Warning before reading: this is one of my more cranky blogs, but for what I hope is a good reason. I know that the following challenges to youth programs based primarily on fun and positive messages do not describe all youth programs, and please forgive me if your program takes equipping youth with Biblical values and a passion to serve Jesus seriously. However, in the lives of the teens close to me I see very little of this today. It makes me especially sad because I know it doesn't have to be like that. I was a youth leader for many years and even then I often doubted if I was doing the right thing because my program was not the most fun one around. It was filled with lots of Bible lessons, challenges, active service to the poor, mission awareness, and very high expectations. It was a large group, friends were invited, the church was pleased—all the outward measures of success were there—but I still wondered. The years have passed. My kids have gone on to become pastors, staff in Christian organizations, community and government leaders reflecting Biblical values, I pray their time in the not-always the most fun youth group contributed to that. So with another prayer that this cranky blog prove beneficial, I offer it to you. You have been warned.
Celebrate, but also challenge your graduates
In preparing for this series of posts and resources on graduation (links at the end here), I searched Google to see what other churches were doing for graduation. Overall, the emphasis was on celebration, honoring the students, remembering all they've done, along with advice on making sure names were pronounced correctly. All fine and good, but for a generation of students who have grown up with constant reminders of how wonderful they are, but I think we do them a disservice by sending them off with one more "you are fantastic and the world loves you" message.
Though we want to take time to celebrate students and their accomplishments, we don't want to miss the opportunity to challenge them to a deeper commitment to their faith. This may be one of our last opportunities to do it.
Particularly for high school students, graduation is the start of serious spiritual challenges. Many churches rightly bemoan students drifting from their faith after high school, but if we've spent years telling them life is a big party and Christianity is lots of fun (or how else would we get them to come to youth group?), we shouldn't be surprised. [Read more...]