Book 10 of 52: the orphaned generation (Scott Wilcher)

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Orphan.  Buzz word of 2010-2011 in evangelical Christian circles.  Along with radical and authentic.  Sometimes I think buzz words are good – sometimes those words don’t mean a thing to us – we just like to to say them.

Scott uses this term to not necessarily talk about orphans (from parents) but youth who are separated from the church as a whole.

Let me tell you some good things about this book:

1.  Scott’s passion for the next generation is evidenced on every page.

2.  Wilcher is in touch with culture: art, movies, books.  This is crucial I think for effective youth ministry workers. 

3.  He made me rethink that common tract that has a gulf between man and God with a cross bridging the gulf.  That tract is basically wrong at its premise, so how can it ever get to the right end?  Man is dead.  God opens his eyes, makes him alive, we don’t jump or cross any bridge without God.

4.  And I definitely agree with Scott: current youth ministry needs changing.  It hasn’t worked properly for so many years and if we want the current trend to continue – then lets keep on with what we are doing.  But, if we want the outcome to change, we have to change the means.

5.  I really like how the author included much of his personal experience in the past 30 years of working with youth and young adults.

Where I think this book is weak:

1.  It covers so many topics, and instead of going deep on one or two of those: it skims the surface on all of them: youth ministry training, ecclesiology, pastoral ministry, servanthood (disciplines), evangelism, adoption.  And I really couldn’t figure out who I would give this book to: parents, youth workers, youth pastors, pastors, the entire staff?

2.  There were so many illustrations.  I’m not talking about the art in the book (which I loved, I love sketch drawings), but my mind seemed to have to jump to different illustrations with each chapter, instead of keeping many of them flowing from one to another.

3.  This is a fault I think with many books, not just Wilcher’s: the application is ideal.  Where we need to be we are never going to be able to attain: but I guess some goals are lofty aren’t there?  If we don’t have a goal – we aim too low.

4.  I think we start at two different places.  I have been somehow involved with reaching the next generation for 16 years now.  I don’t think it ever gets easy.  Neither will it with the effects of sin and a fallen world pressuring our kids and wrecking our families.  But, youth ministry must start in the family.  Parents must teach their sons and daughters what God’s plan is for them.  That is an ideal.  I know families who don’t do that.  Not only unsaved parents, but also redeemed parents who just don’t see it as a priority (or think they have the ability) to train their children.  This is where the church must begin.  We must set before our parents their need for Christ and then their call to disciple their children.   Every church that I have attended has some missing link in its youth ministry.  The one I grew up in was non-existent, so we were really a part of the church (which ultimately I think is where I would fall now more anyway), the one I was a part of in high school lacked real depth, though it excelled in misison and leadership training.  In college, where I served, we lacked depth, but we had size and fun things to do.  And several amazing parents who were part of that ministry.  In the churches I’ve been in since moving to NC/KY: most have been mostly segregated from the congragation as a whole.  Either “big” church is not emphasized, or the only real time the youth are seen in the adult world is on graduation Sunday, or when they are raising support to go on a trip, or serving at a church wide event that happens once a year or less.  A Sunday by Sunday infiltration of the youth in the adult service is just not present.  But, is this an ideal?  I don’t think so.

I’ll admit, sometimes I get irritated at the little boy sitting in front of me, noisely flipping through the pages of his mother’s Bible, talking to himself, being loud and distracting to others during the preaching of the Word.  But, I also feel sorry for his mother, who seemed to sit all alone and be struggling to discipline him, probably tired from 6 other days of having to care for this little boy and working and everything – probably solo – because of an absent father.  But, I love the fact that we do have some youth and children who are in big church.  This is where they should be.  They can sit there, they can learn to sing praise to the glory of God.  And they can learn to interact with other adult believers.  I am NOT saying we shouldn’t have youth pastors, or youth groups, or special youth events, or youth Sunday school.  Please do not hear that – but hear my heart: youth are a part of the church as a whole (and children). They need to learn from early on how to interact with adults.  There is a perfect blend between traditional youth ministry and family integrated model.  That’s what I would like to see happen.

And yes, I might want to live in a perfect world.

Thanks Scott – for bringing these thoughts.  Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“When our young people are taught something less than the whole truth, we rob them of that full-orbed perspective and may owe them an apology for it later.” – pg 23

“If our minds’ pictures more closely reflect the mind of Christ, then our thinking, and eventually our behavior, will more accurately reflect the life of Jesus.” – pg 37

“Christ’s Bride is most gorgeous, most attractive when her intent is to delight in Him and to reflect His love to those around her with humility and service.” – pg 51 (I loved this in light of Ephesians 5 as well)

“Revising our picture of the Gospel to more closely approach the mind of Christ decreases our fear and presses us joyfully out of our safe routines and into the lives of other people in the imitation and incarnation of Christ.” – pg 74

“We go to a club for the benefits it offers the members.  It is not a place for sacrifice.  The club provides the membership with relationships that share a common interest and perhaps a place to avoid the noise of the rabble who are not allowed in.  The club hires people to do the lesser jobs, so that members can enjoy the place.  Over time, Christians with a club mentality see themselves as God’s elite on the inside.” – pg 114

“If your congregation is going to keep its young people, the Church must see itself as a family and begin to conduct itself in that way, offering close, nurturing relationships across generations.” – pg 131