Do Not Say I Am Only A Child

I love teenagers.

Now before you call the authorities, please allow me to explain.

I was a high school teacher for 7 years and worked in youth ministry as a volunteer, part-time staff member and full-time staff member for 15 years. I didn’t hate what I did either. I know most people cannot understand this at all, but the truth remains: I love teenagers. There is something about adolescence that is fascinating to me, and there is something inside of me that believes that introducing young people to Christ and the mission of the kingdom while they are in middle school and high school is not only important, but critical.

I am now 42 years old and I just do not have the energy to work full-time with youth anymore. I can’t ride the roller coasters non stop for 3 hours like I used to; I can’t pull the all-nighters that the lock-ins require like I used to; I can’t eat pizza 4 times a week like I used to. In short, I can’t keep up with the pace that youth ministry demands. But I still love teenagers. I love talking with youth directors about what they are doing with their youth. I just spent some time with a new friend named Jeremy yesterday in Mobile who is working with youth at his church. We talked about the direction that church ministry is headed, especially as it pertains to discipleship and mission with emphasis upon emerging generations. Although I have not read the book yet, my friend mentioned Phyllis Tickle’s new book The Great Emergence as a solid reference for where he sees us heading.

I took a couple of seminary courses on youth ministry and have read some great books as well. I know about postmodern youth ministry; family-based youth ministry; contemplative youth ministry; purpose driven youth ministry; youth ministry that is on a quest for passion; justice centered youth ministry; youth who are hurting; and the not-so-secret finding about youth ministry. I have attended the Youth Specialties Conferences, listened to the simplyyouthministry podcast; subscribed to YouthWorker Journal and Group magazines; and purchased youth oriented videos and curriculum from I have lived in the youth ministry sub culture for many years. And I did it because I love teenagers and want to help them encounter Christ in a personal and amazing way in their lives.

Now that I am a “big church pastor” I work hard to figure out ways to stay connected with the youth of the church and the community. Fortunately, the youth of SUMC consider the gathering that I lead – The Freedom Service – to be their service. This gives me ample opportunity to share Christ with them in the context of worship. I also have the privilege of serving at a church that has an exceptional youth ministry team beginning with the youth director and assistant youth director – two of the best I’ve known. I often have opportunities to connect with the youth through our youth ministry programs.

In the Scriptures, God had no problem calling young people to serve Him. I think of Joseph and David, Daniel and his band of rebels, Jeremiah, Mary the mother of Jesus and young Timothy just to name a few.

Adolescence is a fairly new phenomenon. In Jewish culture, once a young man or woman reached 13 they were considered an adult. The modern world has decided that we need to offer young people a bit more time to “mature” and “enjoy their youth” before they enter in to the “real world.”

So my question then is this: are we doing it right? Are our youth ministries and youth programs effective in molding and shaping our young people to be the spiritual leaders of the future? Is there more that we need to be doing as the Church to reach, teach and send the young people that we are charged with building up spiritually? I’d love to hear from youth, youth directors, pastors and anyone who, like me, loves teenagers. What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong? What can we do differently?

If Josh McDowell is right, this may very well be The Last Christian Generation. I’m not prepared to accept that. I love teenagers, and I know many of you do as well. What is God calling us to do in these crucial days to prepare the way for an outpouring of His Spirit on this emerging generation?


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