Friday, 11 May 2018

Giving Up Gimmicks

Brian Cosby wrote one of the chapters in the Five Views on Youth Ministry book I read earlier this year. I liked him and I thought his responses to the other authors were theologically sharp. He introduced me to the idea of the "means of grace". These are things that God usually uses to save, support, build up, encourage people in the faith. Since God has provided the means to build up His people, we don't need to think we can do better with gimmicks. This book was pretty much Cosby's chapter in the Five Views book, only fleshed out a bit more. The means Cosby focuses on is the Word, prayer, sacraments, service, and community.

Since I read the five views book I was already on board. We need scripture in our meetings, and we need prayer. In these chapters, Cosby gave background for this idea, gives some tips oh how to lead a study or things to pray publicly (supplication, intercession, thanksgiving, confession, and adoration) and gave eight applications for a word based ministry and five practical ways to incorporate prayer in our meetings.

On the sacraments, again there was some theological background to baptism and the Lords Supper and then some practical application on how to put use these in youth ministry. I'm not sure about baptism in youth group and I also don't really know if I am allowed anyway. On the Lords Supper, I learned that our dioceses allow an "agape meal" where a Priest doesn't have to lead the Lords Supper. Last term, while going through the end of Mark we did a re-enactment of the Last Supper and I thought this was a really good night where the students got to reflect long and hard on where they stand with God, and also they got to participate in something significant together. We plan on doing something similar this term as well.

With acts of service other youth ministry books talk about the social justice angle and how we can and should do good things, but the way Cosby framed the issue and how it is part of a wider systematic and not the only thing Christian youths should do, made me pay more attention. He stressed that acts of service do satisfy on a deeper level - more than any other entertainment that they consume in a week. It is true that it is better to give than to receive. To do this I think we need a holistic view of youth ministry, how it fits in with the wider church and also the week. I think this book emphasized doing something together with other generations, which I am all for.

On the topic of community Cosby implored our meeting to be both sound and safe. Sound in teaching, as all Christian communities should be grounded around God's grace and His word, but the community should also be safe, in the sense that you can be open and vulnerable with others. That there is relational intimacy that believers share and a context for change where we can encourage one another to love and good deeds. Building stronger relationships with other believers transform our heart for the glory of God. In this section I thought this idea would work better in smaller groups rather than a bigger group. Both size groups do have their place.

Some of the points in the book I thought were really basic, maybe because I pretty much live in the evangelical camp. Basic isn't really a negative as it is good to have a simple basis for things, all of which I would hope all Christian youth ministries are built on. There were a few practical tips throughout this book, and some ideas on how each means of grace could be used in youth ministry. However, I still would have liked to have seen more real-life practical examples of how a big group gathering looked like on a Friday or Sunday night, or even what a week looks like with small groups and acts of services going on.


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