God Bless The Teens
Yes, I've seen the papers. I know about the terrible things teens are up to... but I love them. For reasons that I've never understood, they love me, too. I do between 12 and 20 youth rallies a year and keep waiting for the day when they suddenly realize I'm a fossil and send me off the field of play. So far, so good.
So why do I love them and why am I an optimist when it comes to them? Here are a few reasons:
1. They know how to pray. When I was a kid we prayed British Commando prayers -- get in, do your business, get out, no hanging about. Then there were the prayers the old guys prayed. We had those memorized by third grade. Barely audible groans would go up when one or two of their names were called to lead in prayer. Long, formulaic, and dry. Our lips would move along with them; we'd heard them so many times. But today? When I hear teens pray my heart swells. They pray much more passionately than I ever did. They have a relationship with God that gives them purpose and comfort; you can hear it in their voice. Every time I hear them pray, I thank God.
2. They invite Jesus into their lives. We went to church and went home, but these kids are different. They read Christian books, discuss them, trade them, and anxiously wait for the next one by their favorite authors. They have iPods and CD racks full of Christian music and never tire of talking about the songs and the artists. They wear Christian T-shirts and join Christian clubs at school. I look back on how isolated we felt when I was a teen and how we were almost embarassed to admit that we were church people... and I thank God that He raised up this generation to show us the joy in Christ we somehow missed.
3. They are ministers. At rally after rally I find teens who have been on mission trips to Africa, Europe, Mexico, Central America -- some of them many times. When I go down to one of our food or clothing distribution centers I find teens enthusiastically helping out. They sit with the needy, love them, hug them, and make friends with them. No classism or racism. Just Christianity in action. Ask them to host a dinner for the seniors and they jump on it with alacrity. Very impressive.
4. They like church and love to worship. You always get slouchers and slackers, of course, but I see a steady growth of teens sitting up front, taking notes, following along in the Bible, and coming up to thank the speakers afterwards. Very classy and heartwarming. Our teens have taught us how to sing again. Us old guys can teach them some of the old majestic songs, but they teach us the songs that rejoice in relationship and in salvation. Good stuff.
5. They are building a better church. Many of the arguments that filled our days, times and pulpits aren't interesting enough to get more than a shrug from the teens. They are all about worship, relationship, scripture, fellowship, and friendship in the Name of Christ. I think I should be jealous that they and their children will have a better church than I had... but I'd not. I'm just so, so happy for them.
Thank God for teens. They are truly a gift to us all.