Of prayer and flagpoles

I know that things like See You At The Pole have been discussed in the youth ministry blogosphere before, but David Opderbeck, at his excellent blog Through a Glass Darkly, has made a post on the topic. Anything David writes is normally worth reading so you should really consider adding him to your RSS reader. Regardless of your decision on that matter, the question of Christian students praying at the flag pole is an important one, because of the underlying topics it touches on.

Although I haven’t had an experience exactly like David, last September I found it extremely interesting when the students in my youth ministry were talking about SYATP. They seemed to view it as a sort of witness to their faith. What was fascinating though, is that when I talked to them after the event they were amazed at who showed up. I heard many things like, “I didn’t realize so and so was a Christian.” I’m sure those same students were at their youth event talking to their youth pastor saying, “I didn’t realize [insert name from my YM] was a Christian.” It is this, I think, that makes meeting at flagpoles questionable as a “witnessing” tactic. I think we need to start with a lifestyle, before we go gathering around flagpoles.

David’s final paragraph words the question in a different way. Do such things really just make other students perceive Christian students as incredibly weird? If a student just shows up at a flagpole, but doesn’t living missionally otherwise, I’m forced to assume that it the flagpole thing is only going to make that person appear doubly weird. They don’t normally act Christian, but they do some these things on occasion? Mixed signals. On the other hand, some students are always going to see anything “Christian” as weird. Beyond that, now I’ve gotten us into a discussion on what really constitutes “acting Christian,” and there are a host of disagreements in that area.

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