Engaging Youth

Youth have a God-given longing for relationships, adventure and significance.

If we don’t lead young people to find these things in pursuit of God’s Kingdom, they will seek them out elsewhere.

Yet too often we cling to safety and security, and impose that on those we love.

Jesus did just opposite.

Jesus brought His disciples into relationships, adventure and significance, taking them amongst the very kinds of people that we tend to avoid (and keep them away from).

Jesus didn’t just send them; He first led them into risky ministry contexts to develop the skills and confidence to work with the Holy Spirit. That is the benefit of “on-the-ground” involvement in multiplying discipleship under experienced coaches—gaining the skills and confidence to work with the Holy Spirit.

Research-based application.

Jeff Schadt with the Youth Transition Network has developed some VERY insightful material about this in an audio series I have bought and given to several friends. I have listened to this multiple times and found these “characteristics of influential parents” (based on Jesus’ example) very compelling:

Influential parents catalyze internal motivation in these critical ways…

  • Point to the Future
    Jesus kept pointing to the fact that He wouldn’t always be with them.
    This is powerful incentive for young people to learn all they can from you while they are still with you. Ask them “When you are on your own, how will you …” (handle this kind of situation, support yourself, etc.)
  • Create a Safe Place
    Jesus was a “friend of sinners,” and made it safe for them to be themselves with Him. He didn’t threaten, lecture or judge them.
    How do our young people feel with us? Would they feel safe telling us if they’ve had sex or tried drugs, or would they expect judgment and punishment?
  • Trusted the Holy Spirit
    Jesus relied on the Holy Spirit to continue working in the disciples.
    Do we trust God with our kids? Or do we communicate lack of faith by constantly worrying and warning them about the dangers?

Buy the 6-hour audio set here for $29.

Buy the audio and book for $39.75.

We haven’t fully applied these insights in our own family, but this kind of awareness has led us to take our kids with us to minister among Afghan refugees in Athens and Moroccan immigrants in Madrid, and we are looking for further opportunities for ourselves, our kids and others.

One friend wrote asking about this very thing. What would you suggest?

Our sweet, unassuming, never-a-problem daughter has become teen-gone-wild. Ugh. Hopefully a dabbling in sin that results in a realization of personal need and personal ownership of spiritual growth … but at this point, it looks and feels like more than that. Prayers appreciated.

In this context I have recently been struck with the radical, total immersion mission campaigns Jesus sent His disciples on … take no provisions, heal the sick, cast out demons, etc. I am realizing that we have left our kids in a bit of a spiritual vacuum. The Christian life, in our home, has been pretty much personal devotion/growth and ministry in the local church. Local church ministry sounds and feels good, but in a way is still self-centered in that it is still us taking care of ourselves (I’ll teach your kids Sunday School for you, and you can ____ for me).

This has me wondering if there is a group that organizes 1-3 month mission trips that focus primarily on evangelism … the kind Jesus sent His disciples on … or DMM/T4T style. Something other than the typical mission trip (my impression) — building buildings that could be built quicker/easier/better by locals, playing soccer with kids, putting on an American style big church event; and of course spending 50% of your time playing tourist. Were the locals really helped, in the long run? Were the Americans really reaching out to the world, or just having a self-focused, feel good vacation in an exotic locale?

I’m looking for a mission trip for my daughter where those going get right down into the lives of the people with an emphasis on evangelism, preferably in a culture that is warm & inviting, working with children, with a sending organization that knows how to reach young people.

Down the road, I would love to go on such a mission myself. But at the moment I am thinking of my daughter. I still see enough tenderness, smoldering embers of a heart for God that I think such a trip could do so much — getting her out of the self-absorption of the typical American teen lifestyle. A trip that strips away the cultural triggers for self-absorption while encouraging/focusing on meeting the physical and spiritual needs of others could be just what the Great Physician wants for her.

The larger context.