Finding the Hippest, Coolest Resources and Ignoring Our Reformed Theology

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Everyone wants the latest and greatest studies and resources for their youth group. In a world that constantly changes, it seems our resources need to do the same.  There is, however, a cost to shifting resources and seeking out the latest and coolest study guide.  It there any continuity? Is there a Reformed perspective? Does it matter?  Yeah, it should matter.

I work closely with Faith Alive appreciate the passion and care they throw at all of their resources. As they produce and recommend resources, they ensure that there is a Reformed perspective, solid Biblical grounding, and strategy around ongoing education. The challenge is that when youth leaders and church educators are surveyed, these things are not high priorities.

Look, I’ll admit that sometimes when I’ve searched for resources to use at youth group, I surfed websites for cool, entertaining material and often my goal was to find a few good lessons for the next few weeks.  I wasn’t very strategic, and while some of the resources were pretty good and made an impact, many others just didn’t do the job very well.

There are definitely some really good resources that are God/Christ-centered and impact young lives without having a defined Reformed perspective. I’m not implying that every lesson needs to have a Reformed perspective.  But I would challenge youth leaders and church educators to look at the lessons over the course of a year.  Look strategically and critically at lesson plans. Are you helping your youth group to understand the Bible and world from a Reformed view?

There are plenty of articles, blogs, discussions, and sermons that highlight the alarming number of youth leaving our churches.  There are plenty of reasons for this, but I wonder how many of these exiting youth understand and value our precious Reformed theology and the clarity it brings to their life journey? Anyone else wonder where the “Reformed” is found in our youth groups?

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It is extremely difficult finding good curriculums both for Sunday School and youth ministry outside the denomination; over the years I have created my own. I find that the Word of Life model of 5 or 6 topics with 3 modules per topic and one entire theme for the year, works best. If your a youth pastor/leader, Keep it simple, concise and clear and you won't lose their attention span (which is tiny - I know I have 2 teenagers).....REMEMBER: culture has changed drastically; we are speaking to a media  minded group of kids; try to include a short video clip from a movie or elsewhere that grabs their attention. They'll remember the point longer, as well.

I think the reformed in our youth groups must start with us.  As reformed Christians it it our opportunity to help instill that worldview we have been blessed with in our students through how we lead, teach and give them experiences.  We are helping them see through those reformed lenses.

I would agree that using resources from a biblical and a reformed worldview are preferred and my first choice.  However I also think that we can use a discerning eye to see the other resources that are out there and decide what we can also use from a variety of Christian faith traditions.  We've been really happy with the materials coming from Sparkhouse/Augsburg called "re:form".  We have used their videos to help dig into some of the common creeds and confessions and help our students gain an understanding of the theological "rocks" of our faith that have too often been thrown out with the bathwater in the last 20 years.

We can never keep pace with the technology and media that they see around them, however with a solid mix of our reformed resources and worldview paired with other resources we've chosen that supplement them, we can offer some thought provoking and helpful tools to educated and equip our students.

As Fuller seminary is working on their "Sticky Faith" project, I think we need to be able to see what others are learning in terms of all the social sciences and research to help us understand the dramatic changes that are happening in the lives and faith of our young people. 

As a side note, a little annoying rub for me has been using the words "sticky faith".  I whole heartedly believe in God's grabbing on to us to regenerate us to be drawn to him as well as his ability to never let us go. We need him to work in us so we can reach out to him.  However, I also see kids who have made those faith commitments then walking away from life in the church and maybe faith in Christ and know we must work harder and smarter to challenge and build a lasting fatih in them.  Sticky faith implies it something we create, do or impart to students when it's really God who does that.  But the idea that we need to help students develop this lifelong, real and deep faith rings so true.  Building disciples not just consumers of religious goods and services.  Anyway, I'm rambling now.  It's a difficult world we live in but thank God he is here to walk with us in these tasks!

I have read two blogs now that have directed me to be more reformed, or to support a reformed view of youth ministry.  Working within the Christian Reformed Church, I am sure that this must be a big deal for me - however, could someone paint what that might look like?  Reformed youth minsitry has to be more than working with YU or ordering curriculum from Faith Alive...doesn't it?  Recently I am having conversations with my planning / advisory team who have identified one of the core focus points of our ministry should be to have a reformed perspective within our youth ministry.  I asked them to define that, and it was like watching a large semi run over a small squarral.   What is reformed Youth Ministry?  How is it to be defined and then maybe it can be transfered to our students?

I think you can start out small and work your way to a bigger picture when it comes to incorporating our reformed heritage and theology in youth ministry.

The best way I can put it, borrowing from other better thinkers, is to look at youth ministry through the lenses of our reformed heritage and develop a world view that is both biblical and reformed.

Here is what I mean...

As we do youth ministry, are we passing along biblical lenses to help our students view the world from a bibilcal and reformed perspective?

That the world was created good by God, that in it's fallen state things aren't the way they should be [turned upside down by Satan and sin] and that we have the ability with the power of God to turn things back around to the way God intended them.

If all things are created good, then our part in God's redemptive [to buy back] plan is the make things good again.  So music, media, liturature, vocations, sports, and all other human pursuits have in them good, but have been distorted by sin.  So how do we as reformed Christians set things right again?  That is our endevor.  We can help God's kingdom reclaim and restore them!  Music is a good thing, but has been warped by the messages of sex, drugs, greed, etc.  So how do we point out music, in any genre, that is worthy, good, and has messages that are in line with God's biblical message.  Not sacred versus secular, but seeing all music can have either the power to uplift or the power to tear down.  The power to point to God's truth or lead us away from it. This can be done with anything, even a house.  Houses are good and offer shelter, abondoned houses are not what God intended and so we can redeem and restore houses so that people who can't afford homes may have a place to live.  Like what Habitat and other groups do.

So it's a matter of lenses and working to restore God's intentions to the world. 

Another facet can be looking at our creeds and confessions to see what God's word teaches us and how it helps us to live out our calling in the world.  We are currently helping kids discover/rediscover some of the beauty and calling that come from the Apostles Creed and Heidelberg Catechism.  Not dry and stuff, but wonderful and affirming.  How do we live grateful and serving lives out of the thankfulness that God saved us from our sin?  How do we see the world as God's creation and that our mandate is to love and serve all?  How do we stay connected to God so that he is the source of our strength and ability to live our lives each day?  And on and on and on.

And this is all just scratching the surface, but it's a start.

Our reformed heritage and biblical theology give us the rocks, the foundation to be able to lead and teach our students in the truth of God's plan for us in his world.  There are some great thinkers and youth ministry resources that are out there but from reformed perspective you might have dig deeper and come up with some of your own.  One person who can help a ton on the idea of biblical and reformed worldview is Walt Mueller at the Center for Parent Youth Understanding.  www.cpyu.org.  Walt is great!  Also Sparkhouse has some great short videos that address some cool biblical truths and even some of the reformed perspective of the faith.

I hope this is a start. Blessings!

Ty Hogue

Youth Pastor • Harderwyk Ministries, Holland, MI

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I have to agree wholeheartedly with Ty....thanks for clarifying this for everyone....Another defining issue is thinking with Kuyperian Leadership theology....capturing every sphere of our lives for the Lord. Integrating our spheres of life into our faith and NOT trying to squeeze our faith - as an afterthought - into our spheres of life....that's like trying to put a circular peg into a square hole! and, re-emphasizing again what Ty was articulating very well, to transforming and reclaiming, every square inch of our society around as as God's....God restores society through our works of service and obedience.