Last week, I sat in on my Young Life teammate Brett Koerten’s “campaigners” group just to observe. Lately I’ve been trying to be a bird on the wall, listening and watching to get a grasp on the new culture I’m in. Campaigners is a great place to hear what students are really thinking. It’s also what Young Life calls Bible study and its root meaning goes way back to the founding days of Jim Rayburn. It’s a place designed to be more intimate and capitalize on the personal relationships built by the leaders and students.
But like most campaigners, the students talked more about themselves than the leaders were able to teach. Some new things were communicated, but for the most part but I’m pretty sure I learned more about the intricacies of South Pasadena High School culture and female relationships than they did concerning John 4. It’s comforting to know that the students I’ve met in my short time in SoCal have similar attention issues to most other students I’ve met across the nation.
Ed Stezter writes in his book Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and the Churches that Reach Them, If we listen to what they believe, well have a better understanding of what to talk further about with them (p28). I wonder how many studies and theories I’ve studied the past few years while at the same time have forgotten to just listen to the context I’m in. The most important things I’ve learned this semester came from the ones I’m trying to teach.
I wonder if this is what Christ experienced when he asked his disciples, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” (Luke 9). They gave him a few answers, John the Baptist, Elijah, and some other prophets. But then he asked them, “Who do you say that I am?” Maybe Jesus asked this because he needed to understand the thoughts of those he was dealing with.
So how are we listening—really listening—to the students around us?
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