I recently picked up a copy of the Christian Research Journal. It is basically an Evangelical apologetics periodical. While i’m not quite the Evangelical i used to be, i thought it was worth looking at.
I was particularly interested in an article about youth and apologetics by Sean Mcdowell. If the name sounds familiar to you, Mcdowell is the son of the American Evangelical apologetics superstar, Josh Mcdowell.
One of the most fascinating/provocative parts of his essay, Sean cites sociologist Christian Smith, who conducted at that time one of the most extensive research studies of culture and contemporary youth. Smith’s findings suggest that youth today are not in need of a great new ‘postmodern’ approach to ministry, but rather they need to have an intellectual undergirding for their beliefs.
Smith’s research is now in book form. I actually read it a couple years ago, and i loved it. I think that i will read it again soon now that i’m actually doing ministry to youth. Here is a helpful discussion of his research.
Smith’s research found that the most common reason why kids with a religious upbringing later became ‘non-religious’ in their teens was because they didn’t believe it was true. Mcdowell’s conclusion of this evidence is that “young people are leaving faith behind because the Christian community is failing to engage their minds as well as their hearts.”
Mcdowell proposes that youth pastors should engage their student’s minds. Apologetics is a vital part of this process, because mcdowell believes that once youth know why they believe, they will be enboldened to live for Christ.
I find this article interesting. I find the idea that what sixth graders crave isn’t a snickers bar & a dodgeball, but an explanation of the anselmian proof for God’s existence laughable. Strawmen aside though, i find the study’s findings fascinating, and challenging. Should one teach apologetics to youth? Is the need that vital? If so how do we do it?
Anyone have any thoughts?