I want to take the time to comment on and article written by Mark Howard for The Rooted Blog. I see a theme of mutual need between student ministry and the corporate church body that has been inadvertently skewed beyond recognition.
Across the board, the current state of student ministry in the church is a wide range. Some churches get it and are really reaching the next generation. They are speaking the Gospel in a way teenagers understand and see as legitimate. Other churches (and maybe the majority) are woefully lacking in connecting with the next generation. And I mean woefully! When student worship and teaching can become synonymous with “crazy time”, something has gone awry. In a stage of life when are teens are starved for guidance and direction, do they think church is a place to come just for laughs?
Given the circumstances, it’s no surprise that many youth are restless, insecure, jaded, and desperately searching for meaning to explain all the hurt and suffering they see around them, meaning for their very existence. Sadly, many within the church offer nothing more substantive than the vaporous teachings of the world. In some churches, “youth group” has become synonymous with over-the-top games, entertainment, and shallow teaching. They are told, yes, life here on earth is a mess, but don’t worry, one day you’ll die and go to heaven. There things will be right. In the meantime, want to see how many marshmallows I can stick in my mouth?
(that last quote cracked me up…chubby bunny, chubby bunny…)
Do we really believe the faith of our youth is so pointless that the best God has for them now is a temporary escape from the world on Wednesday night and Sunday morning? This sort of ministry just reinforces a belief in the meaninglessness of this life.
The church should be a lighthouse of hope, contrary to that lie! Life is not meaningless! Amidst the rising teen suicide rate, we should be shouting that there is real hope. That hope is not some mystical belief, but a person; Jesus Christ.
What student ministry needs to focus on is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which Paul says is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe!
I am firmly convinced that what today’s youth need most is the gospel of Christ Jesus the Lord. He is the one in whom the fullness of God is found, and he’s the one in whom we are filled (Col 2:9-10). Moreover, he is the one who gives meaning to this life.
Are we showing teenagers Jesus? Anything else that we turn their attention to is a lesser thing. Jesus is the pinnacle from which our gaze must not move. So how do we see Jesus?
Where is Jesus found? In the worship of his people, the church. As others have said, the way we come to know Jesus is through the means he gave us: Scripture, true Christian fellowship, the sacraments, and prayer. These are the practices that by faith renew their minds in such a way that enables youth to view and live in the world with purpose and meaning as followers of Jesus. These are the practices that by faith force youth from their technologically imposed isolation, discourage their entitlement, and lead them to a spirit of humility and repentance. These are the practices that by faith expose their dependence on Jesus and remind them of their need for grace.
Student ministries must not separate themselves so much from the cooperate body of believers that teenagers do not regularly see the Body of Chirst in action. They need to see adults worship. They need to partake in the Lord supper (and be taught the meaning behind each part). They need to see prayer at work in the corporate setting.
When we segregate the teens so “they can do their own thing”, we send a contradictory message to them about what it means to be part of the body. “Church is just for adults” can be subconsciously learned after years of practice. And we wonder why college and young singles 18-25 are M.I.A. (missing in action) from church? If what is happening is truly important, why would we not want to raise up the next generation to understand and carry on that importance?
This article is a great reminder that the teenagers need the church, and the church needs teenagers. We cannot except the inadvertent teaching that church is just for adults. No, we need to put our focus squarely on Jesus and show that true meaning and purpose is derived from Him, and it is applicable for all ages. Teens need to see and believe that, just as adults need to see and believe that.
Your fellow worker in the field, Adam
Lets finish off with an appropriate song from Sanctus Real: We need each other