Pursuing Maturity and its Challenges - Shaping Ministry to Youth, Young Adults, and Their Families,
Finally... the last post in this series.
This is the last entry for this series on what we hope will shape our church ministry to young people - roughly 12-18 years old - along with their families. I’ve been sketching the 9 “vision pillars” on which we hope our ministry will be built. Many of the pillars should be perfectly agreeable to any Christian looking to ground any ministry on biblical principles... at least in bullet-point form. However, I suspect that as one understands what we mean by the various points, distinctives will become apparent. I hope that’s been part of the effect of reading the previous posts. Perhaps the most glaring distinctive of what we hope will shape our ministry has to do with simple mindset and expectations regarding young people. We’d like to see our youth and young adults...
...Pursuing Maturity and its Challenges: We want to call young people and their parents and the church to flee youthful passions and pursue mature challenges which require God’s empowering.
“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1Tim.4:12).
“...When I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1Cor.13:11).
“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2Tim.2:22).
The fact is that there are such things as “childish ways” and “youthful passions.” Life lived in light of the gospel tries to recognize them, gives them up, turns away from them, and pursues the challenging life of righteousness, faith, love, and peace - all motivated by the extraordinary reality that Jesus has already attained it allon behalf of his people! Part of what it means to mature as a Christian is to think of other people before oneself and so set them an example in speech, and conduct, love, faith, and purity - all with freedom to fail, knowing that only Jesus is the perfect example of his own standards!
When the young Christians of Christ Redeemer Church are despised, when they are looked over and treated as if they aren’t even in the room, when they are told that they have nothing to contribute, when they are expected to be rebellious, irresponsible, foolish, and incompetent, etc., we want them to refuse to be so despised. Instead of letting that contempt rest on them, shaping their self-impressions, dictating their conduct, we want them to remember the gospel, and, in turn, to “set the believers an example” in godliness. Let no one despise you... by demonstrating maturity which is unworthy of such contempt.
As I’ve mentioned, we want to cultivate thinking (and subsequent conduct) that sees teens not so much as “adolescents,” but as “apprentices” or “young adults.” Rather than embrace the spirit of John Mellancamp’s “Hold on to 16 as long as you can!” we want to accept teens as young adults, learning how to be mature adults. They are, in some sense, “interns” learning the ropes of a new career called “adulthood.” In fact, the concept of adolescence is a relatively recent cultural phenomenon. We’d like to recognize that, pick up on biblical categories (infant... child... adult [young and old]) and press back a bit on the idea that teens must, by virtue of their being teens, must be irresponsible consumers with nothing to contribute.
Brett Harris, writing as a 19 year old, says “History demonstrates that we are far more capable than we think we are. Our failure to realize substantial achievement at early ages is due, not to any innate inadequacies on our part, but rather to our social conditioning...”
Psychologist Robert Ebstein says that with young people “Isolated from adults and wrongly treated like children, it is no wonder that some teens behave, by adult standards, recklessly or irresponsibly. He goes on to say that “Fortunately, we also know from extensive research both in the U.S. and elsewhere that when we treat teens like adults, they almost immediately rise to the challenge. We need to replace the myth of the immature teen brain with a frank look... at the truly extraordinary potential of our own young people today” (The Myth of the Teen Brain).
God, help us! Open our eyes to see that in Christ we “have been cleansed from [our] former sins” (2Pe.1:9). Remembering your grace, then, help us to advance in “virtue... knowledge... self-control... steadfastness... godliness... brotherly affection... [and] love” (2Pe.1:5-7)!