And so it begins. . . or it will in just a few weeks. Another season of youth ministry. New kids joining the ranks of our middle school groups. Some of last year’s middle schoolers are now in our high school groups. Some kids have graduated and moved on. But youthworkers are still there. . . a new season of ministry, money (maybe!) in the budget, and plans set for what we’re going to teach and do with our students.

Perhaps the question we all need to be asking as we launch into a new school/ministry year is this: “What is the telos of my youth ministry?” A second follow-up question is this: “How will I get there?” And if we haven’t thought through that first question with any kind of intentionality, that second question will help us to answer the first. Think about it. No telos is a telos. . . and haphazard one at that.

As you consider this coming year, I want to share with you something I pulled out of the archives that’s 15 years old this fall. I recently stumbled on an interview I conducted with theologian David Wells about his 2008 book, The Courage To Be Protestant. At the time, Wells was a theology professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary who had earned a well-deserved reputation as an astute critic of modern culture. . . especially modern culture as it has crept into and influenced the church. Wells is worth reading, for sure.

At the conclusion of our interview, I asked Wells the question that I’m revisiting here. His answer is more timely than ever, as much of his critique from 15 years ago has been proven accurate and true. Youthworkers. . . pay careful attention to Wells. There is great wisdom here. Please. . . for the sake of the Gospel and the spiritual health of your students, be the youthworker Wells is talking about here. He’s giving us a telos.

Here’s the last question I asked Wells along with his answer. . . . I think you’ll see that this guy is passionate about Christ, the Kingdom, and kids. . . .

CPYU: If you were to address a room full of youth workers and you had the opportunity to communicate one message to them, what one message would you communicate?

DW: It is time to get brave. Let’s stop the pandering. Kids see right through it. Let’s give them the real thing. They are looking for it. No one has demanded anything of them; let us tell them that if they come to Christ, he bids them die. No one has told them that they can know truth as something other than their own private perspectives; let us tell them there is Truth and those who know it, lose their lives. No one has told them that there is a different way of life. What many churches have done has been to run after the kids fearing that they will be lost irretrievably to MTV, rock, sex, and drugs (Today he would list new ideologies, narcissism, social meda, etc) . So, better to give them small, undemanding doses of Christianity that won’t interfere too much with their lives and which they will be willing to accept, than none at all, we think to ourselves. Wrong! If we tell them that they can have Christ on their own terms, we are selling them down the river. They instinctively know that. So, let us not make fools of ourselves anymore.

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