Category Archives: Youth

Unintended consequences: teen pregnancy and abstinence campaigns

Conservative Christian groups have been on a mission for the past decade to get teenagers to make pledges to sexual abstinence. The Bush Government made foreign aid partly dependent on developing nations promoting abstinence as the way to deal with AIDS (and not allowing abortions either). The most famous are the True Love Waits and Silver Ring Thing campaigns.

While I understand the desire to teach sexual purity, I have long been concerned about the unintended consequences of these campaigns. One very real consequence is a rise in teen pregnancies in the USA – read a report here.

This is a tough issue to deal with. I am not going to try and deal with the intricacies now.

What I do want to comment on is the danger of teaching abstinence through naivete. Abstinence is one thing, but lack of understanding of sexual desire and naivete about the use of contraception and protection against STD’s is something else. It’s a really tough balance to maintain, but the empirical evidence is overwhelming – it’s not working as it is! There are MORE pregnancies and STDs, and more sexual activity, among those who have signed up to abstinence campaigns.

I am not sure what the solution is, but what we’re doing now needs to change. I still maintain that the church is very bad at dealing with pretty much every issue related to sex. We need to sort ourselves out.

Five Things Every Adult Christian Should Know About Youth Ministry

It is God’s design that His Gospel, the Good News of salvation for all who believe in Christ, should be passed down throughout history by each generation reaching and teaching the next. This was clearly spelt out in Deut. 6:6-12, repeated in Deut. 32:45-47 and in Joshua 24. Yet, one of the saddest verses in Scripture is the indictment in Judges 2:10, “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel” (NIV). The indictment is not against the wayward youth, but actually against the older generation who failed to correctly nurture them. It appears as if this indictment may be repeated in our own day. Today, the church is on the brink of a major crisis as many young people are rejecting it as irrelevant, boring and superficial.

The church is always only one generation away from extinction. If Satan can win the soul of just one generation, then he wins the souls of all that follow. The role of youth ministry in a local church is therefore one of the most vital aspects of that church’s existence, and certainly the key to its continued survival. With this in mind, there are a number of critical areas in which churches appear to be failing the generation of young people at the beginning of a new millennium. These can be characterised by five serious misconceptions regarding the role of youth ministry in the local church:

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Talk: Famous Last Words

This is a talk I gave at a youth group a number of years ago.

I have in my hand a chocolate bar, which I will give to the first person to give me the answer to a quick quiz I am about to give you. I will give you the famous last words of this person, and you must tell me who he was.

Et tu, Brute.

ANSWER: Julius Caesar

On the 15th of March, 44BC, Julius Caesar, the Emperor of Rome walked into his government to conduct business as usual. As he stood to speak, Senators rushed forward and stabbed him. Legend tells us that over 50 senators were involved. Caesar had been expecting this – it was part of the way things were done in those days. I must admit, that it sometimes seems a pity that we have to vote some of our bad politicians out of office, rather than get rid of them the way the Romans did.

It wasn’t so much the fact that Caesar had been killed, but rather that it was one of his closest friends and advisors that was also involved. If William Shakespeare can be trusted on this point, Brutus was the last to put his knife in. It was the fact that his closest friend had shafted him that really hurt Caesar. It was his dying thought. I wonder how many of you have had a good friend let you down badly – maybe talk behind your back or do something that really hurt you. Maybe you haven’t ever forgiven that person. The problem is: Friends let you down. They hurt you.

It’s not only friends that let you down, though, but family as well. You know, three years ago, my brother and sister and I arranged a wonderful party for my parents. It was their 25th wedding anniversary. Last year, they were divorced. Three weeks ago, my father married a woman just a few years older than me. That hurts. Some of you know how much it hurts. Et tu, my friend?. You, too? People let you down.

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Being Incarnational in Youth Ministry – a theology

An assignment completed in 1998, as part fulfillment of the requirements of the Youth Ministry Major at Baptist Theological College, South Africa.

NOTE, July 2010: This article could probably do with updated references to popular culture. If you’re going to use it, please make the effort to replace references to TV shows, movies and music with more up to date references. For example, if Jesus were around today, I’m sure he’d have a Facebook account, and would be happy for any and everybody to be his friend.

1. Introduction

In his book, The Purpose Driven Church, Rick Warren devotes a chapter to Jesus’ model of ministry that attracted crowds. His purpose is to show that a strategy that aims at large numbers is Biblical. In doing so, however, he also makes some important general comments regarding the nature of Jesus’ ministry. Towards the end of His ministry, Jesus instructed His disciples, saying “As the Father sent me into the world, I am sending you” (John 17:18; 20:21). Jesus is our model of operating in the world. But Jesus was God – so how exactly can He be our model?

