Monday, April 6, 2009

Teens will listen

Reflecting back, I'm thinking to myself whoa what i ride I've been on.
Teen ministry? I remember the first time, i was at a church where i was doing this distance ministry school thing with a bunch of other young adults. Here was a church that was involved in many different ministries or you could say, people that went to the church were involved in a great diversity of ministries and unfortunately many weren't really connected except on the bulletins (and at fundraising banquets for the church). In otherwords if certain people left, then so did that ministry (no connection). Anyways we were required to do 12hrs or so ministry each week in different areas, i had signed up for teen stuff (which i had no real interest in) anyways in was on the first bus trip home after much chaos, some arguments, some hearing the lives of these kids that the Lord absolutely crushed me and my friend that night!
In fact this is the story of every ministry that i have ever been involved in, much reluctance and then a quick burden formed ("so what type of ministry do you feel called to?" uh PEOPLE ministry).
It was through this church and ministry program that I became involved in Jail ministry. It was during this time and over many years that my convictions were strengthening, some just becoming more clear. It was here that i learned about true and false conversion (by watching my so-called converts return over and over again, with no change whatsoever).
I remember being asked to start a young boys class (which initially would mean around 6 kids, maybe, what we would call the jr high) i thought 'no way, what a waste of my time'. I remember after finally going to the Pastor and agreeing, how he was trying to convince me that i should include lots of activities (life skills) with the bible study (weds night) and i attempted to show my disinterest in that (trying to be too polite). Then it STRUCK me, i'll teach them self defense, so i would have them exercise-push-ups, sit-ups, frog jumps, (among other martial Arts specific torture) then we'd practiced (mostly kickboxing moves) self-defense. I had at first called it a type of spiritual warfare.
After a few months, i was convicted by my cop-out and was more and more convinced that this wasn't necessary and they could be better served differently, so i threw that out (explaining to the kids my reasons). I can't remember the actual time frame that i had, except when i did all the EXTRA stuff i would continuously have to cut short the teaching time. Well i gave them homework (primarily in the gospels) they had to read 5chapters and write at least a paragraph on each chapter each week (i still have all their papers). At class time we would pray over certain things, then i would ask questions about the chapters they read (they became very familiar with what they read, even correcting each other on things from several weeks ago). At times i also had them prepare a short sermonette to 'preach' before the class (i felt this was a good way for them to apply what they read). Well they excelled as far as the class goes, and from their mouths they really enjoyed it (so did I). This while i was still a wild-eyed pentecostal :) .
Yet my trust in the constraining and convincing work of the Spirit was sealed! In many different juvenile jail settings I've had times where they gave me freedom (time-wise) and these young people sat quietly listening to over an hour of preaching (mind you the same knuckle-headed media zombies that we ARE TOLD by the experts that given their attention spans, you just can't do that anymore) Another thing if you think you have to really 'dumb it down' and cut it half your message because you're teaching inner-city kids, that's called at best stereotyping but it might well be racism (usually that attitude is found in people who come from the suburbs to help the inner-city, please lose that 'those people' thinking before you come).
Yet there has been many temptations in the past and i've learned a lot about people through it, i've watched teens 'get down and dirty' in youth group settings because some Youth Pastor thought it would be cool to include 'clean' secular music, the same always happens with 'crossover' music as well (the wicked ignore the lyrics placed over their popular songs).
I know how easy it is to think, i could 'use' my breakdancing or something and really get their attention, i could use my humor, i could use martial arts and do it all 'for the Lord'. I remember confronting one youth pastor and then our head pastor, then we had a meeting where it pretty much ended with the associate pastor telling me and a friend; 'well i'm willing to try ANYTHING once!'
As a matter of conscience i stopped doing some of that because it brought VERY bad results, teen girls after youth group coming and flirting with me, of this i had much to repent of because me attitude was nothing but pride when i was dancing. Have there been times that haven't been like that? Yeah just friends getting together for fun stuff, where it was just us enjoying this art.
Yet i can't tell you the number of people that have attempted even after I've explained such, how much MORE effective i could be IF ONLY i used these things. Even now someones thinking (and you didn't get this from scripture by the way) 'but you should use your gifts for God', quite ridiculous, of course not that foreign to a culture that thinks 'real' gifting is about having 'talent'. Can you sing?, Dance?, Draw?, play Football?, play Basketball? wow then THAT'S your gift, use it no matter what people say, well that's the age we live in, yet what good are you when you're injured (guess you don't have any gifts now?). There are many 'talented' people in the church, that are 'gifted' in completely unrelated areas and this is where the attention needs to be focused. If i was to follow what i only saw talent in, then i would have been a 'Christian' Martial Arts actor/teacher, that played professional soccer, while designing dress clothes (yes i designed and had made 2 different sets of outfits for proms, plus notebook with many other designs), creating business, greeting, and other graphic programs for people while i occasionally visit a church on Sundays! More than not, i saw many of those things as temptations and distractions to what was really important! If you give people this type of advice, please STOP it's not helpful!
Yet it's amazing the types of offers i've heard about or had suggested to me, people telling me they could bring puppets, or a demonstration they learned, or some talent they have, and even one guy asked if they would allow motorcycles in to REALLY impress them. This again is typical, and my point isn't to say that all those forms of ministry are completely worthless, yet most of the time their premise is. Get this, you do NOT have a special type of ministry that is NEEDED by kid, teens, inner-city or suburban people! The problem is not their offer, it's that many times people have been convinced that these things are actually vital, or that they actually ADD to ministry. This is a problem when you consider the work of the Spirit and the implication that His work is somehow hindered by our cultural variables. If you want to argue, 'this works best for me' then keep it there, but let not that type of thinking be brought as some standard upon the people of God. It is those who are convinced that these 'types' of ministries are needed especially among youth, that can't conceive how preaching could ever be effective. I've had these offers after sharing testimony of how well the youth are listening.... and it's like their thinking 'Yeah O.K. but i should offer my unique services this will really help' so they offer and they might as well be saying 'so what you are doing is actually working and it's scriptural, well i have an idea why don't i bring in my thing that won't have half the content a sermon could, but i think it might work?!' No thanks! Preacher if you've been called to preach, if you've been called to teach then let nothing affect or hinder your resolve to trust in the infallibility and sufficiency of the scripture as you minister! You don't have to go 'down to their level', if you do you'll only encourage the lack of growth that's already present and you'll discourage those who are seeking to be challenged.

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