Why It’s Important to Inoculate (Rather Than Isolate) Our Young People
by J Warner Wallace
One Sunday, after the morning church service, I picked my daughter up from the youth ministry where she was still visiting with her pastor, his wife and their two baby daughters. The twins were five months old and were sleeping peacefully in their strollers, even though the room was filled with activity. Students were running back and forth, laughing with one another and playing the worship instruments on the stage. Music was blaring through the PA system and one student was even pounding on the drum set. Through all of this, the babies seemed undeterred. They slept as though they were nestled in the corner of a quiet library. Their mother, Rachael, noticed my interest and said, “Don’t worry about them, they can sleep through anything, they’ve been in this group since the day they were born. They’re used to the noise.” I struck me that Rachael’s babies were a great example of our need to inoculate Christian students rather than isolate them from the noise of our culture.
As a parent of teens, a former youth pastor and now a Christian Case Maker, I’ve given this issue a lot of thought over the years, especially after my first year as a youth leader. In my early years in youth ministry, I witnessed the spiritual exodus of many of my students once they graduated from our youth group. I had to make a decision about my strategy going forward. How could I best prepare young people to face the challenges of the secular culture? Should I equip them with strategies to isolate themselves from the influences they would ultimately face, or would it be better to expose them to the cultural challenges from the onset? Should we encourage isolation or embrace inoculation? I think you probably know my preference. Youth pastors need to think of themselves as “inoculators”; we possess the one true cure that can protect our students from the hazards of the culture. Have we been preparing them in our ministries or simply pacifying them? If we want to move from “entertaining” to “intentional training,” we’re going to need to become good inoculators…
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