Can anyone remember the thrill of being a child, and knowing how closely Christmas was when the Advent season started? I grew up in a church that lived and breathed the organ until I was old enough to drive myself elsewhere. And one of my favorite memories as a young boy and in my teen years was getting to church early to hum along "Silent Night! Holy Night!" or "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!" And not only did I enjoy it during my status as a youth, I enjoy it now. I hope your recent experience has been the same: Christmas carols intertwined in Sunday morning worship along with Advent readings.
One of the things I fear this generation is leaving behind (and my generation alike) is the idea of traditions. If I'm starkly honest about myself, I'm personally not the biggest fan of traditions. But, I think I'm more frightened by the word than by the practice in an of itself. Many of the young men and women my age have grown up in a Postmodern mindset which encouraged us "Well, that's great for you, but I'll live in my little world over here." Evaluate that approach and you'll be left with a group of people that is freaked out to do something together which naturally forms into – missing traditions.
I love my students and I believe it plays into why I'm so passionate about so many different aspects of their lives. And although forming traditions isn't maybe an easy thing to do or at the forefront of our thought process as leaders, we should consider being aware of ways in which to create nostalgic feelings for students. When they get to a much older stage in life, are they going to look back and remember this period in life? Many professional psychiatrists and psychologists say that the teen years are some of the most formative years of their life. And anyone involved in the life of a teenager knows how brutally true this is.
Our challenge as youth pastors then becomes this: What environment are we providing for the future of our students? I don't know the stories of any person reading this blog, but I do know the stories of many of my colleagues. Most of them began their walk of service during their experience in high school. But a lot of reflection from the youth leaders is currently being placed into models: Have we // Are we as leaders done // doing right to provide a sustainable atmosphere for our students?
I won't answer that question for anyone, but I will offer this – students are still very much like children. They learn by doing and experiencing. And if we continue to provide them with entertainment, appeasement, and amazement, we'll feed into a contagious apathetic culture. To every person reading this: thank you. Thank you for caring for students. Thank you for the work you do with students. Parents, leaders, and friends continue to seek God. Continue to teach and engage His powerful Word. Let's empower this generation, give them the wheels and tools they need to seek out "every square inch", and may we run together in the traditions of our forefathers.
- What things seem to be working right in your youth group right now?
- What things might it be time to let go of?
- What sustainable suggestions do you have for the rest of us trying to answer that very same question?