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Many of us try to find a hook for our messages. Throwing out a good story or some shocking stats buys attention, at least for a time. Often these feel forced or contrived. We spend immense amounts of work and energy just to generate interest. What if there was an additional and more powerful way to tap into ideas, themes, and questions that could generate growth? Generative themes provide the engine for us to tap into where students are ready and wanting to grow.
The gospel shines brightly into our world and the world of the teens with which we minister. We must begin to see the generative themes present within society and individuals. Generative themes are where we find God is already speaking and the gospel is already present. Adolescents can name those issues that impact their world. Often we do not need to stir the dissonance in these places. The connection is already acute.
We need to open the eyes of our youth and our own eyes to see what we have ignored. We need to see where the gospel is already working in their lives. Positive and negative experiences are only accessible through interpersonal interaction with an individual. Generative themes can be drawn out from a group or even an entire culture through dialogue. The gospel speaks into these themes. Where do teens see a contradiction in our world or church? We can highlight the light of the gospel as it addresses their critical concerns: Peace and war, justice and unfairness, poverty and materialism, violence, brokenness, or the power of media. Sometimes simply raising awareness can generate growth.
Besides giving them a strong reason to listen and grow, generative themes provide three benefits:
1) Gives credibility. Many teens feel abandoned and unheard by the adult world. Addressing a key area as a question proves you are listening and desire to help. It is a tangible response to the needs and questions of teens.
2) Connects scripture to reality. I love expository preaching. However, there is disadvantage to many approaches to verse by verse and chapter by chapter preaching and teaching. Scripture speaks to many topics and speaks powerfully to where a group of teens is struggling. Not all verses in scripture speak to the generative theme and driving question. Our role as shepherd and teachers is to prayerfully bring to bear the most poignant passages of scripture that address the needs of the learners. If we ignore their needs consistently, we actually teach them the Bible does not speak to their need and questions.
3) It lets the Gospel shine. By acknowledging contradictions in culture and life we enable our students to engage their culture and their lives. We can highlight the light of the gospel as it addresses their critical concerns. This equips them to use scripture to themselves.
The advantages here are potent. Our culture poses a host of powerful themes for dissonance. The disadvantage is that we must uncover them. We also must be careful in dealing with these cultural generative themes. These are often felt deeply, intentionally hidden and somewhat taboo.
Look for the third and final engine coming soon.