Youth show up and we have snacks ready, videos playing, music on, teaching ready to go, and rooms for small groups. It seems so often that we can have all the pieces all together to run a great program, but this could be the very reason that students don’t encounter Jesus today.
We need to ask ourselves:
Do our students need more entertainment – they have tv’s with over 300 channels.
Do our students need more head knowledge – they are in school for 56 hours a week.
Do our students need more friends – they are connected to thousands through facebook.
So what difference can youth ministry make in the lives of today’s teens. It is simply, it can allow them to understand that it is their turn to breathe. They are no longer simple observers, they are now in this youtube age, reviewers, producers, critics, directors, actors, and observers. They do it all – if they aren’t part of it all in youth ministry, then they feel useless and that it won’t be worth their time.
Let me take you back to the line “THEIR TURN TO BREATHE”.
This focuses on two things:
1) THEIR TURN: the idea that we want to empower students own their own spiritual walk as well as be intentional to reach out and serve others.
2) BREATHE: the idea that a healthy Christ-Follower is one that both inhales (grows spiritually) and exhales (loves and serves others). If we only inhale then we drown. If we only exhale then we will suffocate. It is only through breathing that we live life to the fullest as Christ called for.
So often we make youth ministry about breathing in and where we control the student’s inhaling. But what would it take for us to give up some of our teaching time, to expand dialogue in small groups, give them the time to get into the bible on their own and report back to the group their finds. Have our students learned how to study scripture or have their learned how it applies to their lives?
Students don’t want to simply show up to the program because everything has been created for them or because it entertains them and not even just so they can see friends. Students want something meaningful and impactful. They want to be be part of creating their own spiritual development and growth. The talking head from the front is still important, but not without the influence and learnings from the students leading the way.
As students get passionate about their own spiritual journey then we have to remind them that it isn’t about hiding in a Christian bubble, but the our purpose is to invest into the world. We need to look around us and see where we can bring Jesus. How can we live out love, live out non-judgement, live out peace, and offer hope. Where are are caring for the poor, not just through tokenism, but actually choosing to live simply and give generously. How are we caring for those in jail, those who are orphans or widows. What are we doing to care for the marginalized communities?
Our students needs to be empowered to breath out – to live out the message of Jesus, both in word and action is to exhale.
Now if we simply teach them to exhale, then it becomes all about them and not about Jesus or changed lives. If we teach them it is all about inhaling, then it becomes all about what they can do, instead of what God is doing in them.
Our challenge as parents and youth workers is to not direct or drag our students to where we want them to be, but we need to guide, listen, and empower our youth to experience meaningful spiritual life change and impact through their ability to create, discover, own, lead, and learn.
If youth ministry will make an impact, it will come through allowing our students to breathe.