Monday, November 07, 2005

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.


At 11/08/2005 09:36:00 AM , Blogger DJG said...

I wondered if I were the only one to have the type of teen years you describe. I too love the energy and excitement of today's teens. I as somewhat envious of that special relationship they seem to have. I understand why you love to work with them.

At 11/08/2005 10:43:00 AM , Blogger Cheetah, the cheetah said...

Yup, those are certainly the good things I see in teens. I appreciate their impatience with arguments over silly things.

I was a teen that longed to do overseas missions...but, alas, never got the chance. I'm not a teen anymore, but still long to do an overseas mission! One of these days, God will open the door of opportunity!

At 11/08/2005 11:36:00 AM , Blogger Hoots Musings said...

I would have been that way when I was a teen, but we were not allowed to be like that.

Thank God the winds of change have swept our youth and they have freedom in Christ.

At 11/08/2005 12:21:00 PM , Blogger Laurie said...

In the congregation I attend one tenet is that no one goes forward alone. If someone goes forward those that love him or her are right there with him or her. There is nothing more beautiful than to see a teen step out to try and face something in his or her life and to see all the rest of the teens present step out and stand, sit and kneel beside their friend. I think teens are better people than I was as a teen. Thank you Patrick.

At 11/08/2005 01:41:00 PM , Blogger markemason said...

Another great post! I have certainly noticed the same thing and had the same experience of comparing my teen years in the church to what we see now. I believe it is a totally different generational thing. Some have suggested this is the next "Great Generation." They are more servant-hearted and mission-minded, without doubt, than my generation ever was. I believe God will use them in a mighty way, if we do a good job of ministering to their weaknesses. Every generation has blind spots. The millenials struggle with distinctives and absolutes. The Scripture certainly promotes some absolutes ("No one comes to the Father, except through me..."). In light of all the potential for good in this generation, now is certainly not the time for the church to abandon its roots in Scripture and restoration of Truth.

At 11/08/2005 07:02:00 PM , Blogger jettybetty said...

I love teens, too--and I could not agree with you more. I am so thankful that they are spiritual light years ahead of me when I was a teen! I am also very thankful for what I have learned from them!

I remember when I was a teen, the church leaders would say "our teens are the church of tomorrow"--**then sigh and roll their eyes slightly**.

I believe teens are the church of today--but give us great hope for tomorrow.

At 11/08/2005 09:51:00 PM , Blogger PatrickMead said...

All good comments, friends. Teens need to be encouraged to find the absolutes. One way to do that is to admit that not everything IS an absolute. I think the church is doing a better job of that now.

And the "swarm" of teens around their own -- and others -- when one comes forward is a heartwarming event. Every time.

At 11/10/2005 11:57:00 AM , Blogger don said...

Patrick, I have said this same thing to many folks after coming back to my alma mater to work 7 years ago. The students here at Harding have encouraged me so much, and appear to be so much bolder with their faith than I remember our generation being (I am a couple months older than you).

It has been a rewarding experience to be here because of them.

At 11/11/2005 11:56:00 AM , Blogger Scott Gampp said...

We have teens that are leading their parents to Christ! What an example they are to me! Having been raised in the church, as a teen I had a very lazy attitude toward service and devotion. The teens of today are an inspiration!
More POWER to them. They are not the church of tomorrow, they are the church of TODAY!

At 11/11/2005 05:03:00 PM , Blogger Niki said...

I love teens too. As you know this year God took us from working with the church kids to working with the street kids or homeless youth in Denver. We're hoping to use what we've learned and experienced to help change the lives of these kids. Some of that is by working with both groups to show them what life is like on the other side of the tracks, and what life could be. The teens that have experienced being a missionary first hand can not walk away from the experience unchanged.

God is definitely working through teens today and they need our prayers and support. As hard as my teen years were, my teenage friends today are facing worse things than I ever did.

Thanks for another great post Patrick. I'm glad they're keeping you around! :)


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