Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Beating the Teen Rebellion Stereotype

I have been meditating on a really key psalm this week. It is Psalm 78. It occurs in the middle of the psalter near the beginning of Book 3. Unfortunately, its obscure location does not afford it the press that I think that it should get. This psalm contains some great scriptural challenge for youth ministry and should therefore be adorning every youth worker's office wall, earmarked in every youth worker's Bible, and posted in every youth worker's blog (thus my post :) ).

The psalm is a maskil -- that is an instructional psalm, based heavily in the form and function of the proverbs. It contains a typical proverbial opening call for the reader's undivided attention. (See the "my son" speeches in Proverbs 1-9) In the next 8 verses, it describes in beautiful Hebrew poetry, the great commission for every adult with any contact with young people (parent, teacher, guidance counselor, pastor, mentor, etc.). May I share some observations with you?
  1. I have been given something of value to say to young people. (2-3)
  2. I must engage young people within the culture so "that the next generation may know". (4-6)
  3. I must encourage them to be involved in youth ministry too. (6)
  4. Trust is the cure for stubbornness and rebellion. (7-8)

I have been meditating on the the last verse (8) of this section. My goal as a youth minister (or as a parent, teacher, etc.) is to get the young people, that God has entrusted to me, to not repeat the failures (my failures) of the past. The measure of success in youth ministry ought to be number of ah-ha moments in our young people's life and not number of group meetings attended. Success should be marked out in terms of pitfalls avoided rather than number of events planned or teens in attendance.

The problem with measuring with these markers of success is that they are out of our control. We can't make our teens listen. We can't make the student learn. In the terms of the psalmist, we can't make their hearts loyal or their spirits faithful. The best that we can do is to model loyalty and faithfulness that comes out in front of the teens. The second best thing that we can do is to keep telling them the parables, and dark sayings that our fathers (mothers, teachers, etc.) told us. The measure of success is reproduction of well-adjusted, Godly young people to the third and fourth generation.

I am committed to helping teens break the rebellion stereotype by showing them how to live in submission to God's authority and to share with them the joys of God's wondrous work in my life. Are you committed to do the same? E-mail me your response, your support, and your own commitments.

For the love of God (and of teens),

Pastor Mike