Youth Ministry Magazine
group magazine: March, 1992
From: March 1992 GROUP Magazine
Keywords: Youth Ministry Helps
YOUTH MINISTRY MINUTE
A Thinking Youth Ministry
"Kids today just don't think."
Many can take credit for that quote. Veteran schoolteachers have watched general test scores decline. Employers complain that graduates lack the "smarts" to do the job. And parents agonize over why so many kids attempt to solve their problems through drug abuse or suicide.
In working with teenagers in youth ministry settings over the past 20 years, I've noticed a shift in kids' thinking skills. Their aptitude for grappling with the "why" questions of our faith seems stunted. They're trained to dispense rote answers. Many kids count on nearby authority figures (like us) to supply easy answers to any questions raised. They're accustomed to black-and-white, fill-in-the-blank types of education.
Why the Unthinkable?
What's happened over the past generation? Well, no one knows for sure. But educators and sociologists cite a number of possibilities:
*Television-It's a passive medium, requiring very little thinking, and it consumes large volumes of our kids' time.
*Adults' busy schedules-Parents and other caring adults work more today. Their time for interaction with kids is shorter, and they have fewer opportunities to engage kids in thoughtful activities.
*Outdated teaching methodology-Many schools and churches still rely on passive teaching techniques such as lecturing. Kids' minds have gone into hibernation. They're given few opportunities to practice problem-solving.
Thinking and the Church
How do young people themselves feel about how their brains are engaged at church? Search Institute found that only 42 percent of churchgoing teenagers say their churches challenge their thinking. And only 45 percent say their churches encourage them to ask questions.
The same study discovered that a church's thinking climate is one of the key elements for building members' Christian faith. If they feel free to ask questions and explore the difficult alleys of our faith, they grow closer to the Lord who has the answers.
So, how can we encourage thinking? We'll have to change our approach. We'll need to modify old teaching styles where the teacher did most of the talking, dispensing information from a position of authority and control. We need to teach by encouraging kids to question, ponder and solve problems.
Tips for Thinking
How we interact with our kids dictates how much thinking occurs. Consider these quick tips:
*Ask plenty of questions that have no right or wrong answers.
*Don't be afraid of silence in a discussion. Thinking takes time.
*After asking a discussion question wait until most or all of the kids have formed an answer before calling on anyone. If you always give your first attention to the eager, articulate kids, other kids' thinking may be chilled.
*Ask kids to discuss questions in pairs-causing everyone to devise a response.
*Be cautious about making value judgments on kids' responses in discussions. Saying "good answer" may telegraph to the rest of the group that no more thinking is needed because Johnny already gave the "right" answer.
*Sometimes answer your kids' questions with a question: "What do you think?" Jesus used this technique.
Our faith will withstand our kids' questioning. The more they question, the more they'll think. The more they think, the more they'll grow in their faith.
Thom Schultz, president
Copyrightę 1992 Group Publishing, Inc. / GROUP Magazine