For those who have followed our series on Faith Postures, based off of Skye Jethani’s teachings about the gospel and young people, we’ve reached out to Skye recently, asking him to provide a statement of encouragement to youth leaders who are leading students on a weekly basis. Skye was gracious enough to do just that.
For Never the Same:
I’m thrilled to hear that you’re using my short videos for training your leaders.
Over the last 20 years, much of my ministry has been focused on college students and younger adults. In fact, the faith postures outlined in my book, WITH, and used in the related videos came directly from my experience with young adults. In most cases, the college students I worked with professed some faith in Christ, but upon deeper investigation I discovered their faith was really a warped form of consumerism, superstition, self-help therapy, or cultural activism. It was not rooted in what Jesus said about himself or the historic faith of the Church.
I share this because your role as youth ministers is critical in forming, or malforming, the faith of young people. To be frank, I’ve found that a great many young adults have been inoculated to the gospel by their childhood experiences in the church. That may sound odd, so let me explain what I mean. Biological inoculation happens when you are given a dead form of a virus. This triggers your immune system to create antibodies so that when you encounter the real, living form of the virus you can quickly destroy it and remain healthy.
Spiritual inoculation happens the same way. Many young people encounter a form of Christianity that is powerless and dead. They’ve heard the bible stories, gone on the fun-filled retreats, and they’ve been told the moral expectations of their Christian community. If statistics are to be believed, most of them will walk away from the impotent faith of their youth within a few years of leaving high school. Why? Because they think they’ve tried faith in Christ and it hasn’t worked. Many of them never return. They’ve been inoculated to Christian faith by a fake version of it. What they so desperately need, and what we are called to give them, is the real thing—a potent, genuine, living faith in Christ.
Dissatisfaction with faith and the church is what I see almost every week with young adults, and I think part of the problem is the low expectations we have of them. We are often so worried about keeping them entertained at church that we dismiss their capacity to develop a genuine, self-sustained, communion with God. My encouragement to you is to not underestimate the young people under your care or the God who created and loves them. The greatest gift you can offer them isn’t fun, games, or a wildly entertaining youth ministry. Rather it’s your own example as you develop a genuine communion with God yourself. I hope you use WITH and the postures of faith as a way of diagnosing how you related to God, and from this self-awareness begin to rethink the way you minister to others.
May God bless you with himself,
Author of WITH and the With God Daily Devotional