My brother is a die hard zombie fan. He has every book written about how to survive a zombie apocalypse and can probably recite every episode of ‘The Walking Dead’ line by line. Like my little brother, so to many of my youth (especially the guys) love zombies. And who wouldn’t!? Zombies are renegades, deplored by society, and seen as having something wrong with them internally. Come to think of it, a lot of teenagers are viewed in the same way.
The article that peaked this internal dialogue was posted on my favorite blog last year, Homebrewed Christianity (HBC). It is a journal article from Immerse, about a youth pastor who used the analogy of zombies to discuss original sin with his high school youth. What a brilliant idea, taking a theological concept and finding a way to make it fit contextually into the lives of students without dumbing down the theology.
Believe it or not, your kids able to think and speak theologically!
For youth I think lessons like the one listed on HBC and Immerse show that youth are able to think theologically, if we provide them an outlet to do so. Believe it or not, most youth are not sitting around the cafeteria table at school talking about original sin and how it has played out in their lives or in the lives of their friends. When Jesus preached he did so in ways in which his audience would understand what he was saying. This is the same thing we should be doing with our youth ministries: speaking in ways that make sense to them.
“So, where are the thin places in culture where you can find common ground with culture and Scripture so students can engage Scripture in a way that is meaningful to them?”
Implications for Youth Ministry
This lesson is an example of ways we can pull popular culture into the mix of our ministries in a way that does not diminish our theological ideas or beliefs. The zombie culture in this example was utilized to drive home a larger lesson. The same idea is possible within other areas of popular culture, after all youth and young adults are shaped by popular culture more so than they are shaped by the church. Therefore, it would behoove us to use what is already influencing them and give them a new spin on it.
It can be hard to see where the ‘thin’ line is, or where an opportunity for us to ride the coattails of popular culture exists. This is why it is paramount that we at the very least have a basic understanding of what is influencing our youth. Parents should watch the television programs their kids watch and visit the websites their kids visit. The same is true for those of us in youth ministry. While it might be painful or at the very least confusing to experience the world through the lens of a teenager, it insight we receive to their world can be eye-opening and jaw-dropping.
You can read more of the article here.