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I have just finished reading a new book by Jason Gardner, Youth Project Researcher of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (and a member of my extended family), I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to any Christian as the issues it covers relate to the whole of the church body and the relationships within it, but particularly to those wishing to change and shape church leadership. Below are a few comments;
Jason Gardner begins by carefully examines society and in particular the nature of young people and their relationship to adults over the last 100 years and looks at the changes that have occurred in a measured rather than in a sensational or rose-spectacled way.
He then looks at how the church has mirrored society in its treatment of the young, the contradiction of expectations and the polarisation of church communities. Not just in terms of youth congregations and ageing churches, but in terms of how churches create niche groups by age and how leadership delegates youth management responsibilities (appoint an underpaid, under respected youth pastor to reach and deal with ‘youth’, so the leadership does not have to).
I won’t spell out all the recommendations, but to say that the proposals that Jason Gardner outlines are challenging to the church but necessary to avoid a greater distancing of the generations and ultimately the breakdown of the church. With the external challenges faced by young people in particular, and different role that the church fills in society it is so important that churches can be the one place that generations can be side by side working together for Christ and the Kingdom. Through analysis, practical examples and suggestions, this book makes a positive contribution to achieving this aim.
On a side note, of particular interest to me were his points on parenting, one of which suggested that as parents feel guilty about spending inadequate time with their offspring, the time that they do spend becomes child-focused which does ring true. This can lead to the parent-child relationship being about fulfilling a child’s needs rather that the parent preparing the child for adult life. Maybe I should feel like it isn’t such poor parenting by getting my son to help with the DIY rather than doing something he would choose to do. This isn’t a parenting book, it is just one point that I found interesting.
Mend the Gap by Jason Gardner is available through IVP.
Presumably all Christians wonder if they are at the ‘right’ church. This can be because they feel they are being left behind if everything is moving along without them, or more probably that they think the church does not meet their needs.
Brian Mayfield tackles this by asking whether the fault lies with the person not the church. He quotes Hebrews 5 and uses the metaphor of ‘being fed’ by the church or the Christian using the fork to feed themselves;
Considering this, it makes me wonder: Could it be that so many get to this place of feeling they’re not ‘being fed’ be due to the fact that we haven’t taught them well enough how to feed themselves? Should we have new classes in church like Feeding: 101 and Using Your Own Fork? Seriously. Should it be reduced to this?
Perhaps in our culture today, it is still hard to get out from the idea of the church as service provider.
Update on 21 February 2007: There is a follow up post on being fed called ‘kill your iPod’, which relates to creativity. When we are constantly being fed (for instance television, music entertainment), our creativity suffers. I guess that must be true for churches as well. In the respect of congregants being constantly fed and not doing the thing themselves. God wants us to be creative in our worship (all forms) rather than stagnant.