I spent my first year in youth ministry questioning “The Call.” Am I supposed to be doing this? Did God really call me to full time ministry? Am I cut out for this? What the heck am I doing here!?!? Rounding the corner of the second half of my second year in full time ministry, I no longer question the call. I thrive in this vocation, not because I’m good at it but because God has given me an insane amount of love and passion for the youth in today’s culture. The first year was spent constructing the skeleton of our ministry, namely the program side of things and building the foundation for relationships and discipleship. Kinks and nuances are still working themselves out, as I suspect they always will in a healthy ministry, but as this fall season of ministry and a new school year kick off, I’m stoked.
God has burdened my heart with this impression that it is time to escape the bonds of safe discipleship and immerse ourselves into relationships steeped in boldness, creativity, and generosity. We will teach students to pray by praying with them (not limited to the church small group setting). We will teach students to read scripture by going through scripture with them… not merely in a teaching setting, but also in the life setting. Discipleship that is not afraid to raise the expectation that loving and living for God means practicing disciplines together.
Furthermore, I am under the belief that youth workers serve as advocates for teens and families. As a student of youth culture, I find myself believing more and more that teenagers may rank as some of the “least of these” in today’s society. Deeply wounded by systemic abandonment, teenagers live in a fast-paced culture filled with pressures and responsibilities, forced to make decisions that, quite honestly, are too much for their cognitive ability.
Case in point: In my first week back to work, in addition to a really fun kick booty event called CRUD WAR SPECTACULAR!, I was confronted by a teenage girl (not currently in our ministry) who is pregnant. Now, I am pro-life for two main reasons: 1) I believe life begins at conception and therefore believe the baby has human rights and 2) teenagers should not be forced to make a decision that is sooooo much bigger than they are even capable of imagining at their age… Studies show that adolescents don’t start truly understanding the consequences of their actions as something that affects their lives until the age of 15 or 16 (i.e. – many teenagers who profess to love their parents greatly will act in a manner of rebellion without realizing that their behavior actually hurts their parents. The connection simply isn’t made yet) (Chap Clark, Hurt). My friend John mentioned the other day that we live in a very pro-sex, anti-pregnancy world. Sex is everywhere (by the way, in college I learned that 1 in 2 people under the age of 18 are having sex and the statistic doesn’t change inside the church) and abortion is quietly encouraged by friends and family who don’t want to deal with the shame and embarrassment of pregnancy (not to mention the financial, emotional, physical responsibility of raising a child) and are furthermore reluctant to choose adoption.
Teens need an advocate. Ideally, parents will serve as the greatest advocates for their adolescents, and many step up to the plate, but all too often mom and dad are too busy, too far removed from parenting, too immersed in their own troubles to realize their teenager lives in a world of hurt and confusion. To be fair, many parents are very in tune with their children, or try hard to be, and still struggle relating to their adolescent’s world – but relating to and advocating for are different entities all together (and probably meant for another post altogether). My prayer is that adults, particularly adults committed to serving youth full time (teachers, youth pastors, coaches, etc.) will grab the hands of teenagers and help them navigate through the minefield of life.
I think I have more to say about this. Stay tuned…