• Will Spink
    Senior Pastor
  • Wyketa Shipman
    Executive Assistant
  • Ron Clegg
    Associate Pastor, Discipleship
  • Shannon Clark
    Administrative Assistant
  • James Parker
    Chief Musician
  • Peter Render
    Assistant Pastor, Youth/Families
  • Christine Betts
    Assistant Director, Youth/Families
  • Ty Commons
    Youth & Families Intern
  • Kim Delchamps
    Administrative Assistant
  • Derrick Harris
    Assistant Pastor, Shepherding & Young Families
  • Angela Sierk
    Director, Children's Ministry
  • Niña Banta Cash
    Director, Nursery
  • Robert Blevins
    Director, Community Development
  • Janice Crowson
    Director, Facilities/Finance
  • Daniel Brown
    Print & Digital Media Specialist
  • General Contact
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Ask A Pastor

Culture and Gospel Meet

Q) What motivates today’s Christian youth?

A) The question of motivation is one that is most readily answered by a Monday morning, armchair quarterback.  Parents, coaches, teachers, and leaders of all other sorts spend seasons and years trying to figure out how to motivate effectively.  I have spent the last five years analyzing this same question.  So, please stay with me as I reflect on the past, as I try to analyze the game in real time, and as I dream of what might be the present.

I was raised in a Christian home by baby-boomers.  In acknowledgement of their cultural situation, my parents were/are obsessed with objective truth.  It was not okay for me to be pushed to and fro by the winds of cultural relativism, the decadent obsessions of the eighties, nor any laissez faire attitudes toward religion.  For themselves and certainly in response to the mandate of Proverbs 22:6, our home required careful thought and attention to prayer, the Word of God, and attendance at a church that ministered both the Word and the sacraments.  We memorized Scripture and the Westminster Shorter Catechism.  I am eternally grateful for this.

At some point in my early teen years, I was longing for something more from truth.  I was never one of those kids who lived two separate lives.  I was the same kid at church and in youth group that I was on the basketball team at school.  My sin was similar in all settings.  God’s grace showing through me was similar in all settings.  My struggle with objective truth was that it was not always easy to see how to live it out.  I needed something more.  I needed an authentic truth that was shown experientially and that could be explained through my conceptual framework.  By no means am I suggesting that I wanted to do away with the truth of my parents.  Instead, I desperately needed the objective black and white to begin to show through in authentic shades of gray. 

I began working vocationally in youth ministry in the summer of 2000.  Even though there was only a small separation from my own days in a student ministry, I could already see the shift happening again.  The thing about objective and authentic truth is that they both primarily reside in the brain.  This does not deny the activity of the Holy Spirit in placing the truth and causing growth through the truth; rather, it speaks to the motivation of the person.  Students in the various ministries of which I was a part in the 2000’s and early 2010’s were not willing to remain complacent with head knowledge.  They needed the objective, authentic truth in which they were raised to cause action.  They wanted to get their hands dirty for the Kingdom.

At this point I have played the Monday morning quarterback well.  The reality is that I did not recognize any of these things in their own time.  It was looking back on my frustrations in my high school years that allowed me to see the subtle difference in my motivation from my parents.  It was looking back on the early years of my ministry that allowed me to see that God used tangible service for the Kingdom to motivate the generation behind me.  Looking back allowed me to trace motivation from objective truth, to authentic truth, to truth in action.  My current frustration is shared with the asker of the question at hand.  What’s next?

The common thread between the generations seems to be an acknowledgement of the shortcomings of the culture at large and a desire to see the gospel overcome those shortcomings.  The music, advertising, television shows, Netflix series, podcasts, etcetera, which are focused at the 12-24 age range, are possibly more self-aggrandizing and self-serving than in any other generation.  Social media and cell phones allow students to be more connected than ever, constantly putting themselves on display.  In all of this, individuals are more isolated than ever.  Real contact and real community are difficult to come by, and when a student finds it, they are usually pushed to the fringes of the social culture.

The gospel speaks to this by reminding believers that we are known, fully known, and that we are loved.  The reality of our being fully known is that we are able, through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, truly to know others.  The motivation for today’s youth is finding a true, authentic community of action, where they are safe to know and to be known.  This is what drives the student ministry at Southwood.  I’m trusting that it is not just a dream.