An Attempt to Get You Thinking about the Importance and Relevancy of Ministering To Teens In a Whole New Way

Sunday, April 20, 2008

  • Have you ever wondered how a teen thinks or what makes them seem irrational? Why do they act before they think? What about the idea that, "bad things don’t happen to me; only to other people." They are forgetful, disorganized, emotionally charged and take lots of risks thinking they are bullet proof, what's with that?

  • Is there any good explanation for all this? YOU BET! There is actually a scientific reason. I recognize that there are huge environmental issues that may positively or negatively affect the way a teen thinks. But consider the development of the brain. The ability to express and interaction with emotions is developed between the ages of 11 and 14. What is the significance of this?

  • Well very little until you consider that the ability to use reason above emotion is not fully developed until the late teens or early twenties. This means the typical teen acts and reacts based on their emotions. This is why having a certain pair of shoes is more of a "life or death" matter than jumping off a 40 foot high bridge into a small river. Sometimes fear may sway the decision to watch and not jump but not usually, at least for me. Get the idea? There may be some reasoning but it is normal for the emotions of a teenager, not the intelligence to drive their actions and decisions.

  • In regards to teen discipleship this is very important to keep in mind. Scratch that, it is essential that you keep it in mind. Discipling a teen using Spurgeon’s lectures may not be a bad idea if they are an exceptional student who has a very strong reformed back ground but not for the vast majority of teens. Basically if the material is more than a hundred years old work up to it, slowly. Rather, be Practical, spend time doing life. Take them to a ball game and have conversations that are charged with biblical significance. Minister with them! Take them and work at a ministry for a day.

  • The idea is to be an example in all areas; so much that you verbalize that you are being a good example to follow. The teen may have thought this already but it is good to reinforce the idea. This is the hardest part of teen discipleship, living up to what you want them to be, Godly. How does the development of emotions come into play? When you are being watched by someone trying to figure out what the right response is to any given situation what so they see your response. Your teen is not reading your mind so they can't follow your reasoning, if they could understand it.

  • As a parent or youth worker you can either take this emotional potential or ruin it by putting them in exciting youth programs that are centered on games, massive activities, and dynamic speakers or you can invest in their emotional potential. As we all know if an investment is to pay off in the end it must be given time. Take time to funnel the teen to make emotional connections to the things of God. Teach them to love the church, to love the scriptures, to love Christ. Do I need to say that again? Take time to instill in them BY EXAMPLE a love for the things of God not for the things of the latest cool pop culture.

  • So the implications for a parent or youth worker are that you will need to be expressive and excited about God, about Church, and about ministry. No don't go running and clapping into the Church every Sunday, but have a serious conviction about the importance of church and be consistent in that living it and they will live it. Take missions seriously and they will take it seriously. Take God seriously and they will take God seriously. Be emotionally attached to your faith and they will be emotionally attached to theirs. But to make this happen you have to invest not only your time but your emotions as well.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Lessons From Listening

To those that are preparing to minster to the body of Christ, I have learned a valuable lesson this evening. I learned that no matter who you are or who you are speaking to you have to listen. Whether you are in your basement with friends or you are leading Sunday morning services you must listen to be effective. It is not enough to assume that you understand the other party’s position, feelings or views; you must take on that position, feeling, or view. What good is it if we first align others positions, feelings, or views to our own understanding of that matter without fully grasping their understanding of the matter. In other words how can we compare what others have to say with our thoughts, if we never take the time to truly know what they are saying? As a friend this can be as simple as not being considerate in a conversation by “responding hastily as if you were waiting for the other person to stop talking” so you could finally respond. As a leader what does this look like? In my experience, yes I have experience, this is when a valid concern, question, or differing perspective is presented to me and I dismiss it on the grounds that it came from “some silly kid.” As a youth pastor I missed out on some great doctrinal discussion because I was not willing to listen to the “Challenges” that were brought by a 16 year old boy. I regret the loss of that teachable moment. Not only did I miss the opportunity to teach the boy but the opportunity to be taught by the boy. No matter whom you are or where you are; LISTEN. Whether you are a friend in my basement or leading a service listen to those “…silly kids” they probably have more to offer than you think they do.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Don’t Disciple Them Yet! They Need Their Space To Figure Things Out

