“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” -Ephesians 2:10
Twenty years in, I’ve found ministry among young people to be,
- Always the same
- Never the same
Youth ministry is never the same, year to year. For one thing, teenagers are the “fault lines of society,” showing us what cultural shifts are underway. Say what you will about “kids these days,” but adolescents are simply trying to make their way in the world adults have given them, with the tools they have been given or not. Young adults feel the friction personally as tectonic plates shift between their childhood and adulthood, and between the world they’ve known and the overwhelming possibilities for their future.
Teenagers are trying to orient themselves to a pandemic present riddled with danger and division, while global environmental disaster or the downfall of “the American way” may or may not be looming in the not-too-distant future. Meanwhile, the lessons of the past are not so much valued as vilified. Youth are inheriting a worldview that may be accurate in some respects, but woefully inadequate to the task of building a foundation for a life of faith, hope and love.
God bless our young people who have not lived through decades of challenges the rest of us have survived and learned from. They haven’t internalized that every single one of us has survived 100% of the bad days we’ve had!
Youth ministry is also always the same. Kara Powell and Brad Griffin are academics, authors, and lifelong youth workers. They see today’s teens as particularly anxious, adaptive, and diverse. But they also believe that the same three big questions speak to today’s youth as they have to previous generations.
- Who am I? (Identity, our view of ourselves)
- Where do I fit? (Belonging, our connection to others)
- What difference can I make? (Purpose, our contribution to the world)
As another school year of youth ministry gets underway, these three questions guide our work. Within these questions, the grace of Jesus gives us an unassailable identity as beloved and baptized children of God. Belonging to Jesus, we belong to one another as the church. Following Jesus, we find ourselves doing good works from a heart to bless, not to boast.
Shalom, Pr. Tom