Postmodernism: 1) a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective, efforts to explain reality.
In other words, instead of a “large umbrella” under which we all understand reality, postmodernism asserts the need for millions of individual “umbrellas” by which individuals understand reality. It is a rejection of the meta-narrative.
The sacrifice of the objective for the subjective, of the understanding of truth, implies that there is also a fracturing of how that truth is communicated. Instead of students receiving information one way, they engage best by a variety, or a “gestalt”.
Gestalt - a German word that is fun to say. It also means “an organized whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts.” In communication with teenagers, we must utilize a variety of mediums in which to communicate.
Your Media Gestalt
If you are older or are not tech-savvy, this can feel intimidating. Better yet, the multiplicity of social media options are overwhelming. However, these tools are vitally important. I encourage you to look at your town as a mission field. How are you going to reach them? What language do they speak? The minute you use these tools, you are embodying Marshall McLuhan’s tried and true maxim of mass communications: “the medium is the message”. Your very presence in these realms of communication immediately validates you in the eyes of teenagers. Don’t underestimate the power of relevancy! This is the current language teenagers speak.
As Doug Fields has correctly reiterated over the years, never underestimate the power of a personal postcard, letter, or birthday card. As electronic communication continues to expand, physical mail still retains the quality of “special”, mainly because teenagers today get so few real letters in the mail. Interestingly, it isn’t considered arcane or archaic just yet. Huzzah! Now let’s pray the Postal Service doesn’t go bankrupt.
The history of Christian t-shirts is a long and tragic one, a road fraught with “This Blood’s For You” and “The Lord’s Gym”. If and when you make youth group t-shirts, ensure the design, cut of the shirt, quality of the material and color scheme are such that your youth will want to wear it other places than just a “Youth Sunday”. Better yet, have a teenager help design it!
Teenagers today check email more often than you would think. We send a weekly email to parents and students each week.
Your Church Phone
Does a real person answer your church phone (better) as opposed to an automated machine? Do you return phone calls or emails quickly? Relevant communication goes both ways. Failure in this regard leads to weakened trust with those you are called to serve.
Our broad communications should have the goal of a teenager seeing, and that seeing leading to doing, and that doing to understanding. More than ever, our mission field requires us to communicate in a broad and yet focused way, all with the goal of leading them to active discipleship.
What do you think? What communication tools have you used to good success?
Clark Chilton is a Student Ministries Pastor in Clemmons, NC.