Your phone rings right after the youth event is over. It’s a mom. She reads to you from the same script again, “My son/daughter is making everything so hard. We’ve been arguing non-stop, and today I found out that he/she has been smoking/drinking/sneaking out/insert rebellious action here.” You console; you offer reassurances, but the bottom line is: teens are rebellious. That is part of their state of being.
They are rebellious because God created them that way. That’s right. God created rebellion. It’s not wrong. It’s not a sin. In fact, it is a necessary part of psychosocial development for teens. They need those rebellious tendencies to separate from their parents and form healthy egos. If it weren’t for our tendency to rebel as teens, we would end up in overly-enmeshed family relationships that would not allow us to function as adults.
The problem is that, in the developed world, teens are exposed to very little that is worthy of rebellion. Their lives are sheltered and comfortable. They do not experience the terror of bombings or the horror of losing half of the people they know to curable diseases or seeing their family members arrested for speaking out against an oppressive political regime. For many, their largest rebellion is dyeing their hair a radical color or dressing in clothes their parents dislike.
That’s why KONY 2012 is so powerful. Regardless of what you think about Invisible Children or the founders, they have done two things quite well. They have raised an issue that is worthy of rebellion and given a method of rebellion that is accomplishable by teens. Students long to rebel, and if we do not give them things worthy of that rebellion, they will express it in whatever trivial ways are presented to them.
This is what I love about youth ministry. We have such powerful tools in our students. There is a passion available to them that is unmatched in any other stage of life, and this passion is paired with this need to rebel.
Here’s the question for the day: how are we guiding that passion and rebellion? What are we lifting up as worthy causes? If the most we can offer is a scavenger hunt or random act of kindness, we have missed an incredible opportunity.
So maybe KONY 2012 is not your bag. Maybe you don’t want to spend all night raising awareness for this cause, but there are so many incredible places to find other worthy causes. I’ll be honest, as United Methodists we do a poor job producing great Bible study material. It’s true. We don’t have a Beth Moore or a David Platt, but we do have incredible justice ministry. We do have ministries engaging with issues worthy of rebellion.
Look at Imagine No Malaria . This organization is working to END malaria in sub-saharan Africa. If you are interested, there’s even a church-wide study (with youth curriculum ) that ties in with INM.
In many of the most tragic world disasters UMCOR is the first relief organization to have feet on the ground and the last to leave. What’s more they have great hands on ways to support through flood buckets, layette kits and more.
Then, there’s the US-2 program and others like it that give young adults an opportunity to serve full-time as missionaries without having to raise their own support.
Don’t let this week pass without considering how you will channel the rebellious passion of your students to make the world look more like heaven and less like the messed up place it used to be.
Jeremy Steele has been working in youth ministry for the past fifteen years and now serves as the Next Generation Minister at Christ United Methodist Church in Mobile, AL. He writes for Group Magazine, RETHINK Church and various publications and organizations. You can find a link to all the places he contributes on his website at JeremyWords.com.