Expecting Advent Part II

Kelly Soifer | Dec 16, 2009

Last week I posted an entry about teaching two different groups about Advent this season: an adult Sunday school at my church, ranging in age from 40-75, and the student body of a Christian high school where I am the Campus Pastor. I thought it would be a cool challenge to keep my lessons the same for both age groups (either that or Im really lazy and didnt want the extra work!).

Full disclosure: I have chosen to not stick with my original goal to keep my lessons the same. Not only are these groups in very different places spiritually, but I am teaching year-round with the youth, and this adult Sunday school class was a simple 3-week series. So relationally I was in different places with each group, and that affected my presentations more than I expected. Nevertheless, the bones of the lessons were the same, but came out in some different ways.

What stayed the same?
1. I gave both groups the same quiz about Advent to see how much (lets be honest, how little) everyone already knew about Advent.
2. The quiz got all the historical info and specific details about Advent to the groups in engaging but informative ways.
3. We looked at Luke 1 and compared the annunciation stories of Zechariah and Mary. This was an especially fertile time of Bible study for both groups.
4. I spent extended time challenging the groups to take Advent beyond a special Christmas tradition and make it a way of life.
5. Going in this direction, the teachings were more focused on ongoing spiritual disciplines than on the particular elements of Advent at Christmas time.

Most of the differences in presentation and content in the two classes were small, and not worth noting. However, one difference was of profound significance: The essence of Advent is found that it is about the coming of the Messiah, both in his First Coming at his birth and in his Second Coming as Triumphant King. The challenge comes in focusing our worship in expectant anticipation at his return, and not just reflecting on the power of his incarnation 2000 years ago. For the adults, this was a welcome shift. They really connected with the yearning for heaven and the vision of Revelation 21:3-5.

But for the youth, it was a big stretch. I asked them, Do you look forward to heaven? They blurted, with big smiles, No! Why not? I asked, inquisitively. Because were having too much fun now! We arent thinking about heaven. This speaks to far greater issues than just Advent. Much of youth ministry nationally is grappling with moving our teens from thinking that Christianity is just about being good (Christian Smiths term is moral therapeutic deism) into a deeper and more accurate understanding of the transformation available to us in Christ. Im using these lessons as building blocks to speak to these needs, but I have a l-o-n-g road ahead!

Kelly Soifer

Kelly Soifer is a veteran youth pastor with more than 25 years experience in Young Life and the church. She is the Assistant Headmaster and Campus Pastor at Providence Hall, a christian college preparatory school in Santa Barbara. She also serves as a ministry consultant with the Free Methodist Conference of Southern California and Youth Ministry Architects, specializing in strategic planning and leadership development. She is a Fuller Seminary graduate, a committed bicycle commuter and proud Italian scooter owner. Kelly blogs at kellysoifer.blogspot.com, and publishes at Youthworker Journal and ymtoday.com. She twitters @kellysoif.

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