Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Thursday, June 26, 2008

To reach youth, do we know what we think we know

Sometimes I wonder about the understanding of those who write for the Adventist Review. Here is an excerpt from a recent column by Kimberly Luste Maran entitled With the Times Knowing our youth is vital to ministry She begins by relating the following:

Adventists are not the only ones that are sometimes behind the times.1 Earlier this month I heard a radio commercial for a major chain store informing listeners that the retailer had lots of dresses this season for young women (for prom, graduation, etc.). The gimmick was a reporter interviewing a girl in the juniors’ department trying to decide between two dresses. The teen mentions to the male reporter that she’s surprised to find so many dresses all in one place and then basically says, “When I get home tonight, I’m totally going to IM all my friends.”

Ouch! In trying to be down (or up, if you prefer) with the lingo, those responsible for this dialogue blundered—especially if they are really trying to get teens into the store.

Many of you, I’m afraid, won’t understand the gaff in the commercial. And that’s part of the problem.

What is the gaff? According to Maran it is this:

But I do know enough to know that in our living-in-the-moment, I-want-it-now popular culture no person under 20 would wait to tell friends about something they think is cool and important, and they likely wouldn’t use a computer-generated instant message.

Apparently everyone uses phone texting in Maran’s world. This may actually reflect more about her being influenced by commercials then actual statistics. According to the AP-AOL Instant Messaging Trends Survey even with the increase in cell phone text messaging computer generated IM are still more common. The key to debunking the columnist supposed gaff is found in the following from the AP-AOL survey.

Multi-tasking remains very popular, as IM users tend to engage in multiple online activities while sending instant messages. Checking email is the most popular activity among eight in ten adult and teen IM users. After email, adult IM users most often conduct online searches (49 percent), while teens say they like to research homework assignments online (57 percent).

As the Daily Herald article states:

But when they're at home, Neilson, Manno and friends explained, the school-night routine is to open up one computer window for homework and a second for instant messaging.

So why is this important? Because it reflects the incorrect assumptions that permeate church leadership. Her point is entirely accurate as she says:

If this kind of thing can happen out there, it surely can happen in here. And it does. Some well-intentioned church leaders have devised youth programs and outreach, thinking they’re on the cutting edge. They might have run it by a kid or two (usually a relative who may or may not be paying complete attention). Then they launched it. And wondered why it wasn’t more successful.

Just as the retailer would have benefited from better research and vetting, those who lead our youth need to really know what is going on in their kids’ lives and figure out how to make the best, positive impact in the short time they have with them. An eternity depends on it.”

Often because church leaders just as the columnist think they know more than they really do. Which leads to the kind of assurance that what they say is true even when it is not or what they try can or can’t work in their church. This has led to an amazing lack of innovation and experimentation in dealing with youth and Adults in the Adventist church, often their first reaction is that can’t work which becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

A good example of this false information syndrome is found in the recent book published by Pacific Press authored by a theology student Seth J. Pierce (this book is one of the Pacific Presses top ten best sellers according to Adventist Today May-June 2008 page 7). The book is on the 28 Fundamental SDA beliefs for teens. It is entitled What We Believe. Pierce writes this “Fun Fact” on page 149 in a special little box:

“As a precaution, the high priest had bells around the bottom of his tunic and a rope was tied to his ankle. If the priest was not clean and he had a less-than-happy encounter with the most holy God, his bells would stop jingling alerting those outside that something was wrong. Then they could drag the body out by the rope tied around the ankle.”

That bit of fiction made it past the proof readers and editors because they thought they knew more than they really did. For more see Theology Student Book to Confuse Your Teen .

It is important to know your audience but just as important to know your subject. In the main leadership in our churches do not know either and that is a big problem.

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