Flannel Graph Jesus is great for children. I get that. But did we make an intentional choice to stick with that all the way through adolescence? Do we really expect teenagers to take up their crosses and follow Flannel Graph Jesus every day of their lives?
Kids read the Harry Potter books from beginning to end. Kids read the Twilight series from start to finish. Kids read The Hunger Games over and over. (And, let's not forget John Green and other writers to whom kids pay attention because they respect them and draw them out as readers and people.)
Do we think we can spoon-feed them a bland, sugary, predigested Jesus and expect them to swallow? Is this our conscious strategy: Inviting teenagers to follow this ring tone Jesus? This topical Jesus? This sound bite Jesus? This Jesus who is just too short of breath to say more than a few words at a time?
And, whether it’s a conscious choice or not, how is that working out for us? Is it possible we’re losing kids at least partly because our Jesus is uncomplicated and predictable and easily managed? Do our students have the faintest clue why Jesus was a threat? Can they even begin to imagine why anyone would kill the Jesus we present? If not, is it any wonder if they don’t stick around for more?
[For another take on Flannel Graph Jesus, hear these words coming from the mouth of the Post-Ironic Millennial]