This Sunday, I’ll be setting out from my beloved Justin building to be a guest speaker at The Gathering for the 9:30 and 11:00 services! The current series at The Gathering, called All Our Kids, focuses on the way that we as Christians are called to love and serve and protect not just the children in our family, or the children who look like the children in our family, or the children who are cute and well-behaved, but all children.
Including the 12 to 17-year-old ones. Yeah. We’re called to love all our kids, even when they aren’t cute anymore. Even when they aren’t as moldable anymore, even when they scream that they hate us and slam the door in our face. Lance and I were talking about this weekend and he pointed out this unusual phenomenon: we want to love our children — we want to shape our teenagers.
Our children are a gift to be celebrated — our teenagers are a risk to be managed.
We are delighted with all that our children could become — we are terrified of all that our teenagers could become.
We think of our teenagers as dangerous. Ministry, instead of being about uplifting and empowering, becomes about making sure they don’t do this or that and convincing them not to leave. We, as the church, relegate ministry, and even relationships, with teenagers to the professionals (like me). We outsource youth ministry to the young and the brave. But people who aren’t in ministry to teenagers, because they don’t think they could handle it, aren’t just mistaken, they’re missing out.
Because teenagers are awesome. Teenagers are honest without apology, have no patience for hypocrisy, and see the world not as it is, but what it could be. They feel things in their whole heart, value friendship, and belonging, and are trying to shape what it means to really live in light of their beliefs. They do not accept half-truths or easy answers.
They also don’t make it easy on the adults around them. Like all children, teenagers expect the adults around them to have it all figured out, to have all the answers, to always know what to do. Unlike younger children though, teenagers have learned enough to realize when we don’t live up to that expectation. Likewise, we take our teenagers, who look and sound like adults, and expect them to be totally grown-up. We can’t understand when they don’t brush their teeth, or have temper tantrums, or forget their homework.
I’ll be talking to The Gathering about teenagers, in this church, and in our world, and some of the ways that God works in us by calling us to care for them. I’ll be talking about the ways the honesty and intensity of teenagers reveal deep needs still present in all of us, and how it is, in Christ, we are called to respond to those who are still our kids.
I’m grateful for the opportunity and I hope you’ll join me this weekend!
Director of Youth Ministries