It is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss the exact nature of the incarnation (becoming man) of Christ. However, the basis of this paper is that the incarnation involved Christ, who is God, becoming fully human, yet without compromising his full divinity (John 1:14, Phil. 2:6f.). This being the case, let us examine some implications of Christ’s example for youth ministry.

2. Implications of the Incarnation

All of the implications of the incarnation are beyond enumeration or expression. The fact that God Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, the Sustainer of all life, should reduce Himself to a foetus in a virgin peasant girl is beyond understanding. That the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob should subject Himself to human care as a helpless baby, grow up in Roman-controlled Palestine, and walk from one end of Israel to another, followed by a rag-tag team of social outcasts, eventually submitting to the cruel nails of crucifixion, simply to identify with me, is too great a thought to grasp. Yet, it is possible to glean some principles from Jesus’ earthly life, that can be applied to youth ministry. Just as Jesus took on Himself the form of a human being, we must take on the “form” of a young person. The following sections work towards a theology of Incarnational Ministry, which will explain how this can be achieved.

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Towards A Theology of YOUTH Ministry

An assignment completed in April 1996, as part fulfillment of the requirements of the Youth Ministry Major at Baptist Theological College, South Africa.

Ephesians 4:11-16

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

There are many ways in which a theology of youth ministry can be formulated. One of these is in terms of the verses quoted above. In fact, Ephesians 4:11 – 16 could be the vision statement of any church. In order to formulate a specifically youth theology, however, we must apply the various aspects of this verse to the particular focus of young people.

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Generations @ Church

Originally posted on 19 February 2005

Based on a chapter in my 2004 book, ‘Mind the Gap’, here are some insights into the generation gap in church.

The era in which you were born shaped your value system more than you probably realise. Your value system is that part of you which helps you decide what is right or wrong, good or bad, normal or weird. Your value system is largely cemented in place by the time you turn ten years old, and the events and forces that shape you in those first ten years are critical in shaping your value system.

Over the past century, global events have become more and more influential on people across the planet. With increased communication, telephones, television and now the Internet, its possible for single events to influence billions of people at the same time. ‘Where were you when” type questions become increasingly familiar. Where were you when the planes crashed into the twin towers on 9/11? When Mandela was released in 1990? When the Berlin wall came down in 1989? When Neil Armstrong stood on the moon, or when JFK was shot?

Global events like these can shape the value systems of all the young people of a particular era. That means that people about your age may have a similar worldview to you. And you probably differ dramatically in outlook to those people older and younger than yourself.

Generations @ Church
There are few areas in our lives where the generation gap is greater than it is in the church. The church throughout the world is in crisis as an increasingly greying clergy is not attracting youthful priests and pastors. Youngsters don’t relate to people a generation or two older than them as role models, and the older generations boycott ‘youth services’. And so we see a vicious cycle of falling figures, both in church attendance and people prepared to don clerical robes.

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Hannah’s Rules and ethical consumers @ TGIF

Originally posted on 24 February 2008

Recently I spoke at TGIF (Thank God it’s Friday), a Christian discussion group that meets at the (ungodly) hour of 6:30am every Friday morning. I was asked to record it, and make the recording available, so it is available for downloading, by right clicking here and selecting save as. It’s about 8 Mb in size.

The content is a version of my presentation, Hannah’s Rules on the rise of the ethical consumer. It’s since been renamed, “The Future is Now” – see details here.

Evangelising the generations

Originally posted in 2002, and then updated in July 2009

It has been a tremendous privilege over many years to be able to (almost) seamlessly blend my ministry and work aspirations. This is something many people spend their whole lives striving for – to integrate what they do for a living with the passion in their hearts. I fell into this very young, and have been privileged to continue to do so.

Specifically, the work I do on different generations, and seeing the world through other people’s eyes (see has application in many different areas – from schools and churches, to marketing and HR departments of large corporates, and even government institutions, too.

A few things have happened recently to remind me of work I did a number of years ago on evangelising the next generation. I wrote a chapter on “Generations at church” in my 2004 book, “Mind the Gap”. Now, EE3, the global evangelism movement, will be providing my book to its members. I have also been in contact with the organisers of the upcoming Lausanne Congress on World Evangelisation, to be held in Cape Town 2010.

So, previously unpublished on this blog, is an article I wrote in 2000 for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association magazine.

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