Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
February 9, 2009
Spend time with teens before the real healing can begin
Our Young Church
By ROY PETITFILS
A few weeks ago as I was not so carefully easing all of my 280 pounds into a favourite patio chair, I hear “cuh-dank!” the sound of an iron spring snapping like a frozen green bean.
They just don’t make wrought iron like they used to.
Mind you, I’ve sent more plastic chairs to the Rubbermaid graveyard than I can count. And, I would be less than honest if I told you that fewer than five restaurant owners have, after sizing me up, protected their furniture investment by offering me a “more comfortable” chair.
But wrought iron? C’mon! What’s next? Cypress beams?
SHOCK AND DISMAY
And you might imagine my humiliation as I looked up and saw my three year old son, looking down upon his “hero,” legs up, flat backed, Diet Dr. Pepper dripping from his ears grasping the arm of a once lifetime chair, now laid to waste.
His look of shock and disappointment reminded me of the day he learned that his nursing days were over.
Not a father’s proudest moment.
And it won’t be my last.
A day will come when my little boy realizes that his dad, mom and other adults he admires are as broken as his daddy’s once invincible chair.
This realization — that people are not perfect, life’s not easy and the world is not as it “should be” — left untended, leaves many young people disillusioned and searching.
Today, this search looks less like docile, polite and respectful students mining the wisdom of religious sages, and more like cynical, skeptical and apathetic antagonists prodding the antiquated religious institution.
Reaching out to these young people means meeting them on their turf. Not a coffee shop, or even a sporting event, but the less obvious terrain of their heart, a place where they have been hurt and let down.
Ministering among today’s younger generations is a complex process of helping them to reconcile their idealistic expectations with those people, events and even a God who fall short of meeting them.
This seldom occurs upon the heady heights of ministry mountain, but usually in life’s muddy trenches where hopes are dashed, Santas have become Dads with a midnight sweet tooth and holy people are hurt people who sometimes hurt others.
The formation of a healthy spirituality that accounts for imperfect heroes, sinner saints and a seemingly whimsical God who allows bad things to happen to good people, does not happen accidentally.
A safe place to land
It happens when we become a safe place for young people to vent their anger, express their confusion and be disappointed — with us, the Church, their parents, their friends, the world and yes, even God. This does not happen overnight.
It happens in the context of a relationship with one kid at a time. It happens when we spend chunks of time with one on one, building a foundation of trust. It happens when we resolve to be compassionate before we judge, connect before we chastise and help heal before we help instruct.
I’m not recommending that we lay aside our Bibles, reach for the Kleenex and shape otherwise resilient kids into overly dramatic talk show victims.
MAKE FRIENDS WITH GOD
But ignoring this seminal wound, thinking that it will somehow work itself out once we get kids to be about the real business of following Christ, is naïve. It only reinforces their assumption that we are babbling buffoons, more concerned with our ministry agenda than with loving them.
The starting point of every Christian ministry is the courageous, yet ordinary process of making friends with the God we know — and helping others to do the same.
When we start here, we will meet young people wherever they are, regardless of how messy, how dark a place they are in, able to lead them out with renewed hope, willing and eager to share that hope with the world.
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