Building A Philosophy Of Sustainable Youthwork- Part 8


Building A Philosophy Of Sustainable YouthworkIn prior weeks we have focused on the first ten principles: Youthwork is – Family Based, Congregational, Relational, Discipling, Missional, Evangelistic, Holistic, Bible Based, Experiential and Youth-led. This week we move onto number eleven:

Principle #11 – Youthwork utilizes open-ended discussion.

I am personally a big fan of Socrates. Maybe a better way to say it is that I think his praxis was about right. He is considered by some a founder or at least foundational in western philosophy. But he really didn’t leave any writings, or statements of what should or should not be this or that. What his greatest student Plato (whose greatest student was Aristotle) remembered was a system of asking questions rather that a system of doctrine. Moderns often call this The Socratic Method of education.

I would agree there are appropriate places to memorize facts and figures. Math and Science come to mind. While I am a good cook as a flavanista adding this and that until it looks, smells, and tastes just right, I am a terrible baker because I don’t follow actual recipes well. Clearly, there are times when The Socratic ideal of asking open-ended questions to provoke discussion and inspire creative thinking really don’t work at all.

However, when discussing the things of God, isn’t it interesting that Jesus taught through story and questions rather than list the rules and formulas and doctrines about God?!?! God’s people already had a rulebook. What seemed to be missing is not their ability to memorize those rules but their ability to understand and apply them to life. When pressed to pick the “greatest” rule Jesus summed up all of Hebrew Scripture by saying love God, love neighbor, love self.

In two thousand years of Christian history this idea has often been talked about as “The Mystery of God” because an exclusive diet of doctrine and rules just leave people spiritually dry at times. But to experience and embrace God’s love and join God’s mission to save the world evokes some of the greatest discipleship.

Why am I here? Who am I? What is good about me? What am I supposed to do with my life? Is there a purpose? Where do I turn to find answers?

These are the questions of Youthwork. We form our identities in the Community of the People of God. We are constantly being converted toward a Jesus Way of life. Young people need to be allowed to asked questions, try on different answers, and make commitments all in the loving care and acceptance of the Church. When we do this well, we raise of disciples of Jesus Christ who transform the world for the glory of God.

Have YOU asked any good questions lately?


Peace and Grace,

Charles W. Harrison

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