The Ethic of Baking - The British Way

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NPR has recently profiled a show that has become a hit in our household - The Great British Baking Show. In certain ways, the show is like any other food competition. A group of chefs or amateurs or something-in-between gather together, must make difficult, beautiful, and innovative food, and then offer that up for judgment from a panel of experts. Someone is eliminated from further participation, and the group continues until a winner is crowned.

Anyone who watches The Great British Baking Show, however, will notice something different:

What emerges over the course of the show is that it doesn’t only have a style; it has an ethic. Mary and Paul do not fall victim to the misdirection of small but spectacular-looking mistakes. If the custard in the middle of whatever you’re making doesn’t quite set, the entire thing may collapse and run all over the counter, but they’ll taste it anyway! And they’ll tell you that your custard not setting isn’t necessarily a bigger mistake than anything else; it just looks worse. If you can’t get your cake put together, they’ll still taste the layers. You may not be out. Do not lose heart. Do not lose heart.

This concept of the show possessing an ethic is fascinating. One might also use the language of worldview. The show seeks to crown a winner, but in doing so seeks to foster the joy of baking itself and the encouragement of its participants. Drama and intrigue are not reveled in, nor are they artificially produced (any more than a bit of dramatic music when it is doubtful a soufflé will rise!).

I wonder what the ethic of our youth ministries is. While we will be quick to rush to Christian verbiage for definitions that ‘surely’ apply to us, it may be prudent to instead analyze what we do (what we spend the most time talking about, planning for, spending money on, etc.) and then ascertain what our actual ministry worldview is. For instance:

  • Do our plans and programs actually communicate an ethic of fun (IE if kids are happy and entertained, then we are happy with our ministry)?

  • Do our expectations about biblical knowledge or study communicate an ethic of insider-culture (only those already knowledgable need belong)?

  • Do our methods of discipline and discipleship communicate an ethic of legalism?

  • Do the games we play and activities we plan communicate an ethic of competition?

Similarly, in education there is a concept of the null curriculum. The null curriculum is what is being taught by the choice not to teach. For example, if I am teaching American History, and I do not teach about US atrocities regarding native Americans, I am by default communicating something even by not referring to these incidents at all. In youth ministry, our programs, sermons, games, and environment communicates something, even by the things we do not do. The Great British Baking Show, for instance, does not sequester off its participants from their families, putting them in close proximity in stressful situations to create drama, as do many cooking shows. The model itself discourages the thing it wishes to avoid. In youth ministry, we must consider how our ministries programmatically and structurally, not only our sermons, communicate a gospel-saturated culture to our students that makes them long for Jesus.

ArticlesStephen Yates