These kids are smoking joints behind the building and losing their virginity in the basement. Yes, at your church. These wonderful young adults who shine you on about how good God is and then immediately devolve into foul-mouthed promiscuous liars the moment they're out of your sight. Nobody wants to even imagine I'm talking about their kid, but hey— check me out— I'm talking about your kid.
It's Sunday morning. You're hip-deep into your fire and
brimstone sermon. Every teenager in the joint is either sleeping
or talking among themselves. It's Wednesday night. You're
finally getting deep into your discussion of Leviticus chapter
nine. There are ten people in the sanctuary, not a one of them
under thirty-five. It's Friday morning and you're having a
wonderful sunrise prayer service. The congregation is in the
single digits and not one kid is in sight.
I just want to see if I'm getting this right: this is your effective youth program.
And, maintaining that program, its leaders, staff, its process, charter, integrity, budget, it's paperwork— all of that is more important than actually reaching out to these kids.
These kids who are smoking joints behind the building and losing their virginity in the basement. Yes, at your church. Yes, I am talking to you. These wonderful young adults who read scriptures and shine you on about how good God is and then immediately devolve into foul-mouthed promiscuous liars the moment they're out of your sight.
Nobody wants to even imagine I'm talking about their kid, but hey— check me out— I'm talking about your kid.
Rebellion and experimentation (politically correct terms for being foul-mouthed promiscuous liars) is part of adolescence. Of all adolescence. Ok, maybe its not your kid. But maybe it is and maybe you need to put aside, just for the moment, Who You Are and consider even the possibility that I might be talking about your kid.
FYour kid on his way to jail. Your kid about to be infected by HIV. Your kid about to ruin herself with an unplanned pregnancy or, worse, a planned one.
Now, you just hang onto all your highly effective programs. Or, no, wait, maybe set up a committee to study them and issue recommendations at the next Trustee Board meeting at which time…
Four words: wake the hell up.
Our house is on fire. Our sons are taking lives and creating them at a fierce rate. Our daughters dress like prostitutes and have criminally low self-esteem.
We need priorities. We need to know what's important and what is right. Immediately, right this very moment, we ought to be panicked out of our collective skulls.
That means ministry first. That means connect with the kids, listen to the kids, be there for the kids, don't judge the kids, don't betray the kids and maybe, just maybe, they'll someday let their guard down enough to actually let Jesus truly reign in their lives.
Priorities. That means playing street corners rather than choir contests. That means setting aside religious dogma and Church Folkspeak in favor of plain, direct talk.
Priorities: be willing to extend yourself and your personal likes and dislikes in favor of getting the job done.
I've sailed into half a dozen bottlenecks at churches across the country. It's ugly and I'm ashamed by it. By people putting their interest, and their offices ahead of actually making any difference in adolescent lives. Church politics is an abomination. Ego has no place in God's work. Ego is carnality and anyone so earthbound has no business making decisions that affect the spiritual well-being of others. I'm sick to death of all the Nothing. So much nothing. It's disgusting and we all (myself included) need to be ashamed of it. Of The Nothing.
Almost as bad is The We'll Get To It, or, The We'll Take A Look At It. After Womens' Day or Men's Day or Uncles' Day or whatever. After the pastor's anniversary and the Nurses Auxiliary Annual Day.
If only I had a flamethrower.
If you skip the pastor's anniversary and put that money into street ministry you just may save a life. And the life you save may be your own kid's.
Yes, you. I'm talking to you.
There is work that needs doing. By you.