Youth Ministry

Be Real! (groundSWELL part 1)

(NOTE: Sorry for those of you that may have recieved a weird blog post right before this with just random quotes.  Somehow it published an old draft of the post with some notes of mine instead of the actual post that was up on my screen.  Ignore it and read this instead. 🙂 Thanks!)


This afternoon I had an opportunity to attend part of an online conference for church leaders called “groundSWELL”.  The interesting thing about this conference is that all of the speakers were between the ages of 13 and 19.  Teenagers from all over the country sent in videos and/or were interviewed on what they believe needs to happen in order for the churches to reach their generation.  While I already knew a lot of the things they were sharing, it had more impact coming from THEM… to hear THEM challenge the church to step up.

Over the next few days I want to share a few of the themes these teenagers discussed that I believe are important for all of us to hear … and not just hear, to pay attention to and to DO!   (I apologize in advance for not having their names or churches; I could barely type fast enough to just get their thoughts.) I would also love to hear anyone’s feedback in the comments section… it’s there for a reason!


Many of the student’s comments centered on being “relevant” in churches.  What many of these students pointed out is that we can’t sacrifice being real for the sake of being relevant.  It reminds me of First Trinity’s core value of “rooted and relevant”.  We can’t stray from the truth of God’s Word in our attempts to be relevant to the world.  (Side note: it’s really cool to me that these core values keep popping up everywhere in my life, like “All People Matter” did a couple days ago in a book I’m reading.) Here are some of the things these teenagers shared along this line of thinking:

  • “Be real, not relevant. Trying to be relevant by watering down the Gospel is neither real nor relevant.”
  • “People don’t come to church to get advice, if they wanted advice they would google it. Give them Jesus!”
  • When asked what the church needs to be sure to keep or hold onto… what SHOULDN’T change a student responded: “The gospel itself. We can start changing things and compromise relevance for sharing for the gospel.  The gospel doesn’t change and our need for the gospel isn’t going to change.  No matter what changes in culture, we still have the void for Jesus.  Don’t let that go of that no matter what. Never, NEVER change that, never at all!”
  • When asked, “What do you think the church needs to stop doing to reach your generation?’
    • “Stop thinking that they can win people over by having a cool place. The way to draw people to Jesus and the church is to listen to them!”
    • “Instead of giving us a truthful view, we get a watered down view. We really want to be challenged and hear what the Bible says about the topics of our world.  Stop watering down the truth.”
  • In response to the question, “What is the most impactful thing the church has done for you?”: “Knowing that I can come into church and it’s okay to not be okay.”  “Knowing people will greet me and actually care about my life and ask more than ‘how are you’ and be okay with me stopping at ‘fine’… that they go deeper.”

So what do you think?  Where does being “relevant” cross the line from being helpful in connecting with people to hurtful and watering down the gospel?  What are ways we can continue to be rooted AND relevant? What stuck out to you in the comments from the youth?

6 thoughts on “Be Real! (groundSWELL part 1)”

  1. I think relevancy is overrated. I get when people talk about “relevancy” in the sense that we should speak modern-day English (as opposed to KJV English), but that’s about it. Beyond that… Well, let me use a story to share my thoughts:

    Last month, Shane Claiborne came and spoke at our school. He’s a guy who lives in community with the homeless people in his city, and literally lives with them. He looks totally different from most people we know, and doesn’t care about a lot of the stuff we care about.

    After he spoke, one of the students at our school asked him a question during an open forum time: “Do you think your lifestyle keeps you from being relevant and ministering to others?”

    The question blew my mind. I couldn’t believe that anyone would WANT Shane Claiborne to be “relevant” and “care” about the crap we care about. In choosing to live in solidarity with the poor, he has chosen to be relevant to those who could care less about relevancy as we understand it. I know you’ve been reading Kisses From Katie, so to relate it to that, it would be the equivalent of someone asking her if she’s worried about not being relevant. I mean, honestly, do we WANT Katie Davis to be relevant? I sure don’t. I don’t think any of us do.

    I think relevancy has subdued many spirits that would otherwise be radical, and if those spirits had never been subdued, we wouldn’t even be talking about relevancy or even being radical, because what we call radical now is really just the basic way of life that Jesus calls us to. There’s nothing radical about that.

    1. Thanks Adrian for your thoughts… totally agree! Have you read Kisses from Katie? If you haven’t, you should! 🙂

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