Missional Students
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Alvin Reid

Husband over 30 years and dad of 2 Millennials, professor of evangelism and student ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Author of Evangelism Handbook, Convergent Church, Raising the Bar, Join the Movement, etc. Popular speaker to students and leaders, mentor.

Posted 3/23/12 at 9:35 AM | Alvin Reid

The Gospel According to the Hunger Games

Early this morning the first installment of three movie renditions of the Hunger Games Trilogy by author Suzanne Collins hit the big screen. The books have received rave reviews and have been published now in 38 countries. I find Collins to be a remarkable storyteller, telling a tale that draws you in and makes you want more. Having read the three books I felt the big screen version paid fitting tribute (no pun intended) to the first volume.

The novel begins with a look into the life of the ultimate hero, a teenaged girl named Katniss describing her life in a new world dystopia in formerly North America many years in the future. From the start, something about this young lady compels you to know more.

But very quickly you realize things do not go well for Katniss or her family. The new world she finds herself in has been divided into 12 districts with a horrific “games” played annually. The games serve ostensibly as a reminder of a previous rebellion, keeping each district in line through the motivation of fear. Each year, a young man and a young lady between the ages of 12 and 18 is “reaped” from the districts to participate in the games. Each “tributes” must kill the others until one survivor is left, thus explaining the prominent saying in the book: “May the odds ever be in your favor.” FULL POST

Posted 3/19/12 at 8:41 AM | Alvin Reid

The New Breed: Hip-Hop Theology

What do poetry, urban youth culture, and the gospel have in common? A new breed of hip-hop artists who rhyme the gospel with theological depth reminiscent of the great revivals of old, for one.

In the late 1960s the divergent genres of folk and rock music converged with Christian themes flowing out of the youthful Jesus Movement, creating a new kind of song for the church. Suddenly “Contemporary Christian Music” (CCM) was born, featuring a host of young artists eager to sing the gospel to culture outside the confines of the institutional church. Music festivals -- in particular the 150,000 gathered at the end of the massive evangelistic training event Explo 72 -- exposed the larger Christian world to the new music of the Jesus Movement. Maranatha! Music and other labels were born to produce the new music, while Christian radio stations exploded across the country singing the songs of a new generation.

This is not new; in the Evangelical Awakening in England in the 18th century John and Charles Wesley wrote gospel-laced hymns so they could sing the gospel to a mostly illiterate generation. Awakenings historically change the music of the church.

As is often the case, however, newer music forms born in spiritual fervor ultimately become institutionalized as well. As a result, newer forms are born to sing the good news in a fresh way. FULL POST

Posted 3/8/12 at 7:38 AM | Alvin Reid

Moral Failure in Student Ministry

Therapeutic Moralistic Deism.
Student ministers know this term well, or at least they should. Christian Smith and Melinda Denton have popularized this term out of their massive research called The National Study of Youth and Religion.
They argue the Western Church has done a phenomenal job of communicating to students. But what has been communicated has not been as biblically centered as we might hope. We have communicated Christianity as behavior modification too often and as the matchless work of a grace-bearing God who is the center of it all too little. In her presentation of the findings of perhaps the exhaustive study, Kendra Creasy Dean observed:
“The National Study of Youth and Religion reveals a theological fault line running underneath American churches: an adherence to a do-good, feel- good spirituality that has little to do with the Triune God of Christian tradition and even less to do with loving Jesus Christ enough to follow him into the world.” (Kenda Creasy Dean, Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church, p. 4)
In other words, Dean argues that this study shows the very way many of us have raised children in our churches has worked against any sort of missional impulse we might otherwise hope to engage. This is no small charge. She adds: “American young people are unwittingly being formed into an imposter faith that poses as Christianity, but that in fact lacks the holy desire and missional clarity necessary for Christian discipleship.” (p. 6)


Posted 2/28/12 at 7:00 AM | Alvin Reid

A Haystack and a Sleepover: Six Girls Confront Trafficking

In August of 1806, a small group of young men gathered under a haystack in a rainstorm in Massachusetts. For some time these college students had been talking and praying about the need to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations. That day one of the young men named Samuel Mills proposed a mission to Asia. And thus began the modern global missions movement in the United States.

