yesterday, one of my youth ministry coaching program cohorts had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with dr. robert epstein for 90 minutes. epstein graciously welcomed us into his home, served us iced tea and cookies, and engaged with us is a pot-stirring exploration of ideas. for an academic with such polarizing (and, some would say, extreme) ideas, we were pleasantly surprised by his warmth, humor and listening ability. we knew we’d enjoy his thought processes, which we did.
for those who don’t recognize the name: epstein has been a fly in the ointment of adolescent sound-bite propogandists for the last few years. particularly in light of the “new brain research” on adolescents, revealing a host of implications, epstein has consistently been the lone voice crying out as the antagonist: no, you’re drawing wrong conclusions from the adolescent brain scans. you’re assuming causality when there is no indication of causality.
epstein put his exhaustive study (and strong opinions) into a book released as the case against adolescence, then re-released a few years later (just recently) as teen 2.0. i’ve blogged about it a couple times here already, but most recently here (mini book review here).
when our group got back to our meeting place after our time with epstein (and a lunch stop that had a side-by-side in-n-out burger and chick-fil-a; possibly the 7th level of heaven when it comes to fast food — yes, a few of us ate at both), we debriefed our time, and created a list of the things that stuck out to each of us the most, or the things that would have implications for our thinking and practice of both youth ministry and parenting. here’s that list, in short-hand. in the days and weeks to come, i’m planning on writing posts about some of these, expanding and reflecting…
— our culture is awash in negative messages about youth. when we hear them enough, we believe them; but they’re not true, and are often driven by pr from drug companies who benefit from these views of adolescents. be hyper-aware of those messages; look for them. and be highly skeptical of what you hear. understand that they are a prejudice (comparisons to 1800s thinking about women and blacks, based on wrong assumptions about their brains).
— parenting needs to shift from a position of “control” to one of “facilitation”. facilitation = look for and encourage competencies. this has enormous implications for youth ministry.
— there are very few age restrictions in the OT, none in the NT. we need churches to return to a biblical concept of adolescence.
— what can we do? create “local culture” (micro-culture) in your home or youth ministry. repeat often that what teens experience ‘out there’ is not right, it’s broken. help teens understand that they do not have to live like the system says they have to live. (this fits in so nicely with the ideas i wrote about in youth ministry 3.0)
— “repetition is the mother of wisdom”