Sunday, July 30, 2006

Teenage Wasteland

The Relevant Revolution™

by Douglas Groothuis

It’s a Crisis: The church in America is losing its youth. If current trends prevail, the average age in America’s churches will be well over forty within a decade or so. To counter this insidious trend, we must join TheRelevantRevolution.™ The alternative is unthinkable.

TheRelevantRevolution™ has vision and passion for today’s youth. RelevantRevolutionaries™ are tired of old, worn out strategies and beliefs. We must innovate and see what new shapes, forms, and sounds emerge. We cannot expect to reach today’s youth with yesterday’s sermons, hymns, organizations, and activities. So where do we start?

RelevantRevolutionaries ™ are ready to reinvent everything: themselves, the church, and God. That’s right, God. The Almighty, too, must be brought up to date and made relevant! “The Ancient of Days” will not play or sell to today’s youth culture. The audience is sovereign, as all Americans know in their heart of hearts and prove by their pocketbooks. God must be re-imaged as “the God of what’s happening now.” (Other dynamic divine names and titles are being researched as you read this.) Focus groups will be formed. Sociological, psychological, and (above all) business consultants will assess the situation to give us a strategic vision for our desired outcomes. After this cutting-edge process is complete, an implemental step-by-step method will be made available on line for RelevantRevolutionaries.™ Those who subscribe to the vision (all major credit cards accepted on line) will be part of a postmodern pack of visionary practitioners.

To begin, TheRelevantRevolution™ will introduce several exciting strategic tools, which image our core values and goals:

1. HighTechHoliness™ To reach youth today, everything must be transformed into high-tech venues. Who can expect this generation to sit still in an unmediated environment? No one! It cuts against their culture, their way of being, their very identity. So, we must technologize all of church, all of Christianity. We must become TheWiredChurch.™

2. PodcastPandemic™ Practically, becoming TheWiredChurch™ means that inspirational, up-to-date messages will be offered on podcasts no longer than ten minutes. Each pod cast will be spiced up with infomercials and exciting, relevant music (indie bands, hip hop, Japanese techno-metal, etc.), along with dramatic interludes featuring cameos by Hollywood stars. Listeners can choose the PodcastPandemic™ style of their choice, such as “A New Kind of Jesus,” “Hip- Hop Thoughts from the Hip-Holy Book,” “Prophets That are Way Cool,” “Reinvent Yourself the Bible Way,” and so much more.

3. ScriptureZine ™ Instead of expecting hyperactive, image-oriented youth to lug around big, old-fashioned Bibles, TheRelevantRevolution™ will feature ScriptureZines,™ specially designed for a host of subgroups. Each ScriptureZine™ will take a few verses from a biblical book (Job, Ecclesiastes, and several others excluded) and place it amidst lavish, full color images that entice the eyes of teens. Exclusive quotes from youth-oriented celebrities will draw in those who would not normally come near a traditional Bible. ScriptureZine™ is sweet!

4. MegaMediaFests™ 1.0, 1.2; 2.0, 2.1 Teens today love and crave large media events. While they will not attend the average, outmoded church service, they will flock to multi-mediated events based on the production values of the most popular movies, video games, and musical concerts today. In light of these undeniable realities, RelevantRevolutionaries™ will promote and sponsor MegaMediaFests™ around the country, held in large, modern venues. Young, attractive, and humorous speakers (sporting the latest fashions and tattoos) will present totally cool messages augmented by multi-jumbotron-driven videos, live music, and plenty of special effects (laser lights, flash pods, fog effects, and many more cutting-edge technologies).

5. SpiritCellDrama™ Today’s teens are always on their cell phones—and they should be! Cell phones are intrinsic to postmodern culture. Why bother to censure their use or direct this coming generation elsewhere? Given this inescapable reality, TheRelevantRevolution™ will create biblically-suggestive mini-dramas to be broadcast on video cell phones. Major secular corporations are just beginning to explore this potential, but we are way ahead of the curve! Youth today are too fast-paced and ADD for even the traditional half hour TV program. They need their entertainment to be mobile and instantly consumable. SpiritCellDrama™ meets this crying need through innovative animation, comedy, and celebrity cameos. Our logo for SpiritCellDrama™ (not yet released) will feature an image of Jesus chuckling as he gazes into a cell phone. How cool is that?

And there is so very much more! Video games, T-Shirts, customized digital tattoos, and many other products are in production.

Why be left behind as the tidal wave of youth reality sweeps over us? Don’t abandon our teens. Join TheRelevantRevolution™ today!

[The above is parody, not advocacy. All the ™ marks above are invented by the author; they do not represent trademarked products.]

Afterword (tongue out of cheek), by Rebecca Merrill Groothuis

Yes, the American church is in trouble and not just because youth are uninterested. Yes, something needs to change, but not just a change from one organizational/marketing strategy to another. What is desperately needed here—for both youth and adults—is something nearly unheard of today: humility, repentance, prayer, fasting, and seeking God. Stuff found on virtually every page of God’s Word. We don’t need yet another peppy mission statement. Our mission is one thing: to know Christ. All the rest follows from this.


Johnny-Dee said...

I grew up in a youth group that was intentionally not fadish, not image-driven, and that emphasized discipleship. I learned the basics of philosophy, theology, and even textual criticism as a youth, and my faith was significantly strengthened. My youth minister gave me exactly what I my soul needed to grow. Some people think this meant our faith was all head and no heart, but it wasn't. We still cultivated Christian passions, and we had a lot of fun because of the strong friendships we built through discipleship. I would strongly encourage youth ministers to develop a theology/philosophy of ministry that looks for serious discipleship, rather than short-term "results."

You might be interested in two pieces he wrote for a youth ministry magazine (where he is labelled as "another point of view"):

Douglas Groothuis said...

Johnny-Dee is a living witness of what youth ministry can and should be. Thank you for the heartening testimony. May your numbers increase, even if you hold to libertarian agency...

Jeff Burton said...

I probably I don't have to ask how your wife feels about Relevant Magazine.

Jeremy said...


This is Jeremy, we met at Tim's house in June. I'm sorry that we did not get to hang out more before you left. My sole purpose for wanting to do so was to hear you talk about this youth group. It sounds absolutely fantastic! I get really sick of seeing the stupidity that gets passed off as legitimate ministry to young people.

Anonymous said...

Your thoughts made me chuckle. The temptation is great to attempt to compete with the "world" and all of its techno-fun. After two years in junior high ministry full-time, we are taking our students back to the basics. Our weekly small groups will involve the students spending an hour in inductive Bible study. Some think we are crazy for thinking junior high students can study the Bible for an hour. The Bible is living and active and can come alive to even junior high students.

:mic said...

Shouldn't this post be called Baba O'Riley???

I can't help thinking this is just another in a long line of naysayers over the past few years who offer yet another reason why the church can't 'survive' if current trends don't change. Probably the same reason why the 'church leadership' section of books keeps rehashing the same old garbage in newly printed covers.

Douglas Groothuis said...


Yes, I had an egregrious typo or two in my response to you. Sorry. So, I deleted myself!

Keep reading and posting, though; you may catch the curmudgeon contagion.