On a pleasant spring morning in 2001, I met several friends (with whom I served in a multi-church Youth Group) to caravan from San Rafael to Sacremento for a one-day Youth Specialties seminar. Sitting though a day of learning crazy games meant to somehow engage kids so that we could then speak to them about Christ slightly disturbed me, but I managed to convince myself that I was just middle-aged and needed to update my thinking.
The afternoon lecture, however, troubled me more seriously. The speaker referred to the standard model of "Facts, Faith, Feeling," in which youth workers used to present the facts about the Gospel, encourage the kids to respond with faith and assure them that feelings would follow. In post-modern America, the speaker argued, that model no longer works. Post-modern kids rely on experience. Therefore, they need to feel God first.
Um...no. Remember Romans 5:17, which says that faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ. Feelings, judging from what I've seen in reading Scripture almost daily for 43 years, only appear now and then, with Christian joy and peace abiding in each believer regardless of emotional fluctuations.
Leading young people (or anyone, for that matter) to use mere feelings rather than the historical facts taught in Scripture and verified by other sources does them an enormous disservice. Emotions that embrace Christ one moment may shun Him the next. Hormone-driven teens struggle even more to evaluate life without feelings affecting their judgement. Contrary to the teaching at the Youth Specialties seminar, kids must build their faith on the bedrock of biblical truth, not the shifting sands of how they feel. So must adults, actually.