Friday, April 14, 2006

Rebirthing Simpson's Vision

Rebirthing Simpson's Vision
Years ago I sat with my highschool classmates while a representative from General Moters invited us to join the annual car design contest for high school students. I, like tens of thousands of boys, tried to draw a new car. But, the logistics of finally producing, from scratch, a 1/12 scale dream car in wood overwhelmed me, and I looked for a different future. But not everyone. Some went on. In the current issue (March 2006) of Car and Driver Patrick Bedard reviews a new book by John L. Jacobus: The Fisher Body Craftsman's Guild. "GM wanted innovators...who could predict the future with their dream-car designs." And some did. From the contest came some of GM's top designers such as Virgil Exner Jr, Charles M. Jordan and Terry Henline. Sadly, GM killed off the Guild in 1968 when it decided it "was in the business of manufacturing and selling cars, and not in the business of teaching America's youth the intricacies of automotive design."

Reviewer Bedard comments: "But maybe the teaching worked the other way. The rise of guild graduates within GM, to about 35 percent of its stylists in 1957, suggests that it was the youth of America doing the teaching."

And I might add, that perhaps this tells us why GM has produced unbelivably boring cars for the last twenty years. They stopped being taught by teens, they stopped developing a talent pool from high school up.

Currently the evangelical church is, rightly, concerned with the training of leaders. What I notice is that this concern is focused primarily in two places. First, on those who are already in leadership positions. Who are the bright and shining stars? Send them for more training. Who are the ones who are OK -- the B level leaders? Coach them. All fine and good. I have no complaints.

The second point of concern is with college/seminary training. Here the waters muddy. Why can't they turn out the highly polished leaders that require no further work? Or at least, that is what I hear. Nevertheless, I am deeply a believer in formal training for ministry.

But, what about before college/seminary? What about the youth, the high school level? Have we forgotten them? Have we turned the youth programs into sophisticated spiritual kindergartens? Is everything focused on appeasing parents who want a safe place for their children? Are we being taught by, as well as teaching, the youth of our churches the intricacies of Bible study, world changing prayer, preaching (yes, I said preaching), evangelism - including cross cultural evangelism (which is more than hauling a bunch off for a Short Term Mission Adventure), peer-counseling? And the list could go on.

Even more, and I know this can sound like a cliche, are we willing to learn from them? Fisher Body Guild judges looked at a lot of ho-hum entries, and I am sure many that were laughable, but year after year, there were some fresh concepts presented that shaped the look of future cars. Are we listening to the high schoolers of today? Do some of them have things to say that can shape the church of 2015?

9 comments:

Ron Baker said...

GM decided to do this as an organization, and not as individual assembly plants. Does the Alliance as a denomination plan on seeking out youth - taking them beyond, or with the help of, their local churches to be the leaders of tomorrow?

Your very real friend, Franklin said...

First, who said anything about Alliance? Here I address evangelicalism. There are a few bright spots. In Toronto there is a program called Music Fest which seeks to bring forward young musicians. And, many denominations have a program called Bible Quizzing -- a program which has produced a number of our biblically literate workers for much of the past half century. But, the core question, are we in some way listening to youth -- that has yet to be answered. So I would ask -- what would a proactive response even look like?

Orangeville Alliance Church said...

glad to see you have joined the blogosphere. A good step in the right direction. Not sure about Bible Quizzing or Music Fest though. Sounds kindof new GM to me. The ends are good, I'm just not sure if kids are buying those kind of wheels anymore.

Sharon said...

Wow! Have you touched a nerve close to our hearts! Good questions. We are of course passionate about raising up and reaching the next generation of leaders. we were just with a group of youth leaders (Global Youth Initiative) who gathered from litterally the four corners of the globe--God is raising up youth leaders in Costa Rica, and Nepal, Australia, The Czech Republic, Malawi and even we are privaledged to play a small role in Yaounde and Pointe Noire!

Don said...

