stars, in the same way I laughed at my high-school history teachers' effort to "have a groovy rap session with you youngsters."
But what riveted their attention was how weird we were. "So, like, you really believe this dead guy came back from the dead?" one 15-year-old boy asked me. "I do," I replied. "For real?" he responded. I said, "For real."

They were amused at the fact that my wife and I had dinner together, and that we didn't really want tobe smoewhere else. "Dude, this is like 'Nick at Nite,'" one said, referencing the black-and-white family sitcom reruns on television each night. "The mom and dad are here, 'how was your day,' and the whole deal. They couldn't believe that in our church, elderly people and teenagers talked to one another, that Latino military officers joked around with white enlisted men around a Sunday-school coffepot.

It seemd strange. And, just as at Mars Hill, this strangeness commanded attention. Some believed; some walked away. I was heard, and I was even loved, but I was rarely cool.

And he comments

Don't know about you, but I relate to this.

...It was only when I got caught up in the radical strangeness of Christianity, and saw that men like Kierkegaard, Dostoevesky, Merton, Percy and others I respected were also captivated by the story, that things changed for me. And then when at long last I began to take instruction in the faith, there was Father Frootloop and Sister Stretchpants, reducing the liberating weirdness of the faith to therapeutic banalities that they apparently thought we could accept. God bless crusty old Father Moloney, to whose rectory parlor I flew. He was not interested in watering anything down in an attempt to be "relevant." Which is why I listened to him, and followed the path he set out for me. He wanted me to follow, but he respected me, and the gospel, enough to tell me how otherworldly and countercultural this well-trodden path was.

When you stop to think about this "yout' ministry" stuff, it's a version of "helicopter parenting" which is adopted by surrogates who, whether they know it or not, are "disrespecting" both the children and the Faith.

The children have to grow up sometime, you know. And they have to use big words, and figure out how to use a screwdriver and pliers, not to mention read and understand 'real-world' documents.

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