We conducted a three-phase experiment at Rockford College, and used over 100 college
graduates who were preparing for youth ministry.
In the first phase: We took a young volunteer from the room and blindfolded him. We
simply told him that when he returned, he could do anything he wished. He remained outside
the room while we instructed each audience member to think of a simple task for the
volunteer to do. When the volunteer returned, they were to shout their individual
instructions at him from where they sat. Prior to this, we privately instructed another
person to shout a very specific task at the blindfolded volunteer as though it were a
matter of life and death. This person was to attempt to persuade the blindfolded volunteer
to climb the steps at the back of the auditorium and embrace an instructor who was
standing at the door; he had to shout this vital message from where he sat in the
audience. The volunteer was oblivious to all instructions and previous arrangements. The
volunteer represented our young people, the audience represented the world of voices
screaming for their attention, and the person with the vital message represented those of
us who bring the message of the Gospel to youth. The blindfolded student was led back into
the room. The lecture room exploded in a din of shouting. Each person tried to get the
volunteer to follow his or her unique instructions. In the midst of the crowd, the voice
of the person with the vital message was lost; no single message stood out. The
blindfolded student stood paralyzed by confusion and indecision. He moved randomly and
without purpose as he sought to discern a clear and unmistakable voice in the crowd.
The second phase: We told the audience about the person attempting to get the volunteer
to accomplish the vital task. At this point we chose another person from the audience to
add a new dimension. This person's goal was to, at all costs, keep the volunteer from
doing the vital task. While the rest of the audience was to remain in their seats, these
two people were allowed to stand next to the volunteer and shout their opposing messages.
They could get as close as they wished; however, they were not allowed to touch the
volunteer. As the blindfolded volunteer was led back into the room, the shouting began
again. This time, becaue the two messengers were standing so close, the volunteer could
hear both messages; but because the messages were opposed to each other, he vacillated. He
followed one for a bit, then was convinced by the other to go the opposite direction. In
order for young people to hear our message we must get close to them. Even then, there are
others with opposing messages who also are close enough to make their messages clear.
Sometimes they are peers, relatives...The main lesson: only the close voices could be
heard. Even though the volunteer took no decisive action, at least he heard the message.
The third phase: The response to the third phase was startling. In this phase
everything remained the same except the one with the vital message was allowed to touch
the volunteer. He could not pull, push or in any way force the volunteer to do his
bidding; but he could touch him, and in that way encourage him to follow. The blindfolded
volunteer was led into the room. When he appeared, the silence erupted into an
earsplitting roar. The two messengers stood close, shouting their opposing words. Then,
the one with the vital message put his arm gently around the volunteer's shoulder and
leaned very close to speak directly into his ear. Almost without hesitation, the volunteer
began to yield to his instruction. Occasionally he paused to listen as the opposition
frantically tried to convince him to turn around. But then, by the gentle guidance of
touch, the one with the vital message led him on. A moment of frightening realism occurred
spontaneously as the one with the vital message drew close to the goal. All those in the
audience, who up to this point had been shouting their own individual instruction,
suddenly joined in unison to keep the volunteer from taking those final steps. Goose bumps
appeared all over my body as students began to chant together, "Don't go!"
"Don't go!" "Don't go!" So many times I've seen the forces that pull
our youth in different directions join together to dissuade them from a serious commitment
to Christ. The chant grew to a pulsing crescendo, "Don't go!" "Don't
go!" But the guiding arm of the one with the vital message never left the volunteer's
shoulder. At the top of the stairs in the back of the lectrure hall, the one with the
vital message leaned one last time to whisper in the ear of the volunteer. There was a
moment of hesitation, then the volunteer threw his arms around the instructor and the
auditorium erupted in cheers and applause.
When the volunteer revealed how he felt as he went through each phase, it became
apparent that if our mesage is to be heard, we cannot shout it from the cavernous confines
of our church buildings. We must venture out and draw close to those with whom we wish to
communicate. If we really seek a life-changing commitment from our young people, we also
must reach out where they are and in love, gently touch them and lead them to that
commitment. We asked the volunteer why he followed the one with the vital message, the one
who touched him. After a few moments he said, "Because it felt like he was the only
one who really cared."
Ken Davis, How To Speak To Youth, pp 19-23.
Statistics and Stuff
Lying, cheating, and stealing are becoming an "acceptable norm" among
high-school and college students, says Ralph Wexler, speaking for the Joseph and Edna
Josephson Institute of Ethics. In a recent survey, the Institute reported that 61 percent
of the high-school and 32 percent of the college students polled admitted to having
cheated on an exam during the past year; 33 percent of the high-school and 16 percent of
college students said they'd stolen something in the last year; and 16 percent of the
high-school and 32 percent of the college students said they'd lied on a resume or job
National and International Religion Report, quoted in Signs of the
Times, June 1993, Page 6.
Surveys in 1986:
70% of high school grads leave the church, never to return
65% of evangelical teens never read their Bibles
33% believe religion is out of date and out of touch
40% of all teens believe in astrology
30% read astrology column daily
93% know their sign
58% of protestant teens believe students should have access to contraceptives.
25% of high school students contract some form of V.D.
42% of protestant teens say there are many ways to God.
60% question that miracles are possible
28% feel the content of the Bible are not accurate.
According to surveys in 1990:
65% of all H.S. Christian students are sexually active
75% of all H.S. students cheat regularly
30% of all H.S. students have shoplifted in the past 30 days
45-50% of all teen pregnancies are aborted
3.3 million teens are alcoholics
1000 teens try to commit suicide daily
10% of H.S. students have experimented with or are involved in a homosexual lifestyle.
-Bruce Wilkinson, 7 Laws of the Learner.
Survey results from youth attending Southern Baptist summer activities: 22% witnessed
violence in their homes. 27% had been involved in a physical attack. 19% had considered
suicide. 20% had engaged in sexual intercourse. Nearly 60% had experimented with alcohol
by age 13. 27% had tried drugs by that same age. 9% had experienced some kind of sexual
Scocaster, publication of Scofield Memorial Church, July 11, 1993.