Let’s take a trip back to the year 2000. Things were different then. AOL was still the best way to get on the internet, one could get through airport security without taking off their shoes and there was no such thing as a smart phone. In the latter half of the year 2000, I was a senior in high school. Things for me were difficult at home, I was trying to figure out what exactly I was suppose to do after high school and was overall just in a strange place.
I was involved in youth group and my church. It was there God cultivated growth in my spiritual walk. He did this through time in the Word, my friends who loved Jesus and loving, caring adults. I want to spend some time on that last one: loving, caring adults. Adults who loved Jesus and poured into me with time, love and wisdom. My youth pastor Henry and my small group leader Michael were those guys for me.
These men invested a ton of time into me and I just don’t mean at church.
These men went out of their way to connect with me outside of church. During my senior year of high school, after every Wednesday night youth group, my youth pastor would take myself and two other guys out to get chicken fingers and fries. EVERY WEEK for a YEAR! My entire junior and senior year I would hang out at my small group leader’s house with his family. He invited me in to be a part. These men invested in my life. I knew if I had a problem they would be there. If I needed to talk, they would be there. If I just wanted to hang out, they would be there.
These men were there. Their example has taught me the importance of just being there for others. They showed me Jesus in practical and impractical ways. Both my youth pastor and small group leader did a lot of teaching. The teaching I remember most from both of them was not the things taught in youth group or small group. The best things they did for me was just being there. Showing up. Being available. Showing me Jesus in the way they lived their lives.
Many students are a lot like me when I was in youth group 15 years ago. There is still a need for positive adults who love Jesus to be available and show the students Christ’s love. They yearn for adults who will listen, love, and be available to them. It can be as simple as having a conversation and building a relationship with a student on Sunday. We all can do that to some capacity.
God used the men who poured into me to set the trajectory of my life toward loving Jesus. God used them to literally change my life. I could have gone a tone of different directions after high school, but the path these men help set put me on the path of loving Jesus.
By Andy Herndon
Things aren’t what they use to be. It’s a common refrain we hear from time to time. Times are always changing. Advancements in transportation, communication and information technology have made the world a much smaller place.
This week we’re talking about the influence of the media on our teens. This is not a new concept. The influence of media, art and entertainment has for a long time had an influence on culture. Whether the newspaper, theater or TV, they influence us. This isn’t exclusive to the 20th century. William Shakespeare’s work had such a great influence on the culture of the English speaking work it’s believed he invented over 1700 of our common words by changing nouns into verbs, changing verbs into adjectives, connecting words never before used together, adding prefixes and suffixes, and devising words wholly original. (www.shakespeare-online.com/biography/wordsinvented.html)
Knowing that media and art has always influenced us and our culture, it’s no surprise that the same is true of today. There has been a shift though in the last 10 years as to how art, entertainment and media influences us and our teens.
Enter the smart phone.
Now I want to be clear here. This is not a call to abandon your iPhone in exchange for landlines or to completely cut ourselves off from media, art and entertainment. But the advent of the smart phone has brought media into our pockets. Children to senior adults have changed the way they consume media.
What does this mean for our teenagers? From the moment they wake until they fall asleep they are constantly connected. But at what cost? Though I myself very much enjoying the benefits of technology, I’ve come to the realization that I am often too dependent on it. Much is the same for our students, but not in the way you think. This generation appears to be the most connected in history , yet they are very much alone. The world of media has given them a false sense of connection and community. That’s not to say one can not find connection and community online. Though online community can be a supplement to true community, it can’t take the place of it. Much like a vitamin supplement with a balanced healthy diet can enhance your health, no one would ever live off of vitamin supplements alone.
So what do we do as a church to come alongside our students? There is no definite answer. The answer is not opening a snapchat account and start live tweeting our every movement. Friendships and relationships outside of Facebook force us to be vulnerable. This is scary for a teenager or an adult. What we can do is pray and be available for our students. Show them the love of Christ in the community of the church in real life. We can use social media to invite our teens to engage in true community. I would encourage you to find ways to encourage students using technology such as social media. Share those ways with others and use social media as a tool for encouragement.
By Andy Herndon
So right off the bat many of you are probably thinking that this post is Andy trying to link Mickey Mouse and Disney to some spiritual concept in the Bible. You all know me too well, but that is not what this post is about. I want to talk about the church and youth ministry.
The church is made up of so many different elements. Different people, ages, backgrounds, and ministries; the church is a melting pot to say the least. There is a desire in many churches to reach those who do not know Jesus and to let Jesus change their lives. This includes reaching teenagers who are at a formative time in their lives. Often, the decisions that are made during this time will affect the trajectory of the rest of a teen’s life.
Out of a desire to reach teens within the church and those on the outside, churches began youth ministries in the 1950s. Much like children or senior ministries, youth ministry was designed to reach that specific age group with relevant teaching, activities and meetings. Since that time youth ministry has taken off, and can be found in the majority of evangelical churches today.
There has been a trend in youth ministry over the years though. Youth ministries often grow large and can look very different than the church to which they belong. Often times, for many teens, the weekly youth group meeting is the only “church” they ever attend. Over time the youth ministry and the church become like a one-eared Mickey Mouse: it’s a ministry that the church supports with volunteers, space, and resources, but it’s still separate. Teens don’t get to see the family of God together, gathered to connect, grow and serve. The rest of the church loses out on an opportunity to pour the Gospel into the life of a student.
My heart as a youth pastor is to move teens into fellowship within the local church as they grow closer to Christ. The people within the church have so much they can offer to teens, such as knowledge, wisdom, experience, a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. Teens offer vitality, energy, new perspective and are the future of the church. We need each other.
More than ever, teenagers need positive adult role models who love and follow Jesus. What does it look like when the church connects teens to Christ, grows with them in maturity in Christ, and serves with them? Over the next few weeks I want to explore what it looks like for the church to engage teens in and out of the church.