Written by Jennifer Terry
I have been an educator for 12 years now. I can tell you that on the first day of school every year, those previous years of experience don’t really matter. Each year brings a new group of faces with a new dynamic and a different culture surrounding them both inside and outside of their respective communities. As I interact with students and create lesson plans, a lot of what I have done before will not bring the results I want now. This current generation of students has completely different learning needs and it is my job to figure it out quickly each year. So many things demanding their attention. The overall consensus is that it is hard to engage students whether it be in the classroom, small group, or church setting. In the book, Marching Off the Map by Tim Elmore and Andrew McPeak, they break down the culture of youth today from children to young adults. It explains how we as adults can (and must) shift our thinking and our methods to engage students in learning and discussions that matter.
The first four chapters will help you understand how these kids are different. It begins by laying out some harsh realities our kids face. It isn’t pretty, but it can no longer be ignored, especially in the church setting. It also highlights how the world of technology impacts our kids. What they have grown up in is a world apart from how many of us grew up. The responsibility for shifting is on our shoulders, not theirs!
The remaining chapters 5-12 are written for anyone who works with children or young adults. This can mean teachers, parents, Sunday school teachers, and youth pastors. If you, at any point, interact with kids in grades 3-12, this book is for you! The book will guide you and help you know how to best shift your thinking to be more in line with how they think and the best ways to reach them. This includes how to use storytelling to teach, how to engage kids so they want to learn, as well as ideas for taking kids from apathy to passion.
Chapter 7 is the most important of all as it focuses on updating pedagogical practices. Its true focus is getting kids to come up with their own questions and answers, instead of relying on others to tell them. As a classroom teacher this is a dream come true, but it isn’t as easy as it sounds. I must be willing to get creative and facilitate my students’ learning instead of spoon-feeding them answers on a PowerPoint presentation or from a textbook. When we look at this idea in the framework of a church setting, it translates to kids asking questions about their faith. Then using each other and God’s Word to discover their answers. It means small groups talking about and engaging with scripture. It means these kids discussing how the Bible relates to them as they walk the hallways at school. When our young people take ownership of their faith, it likely means they are going to develop a deeper and more permanent relationship with God, independent of outside contributors.
The practices and ideas in Marching Off the Map are for anyone who interacts with kids in grade 3-12. It is for all teachers, parents, youth pastors, pastors, etc. You must read this book if you fall into any of these categories.