Teaching That Makes a Difference: How to Teach for Holistic Imapactby Dan Lambert
This comprehensive, research-informed textbook reviews all aspects of traditional and contemporary theories and experience in youth ministry, but also points to the future by analyzing youth culture and charting innovative paradigms in the art and craft of teaching. The book is fueled by the urgent need in youth ministry to better reach students, to inform them
This comprehensive, research-informed textbook reviews all aspects of traditional and contemporary theories and experience in youth ministry, but also points to the future by analyzing youth culture and charting innovative paradigms in the art and craft of teaching. The book is fueled by the urgent need in youth ministry to better reach students, to inform them about God’s will for their lives, and to encourage change in their lives beyond the youth group setting. Features include: • Website dedicated to the book, including chats hosted by the author • Scriptural instruction on reaching the minds, hearts, and souls of students • Cultural analysis of adolescents in ministry contexts and in the larger community • Explanation of learning styles: auditory, visual, tactile, kinesthetic • Explanation of multiple intelligences: imaginative, analytic, common sense, dynamic • Tips on creativity: where to find ideas, list of teaching methods
Read an Excerpt
Teaching That Makes a DifferenceHow to Teach for Holistic Impact
By Dan Lambert
ZondervanCopyright © 2004 Youth Specialties
All right reserved.
"My Christian friends would] say they're Christians because they say they believe in God, and they go to church usually. And I say, 'That doesn't make you a Christian. What makes you a Christian is believing all that and living it out.' They don't live it out. They do far worse things than I do and that makes them hypocrites."
"I think a lot of people are losing their religion. Definitely. Even me, I know that when I grew up I used to go to church every Sunday, and now it's become holidays. But I think as long as you have your own thing, whether it's meditation-anything that centers you
The future of the church is in trouble, and those of us who teach youth need to step up and accept our share of the blame. God has entrusted us with a high and holy calling, but we've treated it like it's just another chore in life. We rarely take the time to do it well, and often would prefer not to do it at all. We wait until the last minute to get ready (if we take the time at all), and only put in the effort to do it right when we know something special is happening, like visitors or evaluation.
The Current Climate of Religious and Biblical
Our sloppiness in teaching God's Word haunts us with the maturing of the young people we typically call Generation X. Witness the incredibly high number of public figures between ages 20 and 35 who either grew up in the church or call themselves Christian, but use that term very differently than most of us might. Here are a few quotations from or about some well-known performers:
JESSICA SIMPSON is "a minister's daughter, a poor kid who moved seven times before she was eight as her father, Joe, sought work as a youth minister and therapist for
"The Bible. That's my favorite book. I was an usher in church; my grandmother played -SKINNY DEVILLE (real name William Hughes) of the gangsta rap
-BEN MOODY, whose band, EVANESCENCE, had their albums pulled from Christian bookstores when it was discovered that band
"I love the teachings of Christ, but I don't think of myself as a Christian by anyone's
-MARK HOPPUS OF BLINK-182, KNOWN FOR THEIR PROFANITY-LACED
NO DOUBT lead singer GWEN STEFANI "was raised in a Christian family, which is what she blames for her worst faults-namely that she is too judgmental and
"I was angry, I was battling myself in my brain. I was kind of tormented by it because I was dealing with guilt issues about all the Ten Commandments and all the other things the Bible says I wasn't living in my life ... [But now] I'm at peace with it. There's no guilt
"I mean, all three of us have faith, and I think we all believe there is a God ... but it's not a Christian God or a Buddhist God or a Muslim God. It's the God I see when I look at my little boy. It's the God I see in nature ... It's the God that is revealed to me through
"We continuously surround ourselves with spiritual people, and give God our praise ... It's a great thing that we speak up for our Christianity, and nobody's gonna
"I can honestly say that I'm a Christian, but my spirituality has been developed on the
"Sure," you might be thinking, "but these are famous people. We shouldn't expect them to reflect the experiences and attitudes of the typical kids in our churches." Yet all of these now-famous people once were youth in our churches and have since formed less-than-biblical, or at least radically nontraditional, views of God, Christianity, and personal faith. These are some of the gifted, talented, and driven kids that God created to be singing his praises and serving his kingdom. They're no different from the "regular" teens we see every week at school, in our neighborhoods, and in our ministries.
Still not convinced? Then take a look at what some other, non-famous young people say about their experience growing up in church.
Amazing Conversions is a terrific book by Bob Altemeyer and Bruce Hunsberger (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1997) that chronicles the stories of forty-six college freshmen they called "Amazing Apostates." That is, these students were identified in a survey of more than 2,000 college freshmen as being among those who were raised in church-going, Christian families but had abandoned their faith by the time they reached college. Consider the following excerpts:
Anne says she was very devout all the way through high school, until age 17, when she started seeing things differently. "I just started making up my own mind, and stopped believing basically about the church" (p.39). "I didn't like being told how you should interpret different readings. Why can't you make up your own mind?" (p. 41).
Bill thinks it very unlikely that he will ever return to religion. "Those things aren't nearly as important to me as freedom of thought and freedom of expression" (p.44). "I am a lot stronger than I would be if I had let Christ control my life instead of making my decisions" (p.45).
Dwight expressed concern that "you don't have a choice. They only give you one side and that's what you have to believe in" (p. 50).
[Eleanor] also hunted for answers in the Bible, which she read every evening before she went to bed ... But they were answers she could not accept (p. 54).
