Revisiting Passion

Our students are bored with God. Many of them are overchurched, overprogrammed, and homeschooled. I find myself spending most of my time organizing events, sending emails to parents, creating the next season’s calendar, and planning fundraising events for our students to go to Forest Home in February. It all becomes very taxing and after hours of emails/admin, I forget why I fell in love with ministry in the first place. It’s hard not to become angry and bitter when facing an audience of bored, over-churched, flannel board teenagers who desperately need a fresh perspective of Jesus. I love our students, I really do. And it’s not their fault. Not even their parent’s fault. Christianity in America has taken a dangerous route into the land of safety and nice things. To be honest, if I’m around Christian culture too much – I don’t even get excited about following Jesus. Bo-ring. I really feel like the Church in America has robbed Christianity of its radical, life-fulfilling design. And I am both a victim and enforcer.

How I wish we could scrap youth group the way it looks now (at least for the older kids) and completely reconstruct it to actually fulfill its purpose as The Church and Be the Church. I don’t really know what it would look like in Kailua, HI 2007, but I know God is awakening an urgency in this generation. There are, of course, major stumbling blocks – none of which I’m proud to admit – all of which are susceptible to human nature:

  • Parents and kids want fun, exciting, youth programs, and it’s really hard to create a ministry model that actually looks like it values people over programs and fulfills its purpose
  • It’s easier to make a stellar calendar with great events
  • What is the draw for non churched kids? (My personal answer is that non churched teenagers today would much rather observe Christians practicing the Church and being authentic in their faith than going to “Club” once a week)
  • Students are entirely overcommitted, and it’s hard to get students even emotionally and spiritually committed to a vision or small group when they’d much rather show up, get fed, and leave.

I don’t think great events are bad, and I fully believe in doing events/youth group well. I’m not even suggesting we axe the events/programs/etc. – but I find it incredibly alarming when talking to at least five jr. high girls in one week and discover that most of them are bored with God, too busy to pay any attention to God, and really dislike coming to church. I’m thrilled that these girls open up and have even discovered their spiritual identity at this young of an age, but the last thing I want to do is create an environment that further enforces boredom with God. Heck, I’m bored with God right now. I will be the first to confess that the overkill of “church” makes it hard to pursue passionate discipleship. I will also be the first to admit that our students won’t desire God if their leaders are bored too. And this all makes me want to throw my hands up, move to Africa, and Be the Church in a village of people who are dying of AIDs and hungry for nourishment and love.

I realize running away isn’t the answer – but that the fire inside of me is, in fact, an answer to prayer. Last night I confessed that I really wasn’t living up to my potential as a minister. Not that I’m doing a bad job in the “professional sense,” but that our students have been robbed of me too. My “spiritual fervor” has waned, and I spent a lot of time last night confessing to God that I’m missing the boat. I complain of our students being overprogrammed and overcommitted, but fail to look at where I spend most of my own time.

I haven’t been feeling great lately… and I’m beginning to see how this illness might turn from a burden to a blessing. It’s time to sit in bed and crack open the Bible, the books, and rediscover my first love in hopes of casting the vision to build eager disciples. Without eager disciples, youth group can’t be transformed. First things first – the heart, and then the program.

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4 thoughts on “Revisiting Passion

  1. Hello from the cornfields. šŸ™‚ I was interested in your comment- “…non churched teenagers today would much rather observe Christians practicing the Church and being authentic in their faith than going to ‘Club’ once a week.”

    I’ve been doing some high school ministry as well… and I just see the teenagers sooooo hungry to discover who they are, who God is… they are so thirsty for something extraordinary and different. Unfortunately, it seems that many churches settle with aligning youth group with pop-culture. The attitude at church is casual– it is no different than what you find on the street, at school, at the movies, etc. I don’t think this is the right “food” to feed teenagers with. Like you said, they want something different, something meaningful, something other-worldly.

    I think it’s interesting that so many non Christians are fascinated with eastern religions. There is a draw to meditation that reflects modern culture’s thirst for quietude, or solitude amidst the chaos of busyness. While it’s good to explore eastern religions, it’s a shame that so many Christians do not look deeply into their very own tradition- deep into history.

    I think that actually going back into history and presenting the early faith is what might grab teenager’s attention– because it is so different, and so genuine. Candles burning in front of icons painted with warm golden hues, quiet gregorian chant, an aura of reverence and silence, praying ancient prayers of the martyrs, learning about the catacombs or some other history of faith “underground” — now that is different!

    I dunno… lots to consider.

  2. ps. I very much relate to how you feel, and I will keep you in prayer, Annie! I always have to remind myself that the desolations only last for a little while… it is part of the ebb and flow of a trusting faith… He is nearer to you now than before!

  3. anniegroves says:

    Elizabeth,
    Did you know you were the one who taught me that illness might be turned from a burden into a blessing, a time to refresh and rest? It’s always stuck with me. Thank your for your comments – it’s great to hear your thoughts and encouragement. I miss our cabin talks. Still one of the most influential summers of my life šŸ™‚

  4. Brian says:

    Hey Annie,
    First off, I very much enjoy stopping by your blog every now and then. You and your husband both have quite a way with words, and you’re both a pleasure to read. With regard to this particular post, I resonated with much of what you wrote. While I’m not in youth ministry per se, I’ve experienced many of the emotions you expressed in ministering to college students in Oceanside. The apathy and boredom is staggering, and it’s often agonizing trying to help people understand their faith in a way that is authentic, exciting, revolutionary, etc. (you know, all the things that Jesus is that the church isn’t). I particularly related to the second to last paragraph you wrote. Isn’t it crazy how vocational ministry can zap your spiritual fervor without you even realizing it? I also find it interesting how quick I am to point the finger at the students without looking within myself to see how well I’m taking care of myself spiritually. Funny how low we often have to get before we allow God to begin to lift us back up. There is a lot more that I’d like to comment on from this post, but for the sake of brevity I’ll just say that I’m glad to see, judging by your more recent posts, that God in his mercy seems to be restoring your passion, as he is restoring mine as well. Also, couldn’t agree more with your comment about non-Christians wanting to see Christians practicing the church. The challenge for us is to figure out, with God’s help, how to best truly equip the saints (rather than just bringing them together to let them sing and hear a nice heart warming message). Thank you for this post, you articulated many important issues, and the post was both an encouragement and a challenge to me. All the best to you and J.D. in your continued ministry.
    -Brian

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