I read this blog (see below) about how youth groups destroy children's lives - and was reminded of the fact that I have had my students read John Westerhoff's Will Our Children Have Faith for more than a decade in the classroom. I think Jamie articulates similar issues of concern in his great text, James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation.
I learned the language many years ago from Westerhoff - and it permeates much of what I teach - we have to think about forming persons lives - not just "teaching" them something. In this way, the work of the Christian body (not just the church or teachers or pastors) - but the work of the Christian community in all of its activities is about enculturation!
I think there are many aspects of Christian tradition that "get this" better (or worse) than others. In that regard, I would note that it seems to me the classic Radical Reformation (Anabaptist)traditions (think Amish or Bruderhof) have discerned well (though not without their own pitfalls, I am sure) that life is lived together in the fullness of all activities in forming Christian persons - not just in the "Sunday School Class."
I know, as a matter of fact, when I think about what it means for me personally to be a person of faith today, I do not think back to my "youth pastor" or "ski trips" or going to the Oregon coast (okay, so I remember them!). I think about the Oldaker's - an elderly couple in my home church who, despite their age and unique life situations, spent more than 30 years caring for their disabled grandchild. I think of the Oleson and Olson families - with whom we spent time and from whom I learned about Christian leadership. I think about my persons who I can not name - family names - and even a pastor - who made decisions that were morally problematic, but, from whom, never-the-less, I learned how to live. I think about one woman, whose name is lost to me, but I remember she would artistically paint her morphine-pain-bottles - as she lay dying of cancer. Oh, and I remember the teachers in my classes from my childhood - and my pastors - but I am not sure I recall many (if any) of their lessons. Instead - I remember their lives and remember that through innumerable experiences in various settings I was "taught" about faith - but it was much more - oh, so much more than a classroom!
And their lives - models of enculturated faith - shaped my life - and so I try to model life and faith for others.
Every single day I pray with my family, "Lord, help us to be people who are faithful and honest, kind and true, gracious and generous, people who embody and reflect the life of God's Kingdom." And that part about embodying - taking it in - and reflecting - demonstrating it out - in real ways - is so important if we are going to model a generational faith that lead a LEGACY - when we Lead Each Generation by Affirming Children adn Youth. Otherwise, it seems the said demise of Judges 2:9-10 will be our reality.
The post that spurred my thoughts here - is here: Reclaiming the Mission » “Youth Groups Destroy Children’s Lives”