What if…Bible School was the norm? (from Stef McDonald)

{Editor’s Note: Today’s guest blogger is Stef McDonald, Director of Student Ministries at Lutheran Church of Our Saviour in Calgary, Alberta}

Picture this: despite boxes of food falling off the shelves, your 16 year old opens up the cupboard and says “there’s nothing to eat!” After a lecture on global hunger, you offer your child a sandwich and a glass of milk, which he or she happily accepts. Why is an after school snack such a huge decision? It’s because the last portion of the brain which develops well into adolescence is the cerebellum. Dr. Jay Giedd, a neuroscientist from the National Institute of Mental Health, explains the role of the cerebellum: “Anything we can think of as higher thought, mathematics, music, philosophy, decision-making, social skill, draws upon the cerebellum. ….” (link) Your child is not trying to be difficult in an effort to see your face turn red. It’s because your child’s brain isn’t sufficiently developed to make a simple decision.

I have been privileged to help mentor a group of high school girls for the last three years. Once a month we get together and the girls pick a topic they’d like to discuss. Since September, the topic of post-secondary has been chosen twice. Why? I think it’s because our girls are being asked to make huge decisions that will affect the rest of their lives, and their brains aren’t mature enough to handle the responsibility. My standard response to our students has become this: take one year to learn more about God and who you are as His child. The Christian Discipleship program at CLBI is one option of many. From the CLBI website: “The Christian Discipleship Program is a one-year program designed to help students become rooted and rock solid. Students are prepared to face decisions regarding lifestyle choices for the future. Every student is exposed to God-honoring directives for life.” Through programs similar to this one, young people would be given the opportunity to develop their hearts and minds. They could create faith-based bonds with fellow students. They could participate in missional projects at home and beyond.

What if bible school was the norm?

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3 Responses to What if…Bible School was the norm? (from Stef McDonald)

  1. Ty Ragan says:

    Steph,
    I agree that faith formation is important, but should it not be happening throughout there time at the home church before, during and after post secondary?
    In fact, is Bible education not something that should be happening as part of our general discipleship? Especially if we look at our baptismal rites and confirmation, as a community we pledge to raise the child in the faith? It seems that we need to develop communities at the local level of lifelong discipleship, would our institutes be willing to attempt Go To educational models?
    Finally, yes there is some developmental issues with the youth’s mind, but the mind itself is never fully formed, it is quite resilient, can rewire itself as needed after traumas, and in regards to youth, about the only thing that comes close truly in neuroscience today as hard and fast fact is that youth lack an impulse control, but as with anything different individuals develop differently throughout their lifespan dependent on genetics and experience.

    So to make a long post short, I think your idea is valid, but needs to grow to encompass the whole church not just our young.

  2. Scott says:

    Thanks Stef and Ty,
    How much better could we share the faith if we had an understanding of human development on a physical and psychical level. Some of the difficulties of language could be abated if we knew what ‘meanings’ would be received through the words that are used. Maybe the training centers (seminary) could have a class or two in understanding human development and the effect it has on religious faith.

    Faith formation would be strengthened in both the congregation and the home if we were able to share and understanding of where our kids, parents, even selves are in development and how best to offer the Story in relation to where we are at.

  3. Stef says:

    Yes, discipleship should definitely be a life long process. But my heart is with the students, which is why I focus on them.

    They are not the future of the church- they are the present. So how do we best support our young people? It’s a tough question!!!

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