Well, the next few days have me attending the Ridley College Theology of Youth Ministry Conference.  It's gonna be a good couple of days to think and talk youth ministry with others who are passionate about it.  Recapture some of that youth ministry love.

Today was a fairly low key day with a main session given by Ken Moser and an elective.  More on the elective later but first to the main session.  Moser spoke to his article which in fairness I haven't read.  The basic idea as I understood it was youth ministry is driven far too much by pragmatics (thanks to our North American friends) and we instead need to be motivated by being Christian.  He used the analogy of a Chess club or Hockey club and said they attract people by doing chess things or hockey things so why shouldn't we as Christians attract people by doing Christian things.  Now this sounds like brilliance.  Of course.  But something about this analogy doesn't quite sit right with me.  The analogy gets pushed further by saying, the great thing about this model is we rely and trust in the power of the gospel.

So here's what I think is wrong.  First youth groups are not Christian clubs.  A Christian is about more than Youth Group.  It's about life.  A Christian does everything different.  A chess player plays chess at his chess club and lives the rest of his life doing other things, like getting a real job.  Moser said we needed to be like the chess club, which does chess things to gain new members, so the Christian youth club needs to do only Christian things.  My problem.  Everything is a Christian thing.  I get that studying the bible is a Christian thing, and praying is a Christian thing, and singing etc.  But so is being joyful, so is fun, so is music, so is being the fully embodied person God created you to be.  I don't believe there are a set of 'christian things' that our clubs can or can't do.  Likewise, there are a whole range of reasons a person might join a chess club or hockey club.  For example to get to know people, to pass the time, to get fit (more a hockey thing!), to pass time.  They're happy to play chess or hockey because it gives them access to other things (like social capital) or freedom from boredom.

So why couldn't a Christian group have random fun?  It draws people in, it helps people get to know each other.  It's fun.  It builds community.  It enables us to get to know each other better which in turn enables us to build deeper relationships, gives shared history to talk about.  We can have fun and we can do it all in the name of Jesus.  Perhaps I'm missing something?

We also had a discussion at my table about whether or not I was doubting the power of the gospel if I thought youth groups might need  to do more than just study the bible or pray or sing.  I provocatively answered that I did.  I do doubt the power of a lazy presentation of the gospel that makes sense in our Christian world to have a powerful impact in a foreign culture.  To me, it's like saying I doubt that someone who only understands Japanese will convert to the gospel if I walk up and tell it to them in English.  I doubt this will happen.  Oh well you say, I must doubt the power of the gospel.  That's just stupid.  And I think so it is with teenagers.  They live in a culture.  You speak a language they understand but convey ideas and concepts they can't connect to their reality then you might as well speak another language.  The gospel has power if it is understood.  God gives understand and asks us to work hard at making it understandable.

So they're some of my thoughts.  If you were there, please help me to understand why I'm wrong?  If you weren't, but know what Moser thinks about all this, let me know! :)

It was a good day.  Looking forward to tomorrow!