Thursday, November 13, 2008

Do We Even THINK About the Thirteen Year-Old Boys?


In another of my several personalities, I write children’s novels.  But in today’s e-mail was an article from Publishers Weekly by an eighth grade boy from New Jersey named Max Leone.  He is writing to book writers and publishers about what younger teenage boys WANT in novels.

Admitting they seldom read, he blames part of it on the lack of literary choices available to teens. The big dynasties of Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl have completed their series and there is nothing like them on the horizon. 

So “Max the eighth grader” gives four words of advice to writers and publishers of children’s novels.  The reason why I mention it here is that I think his advice can also be given to preachers who preach to a mixed audience.  Teenage boys seems to be some of the hardest nuts to crack.  Often they are hanging out in the church cafe or out on the ramp leading out of the church unless some adult is encouraging them along.

But Max suggests (and I think preachers would do well to):

1. Don’t use archaic language. 

2. Don’t over moralize.  Make the point, but don’t keep driving it home.  Kids get it.

3. Let good be good and evil be evil.  (I am being an little fast and loose with Max here…actually he talks about integrity in depicting vampires and other supernatural creatures!)

4.  Let me quote from Max directly:

Finally, here is what I consider the cardinal rule of writing for young adults: Do Not Underestimate Your Audience. They actually know a lot about what's going on in politics. They will get most of the jokes you expect them not to. They have a much higher tolerance for horror and action than most adults. Most of the books I read actually don't fall under the “young adult” category. I can understand the humor in Jon Stewart's or Stephen Colbert's books as well as any adult.

Of course we don’t target the entire sermon toward thirteen and fourteen year old boys; but do we think of them AT ALL in our sermon preparation?  Maybe, just maybe, that’s why we lose so many of them. 

What to you think?  

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