As a youth pastor, sometimes I feel like I'm fighting against a great stream. There is an ever increasing trend to turn youth ministry and youth night into game night and entertainment. Instead of training young people to be gospel minded, we're turning them into groupie minded. Youth seem to be flocking to the church for the seeking a celebrity. Success in ministry is seen as large numbers and celebrity driven. Youth pastors are more like celebrities than pastors.
I hate this trend. I would rather have a small group made up of disciples of Christ than a large group made up of unredeemed, entertained young people.
Finally, a book has arrived that is singing my tune. "Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations" is that book. The authors suggests that we have failed young people. We have bought into the lie that they are, in a sense, "old enough to know better, but are still too young to care." In other words, we expect little from our young people.
As the authors argue, this is grounded in the myth of adolescence. I have heard this argument before and it explains much in youth culture and youth ministry. The 20th Century essentially created adolesence. Of course the changes of adolesense were taking place since the creation of man, but the culture of adolesence hasn't always existed.
Once young people were forced to leave their parents, leave work, and attend school during their teen years, we created an entire culture. And we have reaped the dangers of it. Now, let me say from the beginning, that I am not against educating young people. I am all for it. However, what we've done as a result is dangerous.
Thanks to modern psychology, secularism, and other factors, we have bought into the myth of adolescence. The stereotype of the teenager has become so common that we expect little from our youth. And what we do expect from them isn't good.
Since youth have hormones we encourage them to wait, but don't expect them to, so we pass out condoms and birth control pills. And it is laziness like this that has destroyed our culture. We have a culture full of too-independant and over-sexed teenagers that think should be considered normal.
The Bible sees things different. As the authors point out, the Bible has no such category for adolescense. The Bible divides everything into two groups: children and adults. Guess where teenagers fit? With the adults.
The Bible expects more from our young people, but we are giving them less. We are creating adults with the minds of 3 year olds. We expect little of them and are getting little of them and the current trends in youth ministry is proving my point.
God expects more from our young people, and this book shows how young people can stand against the stereotype and do hard things. How to take a stand for they believe, how to be a leader, how to be prepared for adulthood, etc. The authors don't treat their teenage leaders like children, but more like adults, unlike the typical youth book.
I cannot encourage young people, youth pastors, adults, and people in general enough to read this book. I was very encouraged that there are young people and others involved in working with youth who are serious about their task. God wants to use young people, and we must do our part in letting that happen.
To quote Dr. Rick Holland, "God must be embarassed by our expectations." And he is exactly right!