We’ve all had that feeling after youth group – has anyone heard a word I just said? I’ve spent years teaching teens, but I wonder how much what I’ve said has actually sunk in. Author Jake Kircher addresses this very feeling in his book, “Teaching Teenagers in a Post-Christian World.”
This book is presented as a narrative where we are invited in on the thought process as Jake navigated through his teaching transition. He realized that something needed to change. He had been doing the lecture thing – getting up and teaching an awesome lesson. But with each passing year it was getting less effective. He ministers in a highly post-Christian environment which only exacerbated the problem, but we all face many of the same challenges he does. Only his teens are more honest about it.
What he discovered is that the lecture model of information transfer doesn’t work. Lets be honest – its probably never worked. I can’t remember a single lesson I learned from all the years I was in youth group (and I can’t remember many I’ve taught either!). This book allows us to join Jake on his journey of discovery on answering the question, “What is the whole point of teaching in the first place?”
Spoiler alert – Jake reveals the point. The point is to not give the answers, but to point the way to The Answer. Our goal is not to pass on information, or to make teens better people. Our goal is to lead people to have a relationship with Jesus.
There is a lot to love about this book. For starters, its not a book of answers so much as a book of questioning. This book caused me to really wrestle with a lot of things we take for granted in youth ministry. That doesn’t mean that Jake does not provide some great stuff. On the contrary, he had lots of amazing ideas and suggestions. But you will be challenged to really examine your practices to see how you can reach your teens more effectively.
One “problem” with the book is that it will be misunderstood. Jake is pretty clear about what he is saying, but people will read what they want to read. This book is not advocating junking teaching teens the Bible. Its not advocating letting students think whatever. It doesnt say experience is better than knowledge. What Jake is saying is that we need to teach for transformation, not for information. We have spent the past 30+ years of youth ministry getting more and more saavy, better resourced, and more experienced. Yet we’ve not seen the church impacted in a demonstrable way. Maybe we need to do something different.
Thats what this book advocates – something different. Something different so that we can transform teens into disciples of Christ. It means challenging teens to grow their faith on their own, not just regurgitate the right answers. Its not easy, and its not what we’ve done before. And thats a good thing.
I didn’t agree with everything Jake said, but thats ok. This book caused me to wrestle. This book will cause you to wrestle. Its a short book, but not a quick read because you will pause to think. And thats good. I highly recommend this book for anyone working with teens.