Youth, discovery and spiritual gifts: Disconnected (Part 3)


<— Click here for Part 2 Click here for Part 4 —>
Assisting Youth to discover their spiritual gifts and enrolling them to serve in: Introduction (Part 1)

The youth as functional members of the Body of Christ. You even tried talking to them lately? Click image to enlarge.

Our society has elevated the perceived value of children far beyond any other time in history. We have Bill of Rights protecting them, conventions glorifying them, laws defending them and negatively, parents idolising them.

Frank Furedi in his book Paranoid Parenting illustrates that there is very little that parents will not do to ensure that their children have every opportunity in life. In order to deliver these opportunities parents reduce responsibilities and expectations that are placed on their kids while simultaneously increasing supervision of them and lavishing stimulus to them. (Furedi, 2001) “The challenge of our society is to give children greater respect and responsibility to enable them to become capable and sophisticated adults.” [emphasis added] (Donahoo 2005:4)

This culture of pandering to the every want of juveniles has become entrenched in modern church life too: Sunday school programmes which are designed primarily to entertain, worship services which resemble rock concerts and designated youth pastors who are charged to relate and tolerate rather than challenge. Church culture is increasingly a mirror image of current world trends and philosophies.

And yet there’s clearly something missing. All the programmes, resources and people seem to be losing the battle. The church is not so much fighting to attract youth as it is fighting to retain them once they cross over to adulthood. (The National Study of Youth and Religion 2005)

The Christian walk is characterised by service to others (Jas 1:27) and the denial of self (Mt 16:24). By pandering to the youth the church has set a false expectation of what Christian life actually looks like. There is a clear disconnect between a healthy expectation of what the youth should offer the church and their current experience in it.

<— Click here for Part 2 Click here for Part 4 —>

It is the church’s responsibility to equip those who are called out and to develop them as functional members of the Body of Christ. What should this look like?

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6 thoughts on “Youth, discovery and spiritual gifts: Disconnected (Part 3)

  1. At various points in my life I was involved with the Anglican Young Peoples Association (AYPA). And yes, it defined “youth” as under 35, with senior branches over 16, and junior branches under 16. It had four principles or aims: worship, work, fellowship, edfication.

    In one parish I was involved in they had a youth worker, who arranged youth programmes, and the youth who came to them were just as you describe. The youth worker left and wasn’t replaced. We called the youth together, such of them as were interested, and said there were two kinds of church youth group. The first was the church “doing something for the youth”, the second was “the youth of the church doign something”. We siad that in the past it was the first kind, but the youth worker had gone. Did they want the second kind. They said “Does that mean we have to come every week?” We said, no, the first kind is something you “come to”. This isn’t something you “come to”, it’s something you do.

    They agreed to give it a go, and within a couple of years it was flourishing. They were high school kids, but the primary school kids soon wanted one of their own too. So they did. They had a committee, arranged their programmes, and sometimes even led services in church (10-11 year olds). If you give the youth of the church an opportunity to do something, they usually will.

    It doesn’t mean everything was perfect. They sometimes got very introspective about spiritual gifts instead of seeing that gifts were meant for service. They made lots of mistakes, but I think they learnt from their mistakes too.

  2. “The Christian walk is characterised by service to others (Jas 1:27) and the denial of self (Mt 16:24). By pandering to the youth the church has set a false expectation of what Christian life actually looks like. There is a clear disconnect between a healthy expectation of what the youth should offer the church and their current experience in it.”

    —> Very true and insightful – quotable stuff that.

  3. Young man, are you sure you’re old enough to be writing blog posts?

    Speaking very generally, the Church does not need trendiness to thrive. Some don’t seem able to believe this.

    Personally, I believe the priesthood of believers needs to extend right down to the children.

    • Hi Thomas,

      My rapidly receding hairline is a constant reminder of the fleetingness of youth.

      I agree with the statement, “Speaking very generally, the Church does not need trendiness to thrive. Some don’t seem able to believe this.”

      I’m struggling through, “the priesthood of believers needs to extend right down to the children.”

      Thanks for commenting.

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