By Joey Woestman
A few years ago, our church went through a rebranding process. One part of the process involved a name change. We had to ask and answer questions like “Who are we?” and “What’s unique about us?” and “Who do we want to become?” And so Faith Missionary Church dropped “missionary” from our name to become Faith Church.
But that doesn’t mean the missions emphasis is gone. Our senior pastor likes to say that “Missionary” is our middle name. (I would prefer the Greek word for “Danger,” but I don’t think I’d be able to get that past the elders.)
At Faith Church, missions is in our blood. It’s part of who we are, and integral to the way we see our church relating to the world around us.
And so as I cast about for a way to emphasize the importance of parents engaging their students’ youth culture, I decided to capitalize on our identity.
Interacting with students is a cross-cultural experience. Sure, they may live in our houses, eat our food, and (mostly) speak our language, but adolescent culture is a unique and distinct culture all unto itself. It requires all the skills and abilities of both an anthropologist and missiologist to engage our youth.
So our student ministry team decided to offer an “Engaging Youth Culture” class targeted to parents of teenagers and early adolescents. I recruited a member of our congregation who is the head of the Bible department at a local Christian high school to co-teach the class with me.
We’ve primarily used “Hurt 2.0” by Chap Clark and “Youth Culture 101” by Walt Mueller to give us a good foundation of data about youth culture. Notable thinkers like Niebuhr’s “Christ and Culture” (while maybe dated) gave us a basic framework for understanding the relationship of Christ-followers to culture in general.
Every lesson comes back to the same principle – empathy. Our goal is to examine various aspects of youth culture with the purpose of practicing empathy for our students. We’ve talked about a history of adolescence, the culture of abandonment, postmodernism, peer clusters, literature, video games, film, music, social media, and sex. Our grand experiment will be brining in a small group of students to serve on a panel to interact with the class in what we hope will be a good dialogue.
Putting myself (the student pastor), a teacher, and a group of parents in one room to talk about our students has been one of the best experiences of my ministry career. We all want the same thing – we all want our students to develop a mature faith that will stick through college and into adulthood.
For our church’s entire history we’ve been focused on reaching the uttermost parts of the earth. But I’m convinced that there’s a mission field in the bedroom down the hall.
Joey Woestman has been the Pastor of Student Ministry at Faith Church in Indianapolis, IN for a year and a half. He’s passionate about connecting students with multiple adults in intergenerational discipleship relationships. And when he’s not getting hit in the face by dodgeballs, Joey enjoys chopping firewood, riding his recumbent bicycle, reading anything he can get his hands on, and solving Rubik’s cubes. Joey and his wife Jenna have been married since 2005 and they have a gloriously charming 14-month old daughter named Analie.