Saturday, September 20, 2008

The culture is calling...

I work in the Children’s Ministry of a large church in Arizona as a writer and producer of video curriculum. My goal is to create relevant work that is eternally significant.

My specific audience are children, but my area of supposed expertise is the tween generation. I’ve had my fill of Hannah Montanna, The Jonas Brothers, and High School Musical. So the question I face on a weekly basis is how to respond to the culture and to my kids. My hope is that these cultural trends motivate me to reach kids in innovative ways.

Ephesians 2:9-10 says that we were created to do good works that God prepared for us in advance to do. We are God’s “poiema” – God’s work of art, and we’ve been created to create.

I feel and believe that we’ve all been called to play a part in the eternal story of God. As believers, we quite literally have the Master Creator, the divine, dwelling within us. Therefore, we are called to a higher level of creativity – for our purpose is greater than just entertainment alone. There’s more to reaching this generation than just re-packaging secular material. Why should the material we produce be merely a marked down version of popular culture? We must step up and take up the challenge this entertainment saturated generation presents us.

I don’t think I need to give specific examples, but I want to know how throwing the word Christian into a secular slogan does not constitute ripping off someone else’s creativity. Stealing the marketing ploys of the general culture does not make us relevant or remotely original.

How do we reach them when Ecclesiastes laments that there is “nothing new under the sun”?

Every generation is unique. Cultural historians can look back and define entire decades with a single word: hippie, punk, grunge. It can be overwhelming to consider that the generation we’re building now will be defined in a particular way in ten or twenty years because of the impact we are making in their lives today.

For this reason, I’m a part of a team that writes and produces its very own video curriculum. This is not a role we take likely, especially in a world that seeks to influence their every move. Why our own? It’s the same reason I sought a degree in Theatre Ministry. While the roads have been blazed in the past 30 years to open up the church to the arts, there is still a long way to go. My desire has always been to communicate Christ in effective and exciting ways. My desire is to take my cue from Christ – as the story-teller, and to change up the methods, but always hold to the message.

John Piper in his book “Don’t Waste Your Life” writes, “the word cool…it’s cheap. And it’s what millions of young people live for…Who takes them by the collar, so to speak, and loves them enough to show them a life so radical and so real and so costly and Christ-saturated that they feel the emptiness and triviality of their CD collection and their pointless conversations about passing celebrities? Who will awaken what lies latent in their souls, untapped – a longing not to waste their lives.”

Every weekend we strive to show our kids that Jesus did not ask us to be cool, but to be servants. He did not require us to be number one, but asked us instead to be humble. So, how do we challenge children to release the hunger for popularity and possessions? What if this next generation could be setting the culture rather than simply following it?

We start with what God has given us, the mighty power of his Word. In a fun and exiting format we promote scripture memorization and sharing with friends, provide tools for Bible reading, and build genuine community. Every piece of the service is carefully planned and purposed around the theme of the day. From the worship music to the videos, our ultimate aim is to see our kids mature spiritually and challenge the status quo. As ministers to this next generation, we have a calling to originality, relevance, and truth.

The culture calls, but we must be louder.


dc said...

Compelling and well-said. Thanks for the call to arms!

Katie said...

Amen to Dani's comment. I truly believe that Christian artists are called to be original - it's a shame that we've lost sight of that in the church.