Last night our youth did another night of 3 Questions, a conversational family program I started this year. (If you’re unfamiliar with the format for 3 Questions, you can read about it [HERE].) One of the questions asked by the dads in the room was, “What about life is too hard for teens and what is too easy?” Nice and vague. Good work, dads. That could go anywhere.
The answer session kept circling through countless rabbit trails and coming back to this question: “What was the question?” The openness of the question had confounded the room; everything in life is too hard. Everything is also too easy. Eventually one of the guys put words to that overlap. “I think it’s because what used to be considered hard in school is just ‘acceptable’ now, but at the same time it’s not as hard.” More, please. “I mean, when my dad was in school, getting a “C” was average. And by average I mean it’s what you were expected to get. Most people got Cs and that was OK. It was average. You can’t get a C anymore; everybody has to get As. The kids want As because their parents want them to get As because the colleges demand As.”
He was right. You can’t get a C anymore, and it’s not even called average anymore. A “C” is now simply an inferior percentage of less than perfect. But my youth pressed his point. The “A” that his father would have fought for no longer really exists; an “A” is an achievable goal if you do all that is expected of you. Two sliding scales are in effect. Society has shifted from recognizing that As & Bs are marks of achievement beyond the ordinary to demanding that As & Bs are the norm. Education has met it halfway, eliminating the concept of a less-than-exceptional “average” and retooling “A” to be a specifically realizable goal. In essence, we’ve watered down effort and achievement at the same time.
Kinda like we do at church.
One of our charges as youthworkers is to equip and train youth in spiritual disciplines. Some of them we even get to train as spiritual leaders. But accountability is tricky around spirituality. How dare you tell my child that their frequent absences affect your view of them as a leader in this group? What do you mean if they can’t come on the leadership retreat they can’t be on leadership? Yes, spirituality is important; that’s why we always try to come when we can.
Ever try to make a hard rule about how many sessions of confirmation a youth is allowed to miss?
The problem in the youth room is that youth & their parents have grown attached to titles and descriptions (follower, disciple, leader) and less attached to practice. The idea of living in response to relationship with God and other followers confounds their desire for a tick-list of expectations to achieve on the way to writing “youth intern” on their list of high school extra-curricular activities.
Every now and then I meet a youth that really, really, wants to follow Jesus. It’s so refreshing. Almost surprising. But so, so many of the youth I meet just want the checklist, like the man who came to Jesus in Mark 10: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Like Jesus, I love them. Really. But I struggle to be like Jesus in those moments. Jesus gently guides the young man toward self-realization and I just want to scream, “You’re coming at it ALL WRONG!” Jesus, on the other hand, gives us a great pattern of response. “You know that one thing you’re not doing? Go do that.”
How do you balance your desire for genuine spiritual growth and discipline for your youth with the drive-thru participation and commitment we often receive from youth and their families?
youthworker :: musician :: friend :: twitter: @elvisfreakshow
www.kevinalton.com :: www.youthworkercircuit.com