  • I am 25 years old. I am at seminary and attend a very thoughtful church. My church takes discipleship very seriously, so seriously that there are few members not formally meeting with another to discuss their personal and spiritual lives. At every elders meeting, some time is given to review and discuss the, "discipleship tree." Not only are time and effort invested, but many members have laid their very hearts on the table to benefit each other. It truly is a beautiful advantage of our relationship together in Christ. It seems likely that unless you (the reader) are a member of my church or a church of similar style or passion, you are not enjoying this benefit. I hope that you are. If not, get off the internet and call someone to begin this type of relationship. I hope you benefit as much as I have.

  • Think back to your youth. In those years, the brain absorbs the most information with the least effort. It is also the time a person begins to develop perception of the world they live in and how to interact with it. Information and potential for a worldview is floating around somewhat abstractly, waiting to come to rest on proven truths (social-ethical morals and basic moral assumptions). This happens during late teen years and early twenties. Does this sound like blah, blah, blah to you? Maybe not. Maybe you see the importance of my point. For the sake of those struggling with this line of thought, though, we will move on.

  • Good discipleship should not start in the early twenties, but the early teens. What would it look like if believing teens were sent into the academic and professional world already discipled and grounded in their faith? For starters, they could answer questions about their belief. Soul Searching, by Christian Smith, is a book about the American teen's level of religiosity. In chapter four there are sections of dialog between teens and an interviewer for the National Survey of Youth and Religion. Common answers, when asked to explain what they believed, included, "Umm, (chuckle chuckle) I don't know," or, "...whatever I've come to conclude." Follow up questions showed that teens do not even know what their parents believe because "They don't talk about it." I hope you feel the urgent need for teen discipleship.

  • Are, "Soul Searching," teens the potential product of your ministry? Sure, some kids were not raised in the church, but the author mostly quotes Catholics and mainline Protestant denominations. Some of the most spiritually confused teens in America are in churches many Southern seminarians plan to serve. Many of those teens will never be discipled. Some may attend your youth ministry program, and yet leave understanding the Cross like this UN DISCIPLED white 15 year old girl who said; "… if you're gonna do something wrong then you should always ask for forgiveness and he's (God) gonna forgive you no matter what, cause he gave up his only son to take all the sins for you, so." (Smith 132) Fellow servants of Christ, do not be accountable for such a horrific loss (James 3:1). It truly is not possible to have a spiritually healthy Church without attending to the spiritual needs of the up and coming generations in a direct and methodical manner.

Why are we letting teens wait in limbo for discipleship?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Sensory perception of the Gospel

Is experiential teaching a good method for the current or future youth/student minster? It seems odd to me that we appeal to the senses for a spiritual response. Organs were once considered a taboo in the church, as were drums, is this just another cultural tide that the church must be taken by? My consideration of this topic is relatively new so I have no answers for those questions, but I will find, or determine them. It just seems weird to use a felt needs approach to present a fundamental necessity. So if I were to present 3 reasons why a teen should study scripture using Psalm 119:9-16 should I focus my efforts on proper exegesis or dramatizing those reasons in a way that the teens can experience with their senses? Can both, exegesis and drama, be used equally well and God honoring. Mel Gibson tried with The Passion of the Christ and was not able to totally balance the two; Southeast Christian Church did the same with their Easter pageant. Both works were very moving and compelling, both did a pretty good job sticking to the bible, but yet both also seemed to “play it safe” when the toes of culture might be stepped on. Any thoughts?

Blogger Bar Mitzvah Equals 10 Posts

Well, Here I am joining a culture that has always seemed a little isolationistic to me. I once agreed whole heartedly with a friend that blogs were for stay at home moms who didn’t organize their time well enough to be productive. Well, now I resent that! I am not a mom, or a parent for that matter. I have very little time on my hands but what time I do have I feel I organize well enough to get all priorities taken care of and have a social life to boot. So blog culture here I am one down and nine to go.