The Problem with Spiritual Emphasis Week

Now many of you may have read the title and said “How could you possibly disagree with ICS’s decision to have a Spiritual Emphasis Week?” Well allow me to address that concern. I in no way think that SEW is a bad thing. However, the method in which it is distributed to high schoolers is incredibly ineffective.

As I am sure many of you are aware, spiritual emphasis week is often plagued by one consistent issue – student apathy. This is most openly expressed in sleep. Any of you who have attended SEW will have noticed the slew of student narcolepsy and perhaps have asked yourself, “Why? This speaker has many important and valuable contributions to make to students lives.” Allow me to present to you an observation about the high school body that you may not realize: a majority of students are not Christians. Not only that, they are also people who have become disillusioned by Christianity so no amount of proselytizing at a pulpit will change them.They don’t want to hear some guy at the front babble on about something to do with God; they think that they have heard it all before.

If you want to keep students from shrugging off SEW, you need to change your frankly older views on how to convince people towards Christianity. Even if you think that this misconduct (sleeping) during SEW is wrong and disrespectful, it doesn’t change anything. In order to gain the attention of students at ICS, you have to change how you approach religion; preaching at people doesn’t make change like it used to.

What can we do to change this? Well, first, attempting to gain the complete attention of high-schoolers in large groups is almost impossible. From my own personal experience once a group passes ten people, they begin to lose focus. My first suggestion to ICS is small groups because although this decreases the ability of one speaker to interact with all students, it increases the ability of students to focus.

My second suggestion is to make the activities interactive–get students to move or to talk. Sure they will whine and complain, but then you will know they are paying attention (a small word of advice: students never stop complaining–with or without activities.).

The third and final suggestion is this, Do Not Force Christianity down students’ throats. Nothing will drive them farther away. This is why I would also argue that traditional Bible classes are completely useless. You can try and make them memorize verses; tell them they will burn in hell if they don’t convert; and they can only be happy in Christ–it won’t change a thing. The only way you can get the Gospel through to students is through relationship building, if they don’t see you as a friend, they will disregard all of your “good” morals that you throw at them.

It’s not about the curriculum, the powerpoints, or the verses; it’s about letting the students know that you can be trusted. I can guarantee that if you start by being friends with the students then they will become interested in what you believe. Which I suppose is the essential problem with SEW, you have one week to build a relationship with students, to gain trust, to keep them interested, while all they can think about is the homework the have to do. Perhaps ICS needs to decide if it cares about the student’s relationship with God or his/her GPA. I openly will discuss with any teacher who wants to know from a student’s perspective how they can engage in our spiritual lives. These relationships are not something you can quantify like what you learned in a SEW Session; they’re something that can’t be measured, much like a person’s soul.

Comments

  1. THIS IS SO GOOD.
    -Taylor

  2. Doug Matthews says:

    Ding Ding Ding….winner

    “The only way you can get the Gospel through to students is through relationship building, if they don’t see you as a friend, they will disregard all of your “good” morals that you throw at them.”

  3. Sharon Hicks says:

    Thanks so much for your thoughts! Your article generated a student led discussion in one of my Bible classes and then was the topic of another class this afternoon. Relationships matter! Thank you for the honest feedback and open dialogue. I would enjoy hearing more about ways we can continue to walk alongside our students with the Hope and Love of the Gospel in meaningful and relevant ways.

  4. Rhonda Chin says:

    Thanks for writing this, Caleb. I appreciate your openness and honesty, and I love that you care enough about this to put it out there. It’s important stuff that needs to be considered and talked about.

  5. Gabriel Brunik says:

    I agree with this article! This should be really considered for the future of ICS. Being in ICS for more than seven years, I can see how this has not been addressed appropriately and I see this as a potential solution. Thanks Caleb!

  6. Woah! I wish I had seen this earlier… It sums up quite concisely my own frustrations with SEW. * applause *

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