Thursday, August 07, 2008

Soul Searching part 6: (Somewhat) tentative conclusions

By Rich Bordner

(continued from here)

"Rich, bug off. These are teenagers, after all. We can't expect them to care. We can't expect them to be able to articulate their beliefs. The teen years are just something to survive. Have fun. Be young."

Well, I agree in part, but not like you want me to. Those who have impacted teens the most will tell you quickly that they will rise to the level of their expectations. If you expect them to act like that and not care, they will.

And really, we adults hold that low-level of expectation to their detriment, and to the detriment of society as a whole.

The encouraging part of this study is that teens typically aren't engaged in wholesale rebellion from their religious upbringing (with a few exceptions). Most are friendly to religion, and most are happy to go along with what they were taught to believe by their parents. The scary part of this study is that teens typically aren't engaged in wholesale rebellion from their religious upbringing. Most are friendly to religion, and most are happy to go along with what they were taught to believe by their parents.

No, that last paragraph wasn't a typo...teens will and are picking up exactly the values the adult world holds. Their "whatevah-ness" about spirituality is not an accident.

Certainly we should not expect teens to articulate their beliefs like graduate school philosophers, but its not too much to expect them to rise well above where they are now. My experience, as well as the experience of those who are involved in youths' lives, says that they are capable.

What is needed are an army of hard-nosed, wise, loving, and intentional adults that will stop merely exposing teens to spirituality and start teaching them.

Here's one way to put it: if you never talk about Jesus to someone, why are you surprised when they conclude that He's not very important to you? You can do all the service projects you want; if He's never or rarely a topic of conversation, you are telling those around you that He's not important...not something worth talking about.

When the adults in a teen's life don't talk about religion/spirituality, s/he will conclude, given the cultural cacophony of voices that bombard him/her every day, that Jesus just doesn't matter. The adults can be going to church every week, praying at dinner time, reading their Bibles faithfully, tithing, serving consistently, and "loving on" others (never mind that intentionally not talking to others about Christ is not loving), the non-action of being silent about Christianity will drown out almost everything else.

Christ-followers, throughout the last 8-9 posts I have used the word "gauntlet." God is throwing down quite a few gauntlets to us today. He calls us to pick up those gauntlets and faithfully serve Him, even when (especially when) it will draw the ire of the world.

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