Youth programs that don’t destroy faith

One of my very favorite non-Lutheran blogs is Internet Monk. If you don’t already check it out, I highly recommend it. And now’s as good a time as any — there’s an interview of Higher Things’ Rev. William Cwirla. It’s all about Higher Things conferences — who, what, when, where, why. Here’s a sample:

When evangelicals hear “youth conference”, they can’t comprehend that it’s not a menu of twenty-somethings with guitars and bands interspersed with youth speakers. How does HT possibly work by going the opposite direction?

Our basic philosophy toward youth work has also been reflected in some of the writings here on Internet Monk. While youth enjoy being entertained, they will lock on to the higher and deeper things if given the opportunity. This is what impressed me when I joined the organization at the Seattle 2004 conference. Youth will rise to whatever level you set the bar.

Our hymnal oriented, liturgical style of worship demands concentration and active participation. Our plenary and classroom sessions are lively and “entertaining,” yes, but they also go to some serious depth. Our conference theme this year was “Sola” – Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone. The class offerings ranged from discussions of “Twilight” and “The Shack” to apologetics, atheism, prayer, Scripture, archaeology, comparative religion, church history, abortion, dating, you name it. We try to offer stuff that addresses their issues and questions now, but also provides stuff they can grow into.

Another aspect to our conferences is that the youth experience the ordinary rhythms of the Christian life, albeit in a much more concentrated and intensified way. What they experience in worship and classroom at a conference is really no different than what they experience in their home congregations. Our speakers and teachers are all Lutheran pastors, youth workers, deaconesses. No superstars, no celebrity Christians, no big name youth speakers. One of the great problems with youth conferences in general is that they put on a show that cannot be duplicated at home. In a sense, conference have become the new tent revivals. Ours are much more of a gathering of youth groups doing what they do at home, only bigger and all together in one place.

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