This is a question that needs to be asked of all leaders today. What kind of legacy are we leaving behind... is the next generation better off because we were here. Seems to me like Matthew 28... making disciples that make disciples that make disciples. Not talking bout progams here... but that we need to be cultivating meaningful relationships (hey mentoring now there's a concept!) Are we willing to enter into menaingful dialgoue with one another... cross genders... cross age barriers... cross denomination... even cross anyhting? Just tossing a pebble in the pond... to see how it ripples. Don

KT said...

Could be that the Alliance might be off t a start in Quebec. I attended a recent graduation in Montreal of 7 students. One stood out from the others. His age. He was not in his teens but neither was he over 50. Several others in the IBVIE "leadership" programme are very young by comparison. One young lady I'm told is in her teens and she will be a "new generation" at least in Quebec. IBVIE appears to be doing the ground work

Bernie said...

I have a few comments to this provacative post. First, the Bible College movement has never graduated leaders in need of no futher training and refinement. It wasn't the case when we grauduated, why do we expect such to be the case now? Even in Simpson's view, the goal of Bible College was to give the young, energetic, and committed the tools they would need to start out and do well-enough, assuming that ministry would show them that they need more training and a continuing dependence upon the Spirit.
Second, and here I know that I could get into trouble with some readers, a college education can only work with the resources that they receive. In this case, what I mean is that a teacher must start training at that place where their students are. My experience tells me that most college freshman are not ready for a course in systematic theology. For the most part, they need to be catechized. Often, they are not familiar with even the most rudimentary or "fundamentals" of the faith. They have only a passing familiarity with such core doctrines as the Trinity, revelation, Christology, ecclesiology, and have absolutely no grasp of eschatology--its unfolding or its relevance. In the short time that they spend at college, much is spent in base level discipleship. I recently joked with members of our Music department, telling them how easy they had it. They were allowed to audition students for their programs. If Bible and Theology were to do the same, we, too, would be able to go much more deeply, though we would do so with far fewer students.
I am pleased with what I observe to be a trend among our current youth pastors--the desire to push their charges biblically and theologically, to demand more of them, even at the risk of "losing" some.

Bernie said...

I have a few comments to this provacative post. First, the Bible College movement has never graduated leaders in need of no futher training and refinement. It wasn't the case when we grauduated, why do we expect such to be the case now? Even in Simpson's view, the goal of Bible College was to give the young, energetic, and committed the tools they would need to start out and do well-enough, assuming that ministry would show them that they need more training and a continuing dependence upon the Spirit.
Second, and here I know that I could get into trouble with some readers, a college education can only work with the resources that they receive. In this case, what I mean is that a teacher must start training at that place where their students are. My experience tells me that most college freshman are not ready for a course in systematic theology. For the most part, they need to be catechized. Often, they are not familiar with even the most rudimentary or "fundamentals" of the faith. They have only a passing familiarity with such core doctrines as the Trinity, revelation, Christology, ecclesiology, and have absolutely no grasp of eschatology--its unfolding or its relevance. In the short time that they spend at college, much is spent in base level discipleship. I recently joked with members of our Music department, telling them how easy they had it. They were allowed to audition students for their programs. If Bible and Theology were to do the same, we, too, would be able to go much more deeply, though we would do so with far fewer students.
I am pleased with what I observe to be a trend among our current youth pastors--the desire to push their charges biblically and theologically, to demand more of them, even at the risk of "losing" some.

Tony Tanti said...

Great questions and comments in both the post and the responses. The most intriguing to me was the question of why can't our colleges/seminaries can't produce finished products?

This is interesting to me because I don't see any Universities or colleges producing finished products, trained products ready to join the work force yes, but much of the practical learning remains and takes place in the initial years on the job. The same goes for ministry and even though most Bible Colleges (your denomination's included) do a far better job of giving work experience prior to graduation there is still much to be learned after graduation day.

Bernie brings up an interesting thought in that Theology programs do not vet their applicants. I suppose they could and maybe they should. I can't think of many other vocations a student can study for that don't require an application process giving the school the authority to refuse a student. Maybe we need to trust our colleges and seminaries and give profs the authority to say to someone "this isn't for you".

Franklin and Bernie are both right that more sound teaching is needed for young people in leadership and knowledge and I am also encouraged by much of what I see coming out of many youth programs today.