In July of 2010, a small group of young ladies ages 13 and 14 had a sleepover in Western North Carolina. Not unlike the young men a century before, these young ladies talked about how they did not want to waste the years of their youth when the needs of the world are so great. Growing out of a Bible Study Fellowship class at their home church, Calvary Baptist in Winston-Salem, these young ladies discovered the reality of human trafficking, and in particular the fact that across the world millions of girls their age are currently being used as sexual slaves.

On July 14th, 2010, a ministry started by these young ladies called SOS, or Save Our Sisters, was born (website www.saveoursisterstoday.com). From then until now they, still all under 16, raised over $30,000 to rescue captives from the horrors of trafficking and to give these young ladies a chance to hear the gospel. Morgan, Brianna, Kristie, Claire, McCall, and Maleah have even bigger plans ahead. FULL POST

Posted 2/22/12 at 8:15 AM | Alvin Reid

Gospel-Driven Social Justice

Last month in Atlanta over 40,000 young adults gathered for the Passion 2012 conference. As part of the gathering over $3 million was raised to fight human trafficking. This makes perfect sense given that one of the marks of the Millennials, who made up probably 90% of the attendees at Passion, is a heart for social justice. We see increasing numbers of people from pastors like David Platt to teenagers wearing TOMS shoes who talk about the relationship between the gospel that changes our lives and its effect on how we use our possessions.

This is hardly new. Acts 2:41-47, the very first summary of life in the new church in Jerusalem, describes how believers not only worshiped God through knowing Christ but how they also sacrificed to help those in need. When the gospel takes root in a soul it spreads its branches to reach those in various needs. Throughout the book of Acts we read that meeting the temporal needs of people was one specific way the gospel was put on display for all to see.

When you study the spread of Christianity at her best historically you see both large numbers of new believers respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ and a burden for social needs in a given society. The First Great Awakening, the Welsh Revival, and other spiritual movements offer testimony to many new believers and many new or revitalized churches. But as clear a result as that is, another fact reveals itself again and again, and that is the way the gospel pushed believers to help the broken. FULL POST

Posted 2/17/12 at 9:30 AM | Alvin Reid

Reinventing Student Ministry

Last fall I had participated in the ReInventing Youth Ministry Conference at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The conference focused on what has become apparent to many who work with students: student ministry in the Western Church needs an intervention that leads to a reinvention.

Something remarkable happened at the conference. One of the founders of the largest student ministry organizations in my lifetime, Wayne Rice of Youth Specialties, made a confession: “We got what we wanted. We turned youth ministry into the toy department of the church. Churches now hire professionals to lead youth ministry. We got relevance but we created a generation of teenagers who are a mile wide and are an inch deep.”
Why do so many student finish high school and drop out (actually many drop out when they get their drivers license)? Because we created a youth ministry culture that taught them to do so. We have not equipped students to be adults, who understand the gospel and live as missionaries. We created a “cool” subculture where they could be treated like the center of the universe and given a bunch of stuff, but not enough Jesus, Scripture, or character. FULL POST

Posted 2/13/12 at 8:52 AM | Alvin Reid

Adele, Whitney, the Grammys, and Student Ministry: A Few Thoughts

Few ideas epitomize pop culture like music and nothing identifies musical trends of the times like the Grammies. If you watched last night as I did you saw everything from the beautiful—the incredibly talented Adele, Jennifer Hudson’s tribute to Whitney Houston, The Civil Wars—to the surreal (Niki Minaj). I’m convinced the acts by Katy Perry and Minaj were nothing more than a channeled Lady Gaga from her fishnet-covered face in the audience, but I could be wrong. The night began with a prayer for Whitney Houston and continued with her recent and sudden death remaining on the minds of all in attendance. And, in the age of social media my twitterfeed blew up with both hilarious and serious commentary on the night.We who love students and student ministry cannot easily dismiss the Grammy Awards because they represent a fundamental influence in the youth culture, which includes our children. While I would not personally affirm the lifestyles represented by most, I think we can be reminded of some pertinent truths from the Grammy Awards 2012.

