J. Warner Wallace on the importance of engaging young people with training

This post by J. Warner Wallace made it onto Pastor Matt‘s three must-read posts of the week.

Excerpt: (links removed)

I’ve been writing this week about my recent experience at Summit Worldview Academy and the nature of student training. There are a number of similar worldview programs around the country (including the Centurions Program and the Worldview Academy), and I’m always impressed to see how many students are interested in this kind of intensive preparation. To be sure, there are always some students at these conferences who are present because their parents demanded their attendance, but these young people are always in the vast minority. Most students come (and put themselves through the rigorous material) because they heard about it through a friend who highly recommended the experience. And while there are some fun opportunities to hike, relax and play games along the way, these activities (commonly associated with youth group retreats) are typically few and far between at worldview camps. Students are here to roll up their sleeves and get to work. They’re far more interested in learning than lounging. Youth pastors can glean somethingfrom worldview academies.

I have to confess: When I was a new youth pastor, I was more likely to provide my students with pizza than preparation. I thought the only way to attract students in the first place was to satisfy their desire for entertainment and social interaction. I simply tried to wedge in the important stuff (theological and apologetics training, Spiritual formation and Biblical literacy) along the way. It took me a year or so to find a better approach. I eventually realized my students would willingly delay their desire for fun if I could effectively show them their need for truth. I began to take them to places where their worldview was tested and I did my best to demonstrate their deficiencies. As a result, the Utah and Berkeley trips became a regular offering of my ministry. It wasn’t long before my students were ready to do whatever it took to better defend themselves. They were more than willing to delay their desire for what they used to think of as fun to achieve a greater goal. Along the way, they discovered how satisfying it is to learn the truth, articulate it effectively, and engage the world.

It turns out that students are willing to raise the bar and do much more than we expect of them in most youth groups across the country. If you’re a youth pastor or are serving in a youth ministry, think about what your students are typically willing to do in order to succeed on their club sports team or to prepare for their next academic AP test. Our students are already working hard to prepare themselves in some area of their young lives; why aren’t we willing to ask them to prepare this rigorously as Christians? It’s time to show students why it’s so important to equip themselves as Christian ambassadors. It’s time to stop teaching and start training.

Wallace has also posted a new podcast on this very topic.

The Please Convince Me podcast is my favorite podcast. There is just something about the way he speaks about Christian topics that is so practical and real-world. I even like it better than all the political and policy podcasts that I listen to. This particular episode is so good.  I never had parents and youth pastors and pastors that sounded like this.

I blogged before about another podcast that he did about training a group of students to defend the faith at the University of California at Berkeley . That’s what our youth pastors should be doing instead of working to hard at entertaining the young adults. He really knows what it is like to deal with young people, and he has a real passion for teaching high school students about how to defend their worldview before they get to university. I would really like to see more pastors looking at young people in this way – as people in need of training who will be facing challenges in college. Without the training, our young people will be the ones who are changed. I don’t think that a lot of pastors and parents are working on projects like this the way that Wallace is. That needs to change.

3 thoughts on “J. Warner Wallace on the importance of engaging young people with training”

  1. I first became acquainted with Wallace when he would guest host on Stand to Reason. Apparently I was not the only one who loved his contributions because he soon became an official part of the team!

    I love the fact that he is (or was) a cold-case detective and can bring real world experience to bear on things like the evidences for Christianity and even the problem of evil, since he saw so much of it in his career, in ways that few of us ever will.

    I will have to listen to this particular podcast when I have more time. I just wanted to second your recommendation. He does fantastic work!


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