Tonight is my live event: “5 Tools to Help Equip Your Kids with the Truth,” 6:30–7:30 (PT). If you'd like to ask questions during that hour, join the event on Google+. Otherwise, you can watch the whole thing live right here tonight (and anytime afterward).
The goal of tonight's event is to help parents and pastors be more focused and intentional in their discipleship of the next generation. I'll talk to you about the tried-and-true classical method of education and offer some very specific ideas and practical tools to equip families and churches. (See here for more info.) See you then!
[Update: Because of technical difficulties, the first eight minutes are audio only.]
I hear the stories again and again from around the country. I hear them from moms and dads, grandparents, pastors, and youth workers: Students, raised in the church and raised in Christian homes, encounter serious challenges to their faith and then walk away from God.
You hear the stories too. Maybe you've lived it with your own son or daughter. We're all well aware of the problem, but what can we do to stem the tide of students who walk away from Christianity? Join me for an evening of opportunity and action at Stand to Reason's upcoming event, "A Vision for Youth," on Sunday night, November 15th, from 5:00–7:00 p.m. at Grace Fellowship Church in Costa Mesa, California.
We'll enjoy a wonderful meal together. You'll hear a special message and challenge from former cold-case homocide detective J. Warner Wallace, author of Cold-Case Christianity and the newly realeased God’s Crime Scene. Also, I'll share about the exciting new plans we have to train up a new generation of ambassadors for Christ, and we'll extend an invitation to you to join our efforts and partner in our vision for youth.
All are welcome to this special night, so please invite your friends, family, and church leaders. You can RSVP with Dawnielle Hodgman at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope to see you on November 15th!
Raising kids to be faithful followers of Christ in the 21st century can be very challenging. Our culture continues its secular slide, with entertainment and education—which permeate our kids lives—leading the way. Of course, life is busy and it's difficult for families to avoid simply being pulled along with the world. In light of the current challenges, parents and the church must be very intentional in their discipleship of the next generation. We must think carefully about our strategies and be more aggressive in training up our children.
As our oldest daughter approached the junior high years, my wife and I began to rethink our views on educating and discipling our own kids. We were dissatisfied with things we were seeing in her life not only academically, but also spiritually and morally. In that process of reevaluation, we discovered “classical education.” Educator Susan Wise Bauer offers a concise description of this approach:
“Classical education depends on a three-part process of training the mind. The early years of school are spent in absorbing facts, systematically laying the foundations for advanced study [Grammar Stage]. In the middle grades, students learn to think through arguments [Logic Stage]. In the high school years, they learn to express themselves [Rhetoric Stage].”
I think this model offers parents a way forward. My wife and I have been using it with our own kids and I think the church can also use it as it comes alongside families to help disciple our children.
On Tuesday night, November 17th, at 6:30 pm (Pacific Time), I will host a live online event to help parents and pastors think through the discipleship of the next generation. We'll dialogue more about this classical method. I'll also offer some very specific ideas and practical tools to equip families and churches. And you can participate too. We'll be taking live questions and interacting with your comments. Follow this LINK and join us for this live online conversation.
Churches and families must be focused and intentional in order equip our kids with the truth, and I think this event will help you do just that.
My passion has always been youth. Ever since my days as a youth pastor in the local church, I've sought out ways to more effectively reach students and offer them serious teaching and discipleship. That's why I started and developed Stand to Reason's apologetics mission trip to Berkeley and our theological mission trip to Utah. Of course, those trips require some serious effort. There are lectures, reading, studying, tests, and more, and that's before we ever go on the trip. Then there's the actual trip, with engagements with atheists, agnostics, skeptics, Mormons, and anyone else we can throw at the students, all day long. But most Christian kids won't have the opportunity or the maturity to attend a mission trip like this, so I've thought a lot about the best way to reach larger numbers of students. How do we get that typical evangelical student, who is sitting in our youth groups week in and week out, exposure to deeper teaching in apologetics and theology?
