Many of you have heard of the Rebelution . . . but how many of you are really part of it? In the rebellion against rebellion, who is really doing “hard things”?
As a youth, I was taught one thing by my parents . . . In fact, it was instilled in all my siblings that we would one day run the world. We knew that, even though it would be hard, we would make a difference.
Why should we be so special though? Why should God choose us for this task and not others also? The reality is that God has called all young people to do the hard things and run the world but very few are ready for it.
Thus I present the purpose behind my piece . . . We have failed, and are continuing to fail our students by preparing them to be who they are, Christian leaders.
As the Harris brothers state in their book, the “teenage” years is a myth with no biblical backing. In fact, a look at the Bible will show that there are really only two age groups, children and adults. Paul talks about this divide when he talks about being a child and then leaving those ways to be an adult. Paul was only ever a child or an adult. However, our christian youth who should be being trained for adult hood and leadership of the church are instead shirking training and responsibilities. What is the problem?
I work with an organization that does ministry in the inner city. Unlike most of you, I do not receive a paycheck for my work, nor does my boss. Every penny we ear is placed in areas of larger need, like those we minister to, or our facility. However, we also have a heart for taking Christian teens and exposing them to a wholistic perspective of ministry and turning them into Christian leaders.
This training is never easy. After all, since when is grow, or a challenge easy? However, so many youth have come prepared and equipped, met their challenges, addressed them, conquered them, and then left as leaders. but unfortunately, some of them haven’t.
Enter Exhibit A. This young woman was a leader in her youth group. When she arrived at our ministry site, she was homesick (it is normal). However, instead of resolving this issue with our leadership team, she let it brew and then reported to her mother gross lies which her mother passed on to a sponsoring organization.
So, the christian youth group leader starts by not addressing the issue in a biblical way (some leader) and then lies to her mom (some leader) who talks to the sponsoring organization and not our team or our immediate supervisor (some leader). When the accusations are finally sent to our immediate supervisor, he interviewed all the students and the girl admits she lied. Eventually she leaves and serves the Lord at her church and does nto want ot face the growth offered by working through her problems at our ministry.
Her youth minister then arrives. He spends three days at our facility and never tries to talk to our staff, tries to cause division in the student team, and asks irrelevant and unethical questions of the students (some leader he is). Instead of addressing the issue of lying to the student, the youth pastor then becomes a gossip block for her (hmm . . . real biblical) empowers her actions by supporting her behavior.
So, we have a leader in a youth group who feels called to ministry and missions but cannot face the challenge of real ministry and lies and does nto handle conflict appropriately . . . some leader we have. Then we have a youth minister who empowers his students attitude and lies and does not arrive with an open perspective . . . some leader he is.
So, what is the problem?
1) We have low expectation.
Because of this incident, our sponsoring organization sent us a letter with some suggested changes, including only allowing the students to work "entry level" jobs. All the organization wants is for the students to have a good time. No concern for growth or leadership, despite the fact that these will be our next generation church.
Our organization refuses to believe that and sufferers for it. 16,17, and 18 year olds plan our outreach events. I and another 21 year old run the missions aspect of the organization and make most of the important decisions about its operations. All the students are given the opportunity to make decision and lead. We want them to lead, fail, learn, and grow.
Our expectation is that they are adults, are capable of handling adult tasks, and will need to do so in the close future. We set a high bar and teh students reach it . . . they leave changed . . . permanently.
But what do our youth groups do? As Exhibit A shows, all the leadership position really was was a popularity contest. The youth leader was an immature young man who thought youth is all about having fun and it fully unaware of the awesome responsibility that God has given him.
In effect, our youth groups demand dumbness from our youth. When they show initiative, they are told to settle down because they might disrupt someone or because an adult needs to make the decision and when they need leadership, we give them people who do not represent something to grow up to, but rather someone to plateau with.
That is one of our problems.
Another is the lack of responsibility . . . or care. Each of our students spend times in different ministry positions learning about another aspect of ministry and about the responsibilities associated with that aspect. Exhibit A was here two weeks and spent both on the easiest and funnest aspect and couldn’t stand it . . . yet she wanted to go into ministry.
So I ask . . . what ministry? If you cannot accept responsibility for your lies or cannot handle the responsibilities of harder and less glamorous parts of ministry . . . then what make you thinks you can even handle ministry?
For too long now, our parents have been trying to make an easier life for their children instead of making a better life. Youth have grown up in front of the TV and can only know to complain when responsibility with the possibility of success of failure is placed on their shoulder. Their parents have defended them through everything so that they are never wrong.
For most, by age 18 they know it all and are perfect . . . where is the responsibility?
Why are our youth groups shallow, full of apathetic, unconcerned teens (not even sure if the term Christian is appropriate)? Because we insist that they are ok as they are instead of encouraging them to learn, grow, and take ownership. Because we insist that we hold their responsibility, even their personal responsibility, because it might be too much for them.
The church is fast becoming plooted with heartless youth who go through the motions as eloquently as Catholics? At the slightest sign of growth or a challenge, they shrink to a hole to reside as hermits, forever dependent on that life line to the person who will save them . . . unfortunately, that life line may also strange them.