Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Our Youth

I just finished creating the calendar for the spring and summer for our kids here at OSLC. And I as look at it I pray that it is more than just a thing to do or a place to go. I mean, what is the youth ministry all about anyway? Why do we do what we do? Why do you let your student attend our events? Our programs? Is it because you want them to be raised to be "good" adults. I certainly want that for my own children, but I long for something more than that, something that has passion, value, purpose and the ability for them to look back and say, "That time shaped my life, made me a different person, the person I was designed to be."

So much of what we do in ministry is "busyness," a shroud that we are getting something done. We are competing with the church down the road that we have as many programs, or ours are better. So what? What if they are? Then what? No, what we need are relationships, forged in real life. To have (notice not create) real communion with each other without regard to what others are doing. But as parents and youth ministers, we are so concerned with making our kids "good" or making sure, they "own" their faith so that when they go to college or move away from home they maintain their trust and, I am sorry to say it, belief in God. So we create, make, design programs and events that will move them closer to becoming "good" kids.

But is that enough? Are we creating kids that are able to develop meaningful relationships with each other and with God? Or are we more worried about what we think, than the kids we are developing and leading? You can answer that question for yourself, but for me I know the answer, and I don't like it very much! Adults are scared of teens, they make us uncomfortable, they dress differently, talk differently and heaven knows they are better at technology that all of us. But did you know teens are afraid of adults?

In Mark Yaconelli's book, Contemplative Youth Ministry, he interviewed a group of teens about their observations about adults and he overheard this observation:

"Adults have no friend, adults have no passions, and adults are stressed out."

Sadly, I think this teen was on the mark for many of us. No wonder our teens don't listen to us, who wants to become this type of person?

I have a story from my own life that illustrates how teens and adults think differently. The other day I attended a basketball game with my 14-year-old son. We got the time wrong on the game, but did run into a friend. As it turned out it began to rain heavily. I asked my friend if she would like a ride to the other side of campus, where her son was holed up working on a video, she said sure. I drove her over and parked. As I was parking, I pulled to the curb and began to back up to close the gap with the car behind me, which just happened to be my friend's son's car.

I backed up a little too much and backed right into his car. I was horrified. Fearful I damaged his car, my car, worried about the cost to fix both, worried about my reputation as a driver, worried about how the car would be scarred and how bad it would look driving it around time, in short, I was "stressed out". So was my friend, she was worried about her son's car I'm sure. On the other hand, my 14-year-old son in the back seat found this absolutely hilarious. He couldn't believe his dad could be such a "goof" and back into a car I knew was there. As he laughed, I grew irritated and more worried. I got out of the car and found my care to be damaged with a dent and scratch, and thankfully his car unscathed.

I was embarrassed and stressed over what others might think, my reputation, my car, how could my life ever be the same (a little melodramatic I know), but my son continued to get a big kick out of it, in fact, he loved it.

Now this little story showed me how differently we think: adults worry, kids laugh. But something happens, the laughter stops and the worry creeps in. Is this our desire for our teens? I say no! But you don't understand, you say, kids do drugs, have sex, and they are so violent, we have to do something.

Curiously, that is not the case. According to authors, Bill Strauss and Neil Howe say the following:

Never before has there been a generation that is less violent. Less vulgar, less sexually charged than the culture being offered them. We fail to recognize it's the adult culture that is far more "at-risk" than the youth culture." (taken from the book: Millennial Rising: The Next Great Generation)

What do you think about this quote? I think it has a lot of truth in it. So our charge is to raise our kids to be self-sufficient, socially conscious, aware of others and in tune and connected to Jesus Christ. This isn't done with a program, just look at how many teens leave the church and their faith when they go off on their own. We need to give them authentic relationship, with adults, other teens and with God.

Interested? Let me know you want to get involved and together we can "git er done". Oh, almost forgot, please let me know how the calendar works for you and your family, and if you want to comment on my article, I would welcome it.

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