As followers of Jesus we are in the world, but not of the world (John 17:14-18)We are a part of this world, this culture, and cannot be separated from it – it is the water we swim in. At the same time, we belong to Jesus and we are a part of His Kingdom, which is not of this world.
If in our kids’ or youth ministry (or adult ministry for that matter!) we are trying to separate people from world and protect them with platitudes, Christian circles and discussing only in-house issues we are not serving them well or helping them grow to maturity in Christ. It will not go well for them when they encounter the real world or hardship! Further, it is not going to help them connect with people that have not been a part of the Christian subculture. It is not ultimately going to help their own faith or someone else’s faith.
Without realizing it our ministries we often encourage kids/youth to lead a double life – one life at church/youth group and another life at home, school and in their neighbourhoods. We encourage this advertently or inadvertently by only celebrating what happens in our ministry not in the community, by encouraging kids/youth to only hang-out with Christians, by talking about issues that are irrelevant to the rest of the world, by encouraging them to miss out on other events/sports for the sake of the ministry, by labelling certain things “bad” without nuance or discussion etc. What if instead we celebrated kids/youth being the light in the world and equipped them to live their faith everyday, everywhere?
Here is my hope: We would be leaders, mentors and parents that support and equip our youth/kids to know how to live in the real world, prepared for complexities and challenges. Often kids/youth are in better positions than us to join God’s work in the world. They are a part of the culture and have lots of connections in their neighbourhoods. IF they have been prepared to recognize God’s work around them and have been given the tools and encouragement to engage thoughtfully with the real world, watch out world! We’ll see them join God’s transformative work in the places where they live, work, study and play.
My prayer is our youth/kids would… • be in the world and know how to reflect Jesus in the world. • be in the world, but know how to think rightly about what is going on. They’d be able to discern what is reflecting the messed up, distorted part of our fallen world and what is reflecting God’s goodness in the world. • be in the world, but asking the tough questions. • be in the world, knowing their deepest, truest identity is as a child of God. • be in the world as God’s light in places where they live, work, study and play.
Let me give one example of how we can equip kids/youth with tools to do this. One big area that can lend itself to these conversations is media. It is estimate that teens spend an average of 9 hours/day on media!
In talking to kids/youth about this I’ve stolen a line from Walt Mueller and talked about “using your head to guard your heart” (Here’s a great resource from him.) Rather than mindlessly absorbing the messages coming at us, we talk about stopping and examining the messages coming to us in ads, songs, TV shows, movies, tweets, Instagram pictures, facebook feeds, YouTube video, snapchat… and compare it to God and God’s ways.
Look at an ad, YouTube video or song together and talk about it. Ask these questions: 1. What’s the main message/topic? 2. How does the video/song/post/media make the person watching it feel? 3. Are they trying to make you feel, act, think, talk or live a certain way? What are they suggesting? 4. Are they suggesting a certain way to happiness/fulfilment? 5. How’s that line-up with who you are? 6. How’s the line-up with who God is and God’s best? You could add more questions.
A song that is getting old now (2004), but it helpful, is “Cult of Cool” by the O.C. Supertones. It is a Christian song talking about not letting consumerism suck you in and make you believe its lies. Playing this song and giving kids/youth the lyrics can lead to an interesting discussion! (See the lyrics here)
Friends, leaders, parents – help kids and youth be thoughtful engagers in this world! We believe God is using kids/youth to join Him in changing neighbourhoods!
-Renée @r_embree #1neighbourhood