The Bible According to Gen Z | Adrian Blenkinsop
Friday 17 July 2015
In a new weekly youth blog, Bible Society Australia’s youth ministry leader Adrian Blenkinsop shares his learnings about how to engage youth with the Bible.
If I took the Bible too seriously I’d have no friends!
This is one of the struggles that Kate has in trying to live “by what’s in the Bible”, and not alienating herself from her non-Christian friends. The fear of being seen – and judged ¬– as fundamental, out-of-touch and weird are very real for heaps of young people as they try to live as a Christian, and understand and make sense of the Bible.
Kate is a “typical” young Christian, and this short video tells her story. The video is designed to articulate some of the challenges faced by young Christians today. Kate identifies as a Christian, and goes to a youth group regularly and church occasionally. She goes to a Bible study as well – although for reasons other than studying the Bible. She knows all the “right” answers to all the questions, and her youth leaders would see her as one of the “gun” young Christians in the church.
Take a few minutes and watch the video, then think about which of Kate’s struggles you can identify from your own young people.
As you watch it, you’ll see Kate say the things she believes are the “right” responses, and the captions show what she’s thinking, and the struggles she’s encountering.
Do you have any “Kate’s” in your ministry? Those young Christians who struggle in the tension of having deep questions and struggles with her faith and knowing what to do with them? Actually, I reckon it’s not just an issue for young Christians. It’s something many of us struggle with at times. I’ve often shown this video in a church setting, and people in their 70s have come up to me and said “Actually, those aren’t issues that only young people have … I struggle with some of those things too.”
When I speak with young Christians, a common struggle is one presented in the video, where Kate and her peers are taught evolution in school, and it seems really compelling and scientific, and then she does a study on Genesis in youth group which completely dismisses everything she’s heard in school. It gets confusing, and raises questions for her like “Can I be a Christian and believe in evolution?” and “Where do the dinosaurs fit in?”
Build a culture of questions
Lots of research done into these issues suggests that young Christians need people around them (peers and older) who they can talk openly and honestly with about their struggles and questions. In fact this is one of the keys for young people not abandoning their faith in their late teens.
I like how Rob Bell responds to asking questions of God and faith in his book Love Wins, when he writes:
“Abraham does his best to bargain with God, most of the book of Job consists of arguments by Job and his friends about the deepest questions of human suffering, God is practically on trial in the book of Lamentations, and Jesus responds to almost every question he’s asked with…a question.”
Throughout scripture we get the picture that asking hard questions of God, and wrestling with the tension and challenges of following Christ, is actually a part of what it means to follow him. It’s, in fact, a “health indicator” of our faith.
If you’re like me and seem to have more questions than answers, that’s quite a relief to know. Let’s continue to encourage our young people to ask honest, hard questions, and avoid giving easy answers for fear that they might come to the “wrong” answer.
In what ways are you both encouraging and enabling your young people to ask tough, uncomfortable and awkward questions about God, faith and the Bible?
It could be something as simple as a “question box” where people can write a question anonymously, or send you a private message on social media. What’s important is to encourage a culture of questions, and actually celebrate those great questions when they are asked. It’s not so much about having the answer as it is to encourage the journey of discovery – trusting in the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of your young people.
Adrian Blenkinsop is the National Youth Manager with Bible Society Australia. He’s passionate about seeing young people really dig into the Bible, and is working to make that happen through writing, speaking, and developing apps like Qbla. Find out more by checking out the resource hub for youth leaders here. He’d love to hear what’s working for you around engaging youth with the Bible. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org