These examples could go on and on, but you get the gist. The authors make several interesting conclusions and observations based on their study. They note that several of the young people compare the religious teaching of their youth to Santa Claus: "My parents told me that was true, too," remarked one student. "What is the evidence for God, really?" (p. 111, emphasis original).
The authors conclude that the "nuclear" cause of the amazing apostasy they uncovered originates with this issue: Can you believe in the Bible, and its story of the existence of God? (p. 111). When youth struggled with questions of belief, the church offered them little support. Those participants who went to pastors with their questions said that clergy offered reasoned answers to the questions more often than parents, but failed to convince. "I couldn't get a straight answer," said Chuck (p. 112). The authors concluded that "Traditional religious teachings would 'come up short' in the truth department more often in bright minds, if the teachings did not make sense" (p. 121, emphasis original).
I doubt it would take much effort for you to think of people you grew up with or teenagers you've taught in church who would say many of these same things. A lot of the youth growing up in our churches now are developing similar attitudes. It's time to get serious about addressing the problem.
More evidence comes from a company called Highway Video in Mountain View, California, that has produced a series of film shorts over the past few years with some very disturbing content. Among their great products are some "person on the street" interviews asking basic religious questions. Prayer, truth, death, and going to church have all been subjects. The comments of these anonymous interviewees indicate an alarming lack of understanding about the God of the Bible, even among those who grew up in the church.
All of this leads to the inescapable conclusion that the church has done a very poor job of making disciples of most of the teenagers God has put in our care.
So what does that mean for those of us who are called to teach youth? After reading this chapter, one of my students at John Brown University commented, "I think the church not only does a very poor job of teaching, but an even worse job of bringing up effective teachers." I agree, but this doesn't have to be the case. We can teach teenagers not just what the Bible says, but why we trust the Bible and how the Bible should make a difference in our everyday lives. And we can equip almost any willing Christian to be a very good teacher.
Both anecdotal and statistical evidence indicates that we are losing our youth, especially the older, brighter ones. Kids who are expressive, inquisitive, artistic, MARGINALIZED, or doubting have an exceedingly difficult time finding teachers who connect with them in our churches. Rather than challenging students to excellence in a variety of ways, we are in the midst of a youth ministry culture where we are attempting to "Love them into the kingdom." Anybody can do that, right? Evidently not. Somehow we're falling short. Just loving them is not enough. The world loves them too. Most kids know just as many non-Christians who love them as Christians. And non-Christians are rarely seen as hypocrites, which is a very big deal to teens.
There was a lot of speculation that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, would spark a spiritual revival in America's churches. Just six months later, most churches (except the largest megachurches) were back to their pre-9/11 attendance levels. Christians keep waiting for something to happen that will shake people into revival. But until we do a better job of teaching God's truth and making disciples, external events will never bring sustained change.
While many public polls have shown an increase in spirituality in North America, they have also shown a marked decrease in people, including teens, who identify themselves as evangelicals. One research report summarized the trend in this way:
The percentage of teens who are evangelicals-i.e., those who are not only born again but also believe in the accuracy of the Bible, personal responsibility to evangelize, believe in salvation by grace alone, and possess orthodox biblical views on God, Jesus, and Satan-has declined from 10 percent in 1995 to just 4 percent today.
This is also reflected in research that indicates declining attendance at youth group meetings. We who are youth ministry leaders have been largely blinded by the apparent growth in attendance at megachurch youth events. We need to keep in mind that these churches represent a tiny percentage of churches in America. Even if these congregations are growing (and some reported attendance numbers have been called into doubt recently), there are tens of thousands of other North American churches in which youth participation is declining.
It isn't that God is no longer important to young people. In fact, more youth say they think about God and the meaning of life regularly than ever before. They just aren't doing it in Christian churches or in evangelically ORTHODOX ways as much.
To stop this bleeding, we must do a better job of passing on the faith. We can't just tell kids what they are to believe-as indicated above, that strategy doesn't work well. And we have to do more than just make sure kids feel close to God. That tends to leave them questioning in those moments when they don't feel close to him.
The best way to raise the next generation of Christian believers is to teach holistically. Feed their souls, challenge their minds, strengthen their emotions, and guide their actions. This is the type of holistic teaching we see in Scripture.
To teach holistically is to touch every part of who the student is. This includes the physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual realms. The idea is to teach individuals in the way God has created us, as whole beings made in his image, rather than fragmented parts.
Somehow, over the past several decades, teaching in the church has become dominated by several troubling tendencies. In some congregations, teaching is focused entirely on memorizing portions of Scripture. In others, ill-educated lay people facilitate discussions for groups of other lay people-which too often amounts to the blind leading the blind. Other churches feature teachers who talk for the entire class time, what Lois LeBar calls, "Teaching that is only poor lay preaching."
None of these strategies affects the head, heart, and hands of students. What the church needs are teachers who understand the mandate to share knowledge, motivate students, and lead them to become radical world-changers for Christ.
There is ample biblical support for the idea that humans are whole persons and should be taught as such. Often called the SHEMA, Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says it this way:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
Excerpted from Teaching That Makes a Difference by Dan Lambert Copyright © 2004 by Youth Specialties . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Dan Lambert EDD, is associate professor of Youth Ministries at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, AR. He has been involved in mission work in the Ukraine and Bosnia. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Youth Ministry Educators Association and is general editor of YMEA's publication, The Journal of Youth Ministry.
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