Teens & Faith: Hard questions about youth ministry

It's not easy to work with youth in the church, but some are gifted for it. We all need to share our experience and work together for the success of the Church.

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Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States

Seeking to follow where God leads, and thankful that grace covers my multitude of errors.

Monday, February 27, 2006

How much is too much?

Yesterday was Sunday. Two days ago I learned that my grandmother had had a serious stroke and wasn't expected to live long. In my Sr. High Sunday school class I was teaching about what Jesus had to say about families/honoring mother & father. Jesus certainly was consist in his teachings, but the family thing might appear to be inconsistent if you aren't willing to look deeper. I used my real time problem regarding my grandmother as an example of what I should do. I live 1500 miles from my extended family. If my dad had called to say, "We need you to come home now" on Saturday, what should I have done? In Matthew 8:20-21 Jesus says to let the dead bury their dead and follow Him. Yikes. So would I have missed my Sunday ministries in order to go home to Ohio? That was the question I wrestled with to provide an example for the students. It was tough. I didn't break down or anything. (I did that during the 8am worship.) I didn't accuse anyone of anything. We just tried to reason it out.

What do you think? Was that appropriate?

Friday, February 24, 2006

What are we teaching our students?

With a title like this, it could take several posts to cover the whole idea well. For today I merely want to think about the message our students get from us about who God is and what the point of faith is. (That could still take several posts, I know.)

I was reading an interview of Steve Chalke on the website for The Wittenburg Door magazine in which he says, "I reached a stage where I felt that so much of the theology I grew up with just didn't relate to my life at all. It just condemned me all the time, I felt guilty and useless, which I think in my teens or my twenties I kind of accepted. But I reached the point where I thought, 'No, this is no good because if it's a condemning message that makes people feel bad about themselves then it robs them of hope.' " (www.wittenburgdoor.com/archives/chalke.html) It seems that I have run into a lot of writing lately about negative theology. (Rob Bell as an example.)

Are we perpetuating this problem in our lessons, messages and worship with teens? Could it be that we are creating more people who will choose to walk away from God and Church rather than be subjected to what they see as scare tactics to keep them coming? I would guess that this is probably not the case in most places, but I know it happens; sometimes to the best of us in our worst moments. We need to know that Jesus is the bringer of hope and love, not despair and fear. And we need to know that for ourselves as youth workers so that we can speak it and live it authentically for those we lead. Where do you stand, my friend? We must all examine our lives and beliefs regularly for the unhealthy influences of the world. Take some time this week (why not today?) and look at what messages, verbal and nonverbal, you are conveying to your students, your family and yourself.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Theology of humans

I guess I'm interested in picking a theological fight today. I was reading the 2/21 devotion in the Oswald Chambers classic "My Utmost For His Highest." He is making the point toward the end of the piece that we must not only seek personal holiness which merely keeps us from doing wrong before God, but we must be constantly striving to live and love beyond ourselves. By doing this we finally get at what God wants for us. So far, so good. Then he says, "We have to get rid of this notion - 'Am I of any use?' and make up our minds that we are not, and we may be near the truth." Now I have a problem.

If what he means is that we must not approach things with the attitude that we are equally as important as the Lord in the world, then, yeah, I agree with him. God doesn't really need us for anything. He's the Big Kahuna, right? But the thing is...He chooses for us to be important. God decided that we would be His hands and feet. God said that we are Christ's body on earth. With that in mind, we are crucial to God's plan because that's the way God wants it. As Chambers says at the end of the devotion: "When we are abandoned to God, He works through us all the time." This is oh, so true! Isn't it true, too, that God works on us all in every moment through His prevenient grace? Even those not yet abandoned to God may serve Him and be of use, although that may not be aware of it yet.

When I look at a volunteer who is struggling with their faith, or a teenager on the verge of really claiming Jesus for themselves, I know that we are all of use to God. Insteading of allowing it to go to our heads, we simply need to remember to thank God that we could be a part of such holy work.