Three years ago, we tried out one of my ideas: an apologetics conference specifically designed for youth. I called it the reTHINK Conference, and our tagline was, "Stand to Reason Student Impact exists to provoke a new generation to rethink their worldview, recapture the truth, and then reengage the world for the cause of Christ." We had about 400 students, youth workers, and parents attend that first conference, and we were ecstatic. We did it again in 2013 and more than 600 showed up. Last year about 1,100 came out, and last weekend 1,500 people (most of them students) came out for our fourth annual reTHINK Student Apologetics Conference in Southern California. We've clearly seen the success and impact of this conference on the lives of young people. But why? What has made reTHINK successful? Of course, it's ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit, but what have we done on our end to facilitate God's work? Here are a few thoughts that might help you as you try to reach your own young people:
(1) Our communicators must be able to connect with youth. This is absolutely key. Kids don't care much about your Ph.Ds, the books you've written, or your scholarly accomplishments. They're not going to listen to you simply because of your credentials. If you don't grab them in your talk in the first few minutes and then hold them throughout, they'll tune out. Unfortunately, that's just the reality of modern youth. So we bring in speakers who can speak to youth exceptionally well. Not only are they humorous, not only do they tell good stories, not only do they illustrate well, they also don't dumb down the truth, while still making it accessible to young minds.
(2) Our conference must be filled with fun and laughter. I'm tired of apologetics being saddled with a reputation for being stodgy, always serious, angry, argumentative, somber, etc. Yes, we want to be serious about God's truth, and our speakers do a great job with that. However, we want to model a Christian life that is filled with joy and laughter. So we intentionally plan for it. For example, as the MC, I do not get up and introduce the speakers by reading through their list of accomplishments. Instead, we joke around, tease each other, or even play a little competitive game to get the audience laughing. In the process, the speakers are introduced in a more personal way, making them more relatable. Indeed, I had many attendees applaud us for the humor and laughter. Who thought you could laugh so much at an apologetics conference?!
(3) Our content must be focused on worldview, apologetics, and theology. The content of most youth teaching and curriculum can be summed up in two phrases: love Jesus and be good. Sadly, that's about as much depth as they go into. We make sure students are being exposed to the evidence for Christianity, that they see life Christianly, and that they come to understand the great theological truths about our great God. And we've seen students rise to the occasion, telling us how much they learn and grow at each conference.
So those are some of the things we do to tailor this conference for youth, and it seems like God is using it to reach them. This was some of the best feedback we received this weekend, from a dad: "The quality of every aspect of the event that my son and I experienced was awesome. The topics were engaging, relevant and diverse. As the dad of a 17 year old boy, I can't tell you how satisfying it was to hear him say the very best part of his week was going to reTHINK. Thanks for putting together such a powerful event that I know strengthened both mine and my son's faith. You guys killed it!"
We're taking this show on the road too, hosting our first reTHINK Conference in Dallas on October 23-24. Come join us!
Last week some Mormon missionaries showed up at my door. I was unavailable at that moment, so we set up an appointment for them to come back next week. I’m looking forward to the conversation, but I don’t anticipate much impact…in that single conversation. After years of dialoguing with Mormons, I’ve learned to take it slow. Indeed, ex-Mormons will tell you that a patient approach is the best one.
Think about the Mormons you know. Most of them probably grew up in the LDS Church. Their parents are Mormons. Their family members are Mormons. Most of their close friends are Mormon. The LDS church plays a preeminent role in their life, touching every area. With this in mind, is it realistic to expect Mormons to abandon their faith after one or two conversations? Probably not. That’s an unrealistic goal.
Because of our love for LDS friends and family members, our final vision for their lives is that they come to know the true Jesus. But that’s not the goal of every individual conversation.
Recently, a friend shared that some Mormon missionaries had come knocking and she invited them into her home for conversation. After a second follow-up visit, she decided to cut things off. “Look, you guys aren’t going to change your views and I’m not going to change mine. So it’s pointless to continue meeting.” After just two conversations, what did she expect? Is it reasonable to think these young men would abandon not only their Mormon views, but their entire Mormon community as a result of two conversations?
If the goal of every conversation is conversion, you’ll find yourself frustrated and ready to move on. So don’t try to “close the deal” in every conversation. Instead, here’s a more realistic goal: put a stone in their shoe. What’s your reaction when you get a stone in your shoe? It bothers you. You can’t stop thinking about it until you take the shoe off and deal with the annoyance. The ultimate goal is to see our LDS friends come to Christ, but the goal of any individual conversation is to put a stone in their shoe. Give them one good thing to think about. And this approach isn't just for Mormons, rather it's a good general strategy with any unbeliever you talk with.
Understand that this approach takes time. Ask yourself if you’re willing to be patient. It may take years walking with your LDS or skeptical friends before you see them come to Christ. For some ex-Mormons, it takes Christians leaving stone after stone, year after year, before they’re ready to walk away from Mormonism. Hopefully, your perseverance means you’ll still be around, ready to walk them into God’s Kingdom when the time comes.