Hannah Reid

First, pop culture has an undeniably dominant role in youth culture. Pop culture can be distinguished from real or traditional culture in that pop culture changes quickly over time but varies little over space. For instance, one commentator this weekend noted that when Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” hit number 1 in the U.S. years ago it was also the number one song in virtually every country on earth. The Grammys are global because pop culture is global. But real or traditional culture changes slowly over time but varies greatly over space. Get past the urban mall in Bangkok or Birmingham and get to know the people living in those places over generations and you will find remarkable diversity in food, tradition, faith, and other issues. Student ministry leaders cannot ignore the role of pop culture and can learn to communicate with this generation by having an awareness of pop culture. But, we make a serious mistake (and many do) to hitch our methodology to the ever-changing and always fickle pop culture we see at the moment. Do not miss the fact that the winners last night were not the bizarre acts but those in which pure talent was showcased, as in Adele and her six awards. We may captivate student for the moment in bowing our knee to the altar of pop culture, but we may lose a generation by being hip without giving truth. FULL POST

Posted 2/8/12 at 10:02 AM | Alvin Reid

To Help Young People Academically, Get Them Moving

One of the marks of the Millennial Generation involves a passion for education. However, American students tend to rank unfavorably when compared with their peers in emerging and advanced nations globally. In his fascinating book The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century author Thomas Friedman decries how American students have fallen behind other nations in such fields as math and engineering. 

At the same time students in the U.S. demonstrate excellence at becoming couch potatoes: 65% of Americans overall are overweight, but this fact has become an epidemic among young people. “We're literally killing ourselves,” John Ratey says in his book Spark (New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 2008), adding, “What’s even more disturbing, and virtually no one recognizes, is that inactivity is killing our brains too—physically shriveling them.” (p. 4) Low expectations produce expected results whether we are talking about the general population or students in local church ministries.

Enter the Naperville School District near Chicago. In this single district, of the 19K sophomores, only 3% were overweight (compared to 30% nationally). But the students in this district reveal prowess in more ways than in fitness. In 1999 their 8th graders took the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study test, an international standards test taken by 230K students globally. Ratey observes that in a time students in China, Japan, and Singapore rank consistently above American students, the Naperville class ranked 6th in math and FIRST in science globally.What happened in this school district? Several factors, as one reason hardly ever explains such a remarkable performance. But one issue stands out: each school day in Naperville begins with a "class" called Zero Hour in which students begin not with study hall but with exercise. FULL POST

Posted 2/2/12 at 10:20 AM | Alvin Reid

Feet Don't Lie: Millennials and Their Shoes

Every year I take our daughter Hannah to a meal for Valentines Day. Dad-daughter meals have marked our relationship since her early childhood. Last year at Valentines we ate at IHOP, our favorite. After our meal we stopped by a skateboard store she loves, not because she likes skateboards, however. She loves the store because it sells TOMS, the cloth shoes you wear with no socks that are so ugly they are almost cute. Here is why Hannah, and our son Josh, and many other millennials I know love TOMS: when you buy a pair, they donate a pair to a child who has no shoes. Hannah has several pair and displays her TOMS banner proudly on her car. She had me buy a pair for myself, but since I am 52 years old I prefer to wear mine with socks.

Ashleigh Grant

The Millennial Generation comprises the largest and most studied generation of young adults in U.S. history. Go to amazon.com and search “millennials” and you will see what I mean. But if you want to know this generation, start by looking at their shoes. FULL POST