Will has been attending a Christian youth club being run in Dunoon by some mates of mine. He is loving it- that lovely combination of chaos, faith, music and food.
They gave him a Bible the other day and it has been sitting on our coffee table staring at me ever since- this one;
It is entitled ‘God’s Game Plan- the athlete’s Bible. Game Ready- get up, gear up, step up.” Inside are Bible references carefully chosen to support the athlete in areas of competition, performance and ‘game plan.’
Everything about it makes me cringe. The marketing exercise, the easy use of selective scripture as ‘performance enhancement’, all that ‘Jesus can make me a winner’ stuff- the mashing up of the message of Jesus with the American Dream.
Then there is this idea of ‘God’s Plan’- some kind of golden path that he has laid out for each of us, which we then have to discern through the application of good Bible study, and woe betide us if we stumble off it. I think this is a damaging idea of who God is- rather what I hope for is a God of new starts, of hope, of encouragement for us to live beautiful lives committed to the love of others.
But I said none of this to Will- he loves his new Bible. I am also very grateful to those folk who chose it for him as something suitable and encouraging.
Also, because we are not attending ‘Church’ regularly these days (as distinct from ‘church’) it is great to see him involved in other things. I remember a conversation years ago when we were discussing how we might best introduce our kids to the great mysteries of faith within the context of ’emerging/missional’ small groups. We all had lots of anxieties about whether we might be somehow depriving them of something important by being outside a large structured formal organisation, with Sunday schools, youth events and a group of peers going on a similar journey.
The conclusion we reached then was a series of questions going something like this;
- Do these structured institutional means of creating faith in our young people actually work? Do we create adult disciples? Research might indicate a low success rate over the last few decades. (See summary of Church attendance figures here.)
- If we as adults are modelling a dissatisfaction with those organised structures – the typical drive home deconstruction and the sharing of frustrations. What does this teach our kids if we are not prepared to work for something new, something honest and true to who you are as individuals and family?
- Is it time for we parents to take responsibility for making a spiritual journey with our own kids rather than handing that responsibility to others?
- Finally, we noted that in this fractured, post modern, mass communicating world, people (particularly young people) rarely have one source of information on any given subject. Rather there are multiple sources of information, from a range of physical, virtual and on line media. So it is with information about God. We might seek to control this – to make sure that information given corresponds to our own orthodoxy – but the best we can hope for is to keep channels of discussion open about all those many strands that bombard us.
So it is with our kids. They are asking their own questions about faith- assisted (hopefully) by our example, participation in Aoradh events, as well as formal (even Evangelical) events like Christian camp weeks, and youth clubs like this one. And if this means that he is exposed to the kinds of religion that I have found difficult then so be it- I need to just trust that it is is all in the mix.
Because God’s game plan is after all beyond my understanding.
Thanks Chris- this is very thoughtful. Ages ago I reposted (with thoughts) something that Tim Chester- from a different perspective than mine-had posted on the same issue. If I remember rightly it went something like the quest within the evangelical community (and he is very much an insider, so his critique is good) for ‘good’ children’s/youth ministry is often more about a consumerist approach to Christ than a ‘discipleship’ approach. Scary- you almost agree.
I am with you on these ‘themed’ Bibles and the ‘I can be a winner’ sub narrative. But don’t let that be an encouragement: I am also a fellow heretic….
There is an old song by Michael Card (another firmly Evangelical insider) that goes something like this;
Reject the worldly lie that says,
That life lies always up ahead,
Let power go before control becomes a crust around your soul,
Escape the hunger to possess,
And soul-diminishing success,
This world is full of narrow lives,
I pray by grace your smile survives.
That line ‘soul diminishing success’ has always stuck with me…