Challenging and Enjoyable: Apologetics Done Right
by Jay Watts
Imagine you are talking to a young man and he tells you he runs a program for middle schoolers and high schoolers. It is an athletic program that aims to prepare young people for the athletic challenges they will face later in life.
“So do you spend a lot of time on intensive training?” you ask.
“Not really. We find that kids don’t care for training. So we focus our efforts on relational games and making it fun for them. Otherwise it is really hard to get the kids to show up.”
This shocks you a bit. “Wow. How do you balance the playing with preparing them for the future challenges?”
He thinks for a moment and answers, “Well, we hope that they will just associate our training with fun and later on when times get tough they will at least remember the training as a good time. There are so many interests competing for their time, we just can’t afford to lose them to other things they will enjoy more.”
“Does this strategy work?”
He sheepishly shrugs and admits, “Well, when they get in competition we see anywhere from a 60 to 85% failure rate. They abandon athletics altogether though some, maybe as many as half, come back to athletics later in life.”
Stunned you respond, “I don’t understand. You say your job is to prepare them for future trials in athletics but your methods fail miserably. You don’t even seem to be focused on preparing them for athletics at all. You seem to target pleasing them and having a good time. Although that may be fun in the short term, you admit that the long term benefits of this approach are abysmal. Not only are the kids not succeeding in athletics but they are becoming so disillusioned by defeat that they give up athletics completely!”
If you had this conversation with a coach it would be so clear to you that something was radically wrong with the approach that this guy is taking. And yet, this is exactly the scenario that we see in many church youth groups and exactly the failure rate we see with young men and women abandoning their faith in college. Many youth leaders share with me their frustration as they struggle to inject meaningful lessons into a system that has a main goal of encouraging attendance in uncommitted kids. “We have to make it fun or they won’t come,” one youth minister told me. Another said, “If I focused on things like doctrine and apologetics I wouldn’t have a youth department.”
At recent events in Tennessee, Rhode Island, Georgia, and Florida parents told me stories about their children going to college and losing their faith….
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