Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.
(W. Edwards Deming)
I’ve been traveling a lot lately.
No matter where I go, I meet people who are struggling with their faith.
And it isn’t just young people: it’s parents and grandparents, it’s youth workers and clergy.
So many of us are struggling with our faith.
Isn’t that odd? Or at least disappointing?
After all, for years, the Church has organized countless events and programs to help people (young people in particular) “own” their faith. We’ve created stacks of materials and resources to help “keep young people in Church.”
But it doesn’t seem to be working…
Adults who struggle with their faith today spent years in youth programs yesterday. And we all know about the struggles of today’s young people…
Even after close to two decades in youth ministry programs and events, it seems so easy for young people to simply fall away from the Church.
Maybe it’s because we’ve been cultivating the wrong kind of faith.
In this week’s Gospel reading, Jesus’s disciples try (and fail) to cast out demons.
And they’re incredibly embarrassed by this! So they approach Jesus with shame, and ask why they failed.
But Jesus doesn’t directly answer the question. Instead, He says:
This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting. (Mark 9:29)
We so often obsess about “what the Church can do for young people.”
We demand new programs, new conferences, new resources, new materials.
And yet the core practices of Christian life (things like prayer and fasting) seem to be afterthoughts.
We’re far more likely to invite young people to a basketball tournament or cultural event than teach them to pray at home, or invite them to an additional Church service during the week.
But Jesus is telling His disciples that the real question isn’t what they can do: it’s what He can do through them.
If we take Him seriously, we need to design better systems that are geared towards better outcomes.
We need a model of ministry that doesn’t simply teach religious facts or see the Faith as a club we need to join, but rather offers us a way to be transformed.
That’s why we need to focus on a faith that isn’t just about abstract ideas or program attendance.
We need to focus on how we all personally encounter the crucified and risen Lord.
P.S. Have you ever struggled with prayer? This short talk can help!