Thursday, July 22, 2010

What Do Kids Want

Having picked up 13 from the airport and hosting another 25-30 National Youth Gathering kids on their way home, I asked them high points and low points of the gathering.  I got the most detailed answers from the kids who belong to my parish but over all it was a surprise.  The bands, the music, the drama, and the worship were not the high points you might expect.  The servant activity (for our kids, gutting a New Orleans house of drywall and plaster), the fellowship with others who share your church and your faith, and the impact of sheer size were the primary high moments.  Overall, my kids panned the worship as being foreign to them (we use the sung Divine Service from LSB), understood but did not fully appreciate the extravaganza stuff that accompanied the worship, and found much of the music too loud and too distracting.  One comment wondered why the cameras were insistent upon showing the singers on stage instead of the sand sculptor or the Jesus painter more prominently.

Those who would insist that the future of the Church lies with contemporary worship, with music that sounds like what folks might here on their radio or I-Pod, with drama and liturgical innovation, and with an unchurchy style might not be right after all... At least the kids from my parish were not convinced that this is the way to do church -- and I did not coach them at all.  One of the youth leaders suggested that our kids were unanimous that not all things possible are beneficial, salutary, and worthwhile when it comes to worship.   Just thought I would pass that on...

The next step in our evolving youth ministry will be to explore Higher Things...  We had a chance to go to Nashville for their 2010 event but our kids did not want to put the two so close together and, well, frankly, going 40 minutes down the road is not like going somewhere... if you know what I mean... 


Janet said...

The description of the reaction of the kids you spoke to regarding the NYG is encouraging. I can only hope that the kids from our congregation [and the adult leaders!] have a similar reaction! And I hope that they consider Higher Things in a years or two!

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

The big comment that I get is that it is so encouraging to see SO many Lutherans. There isn't much of a thought of "this is what Church should be" but more of a "wow, I didn't know there were that many Lutheran kids around." The sheer size and scope is neat - and even can be overwhelming.

Anonymous said...

Pastor, can you give us some examples of what type of questions you asked them when talking with them? I want to do the same with our youth but don't want to seem like I am grilling them because I lean to the traditional side of the service bent. Unfortunately, a couple of parents would believe that is what I am doing by questioning what their experience was like. Thanks!

JBrandt said...

Kids, young men and women, want substance. Sure they, like adults, are attracted to the glitz of excitement of emotion, but when the emotions fade, as they all do, what's left?
As a Lutheran high school English teacher, my students may like the idea of reading Winne the Pooh, on the first and second day of class. They may like seeing a movie on the first or second day of class. They may also like the fries in the cafeteria on the first or second or third or fourth day of ...Wait, this example doesn't work. They like the fries every day.
However, they soon grow tired. They want to learn; they want to be challenged; they want to think; they want to grow. They may whine about the rigors or learning, but after twenty-five years of teaching I've arrived at this simple truth: they want substance.
They also need it.
The same is true for youth and adults in our church. Unfortunately, not all pastors believe this truth. The medium dominates, dictates and dilutes the message- the Gospel message - under the guise of relevance.
That explains my LCMS church's recent trend of sermons including one point, lasting ten minutes and built around an object lesson. Omit the Law, delete the Gospel and get right to the fuzzy, smile-inducing anecdotes. If pastors tell their members that this is what the flock wants and needs, soon the flock believes it. Soon, the sermon will be a 140-character post on Twitter and many will smile after reading the post thinking, "That's just what I needed."

I digress. We all want and need the clarity of Christ crucified. That message needs be boldly proclaimed in our songs, during worship and at our conference. That needs to remain the focus.

My son was a CCV at Nashville and my daughter and her friend attended. They loved it because they met new people, saw a different city, went line-dancing, but most importantly they learned about Christ crucified.