One of the new privileges that I have in life is to be a volunteer small group leader for high school guys in my church’s youth ministry. There are about 10 young men who I have the chance to interact with every Wed night that I am in town. Since the school year started we have been slowly getting to know each other and each time we meet, we try to discuss at least one biblical truth that they can apply to their lives. Our small groups meet right before our main youth service, which has approximately 300 students that attend each week. I always stay to worship with them and hear what they are hearing from the message. It never fails though that I go into my “cultural anthropologist” mode and start people watching (or in my case youth watching).
The other night, I was kind of in a funk and not too pumped about being at youth group. I was feeling down and my mind started to go to my cynical side. All the music, lights and show was starting to annoy me. I was kind of biding time until it was over and I could go home. Then I began thinking, “I hope the students aren’t as disengaged as I am.” As I looked around to justify my own bad attitude, God showed me two powerful visions. Now, I am not talking about a “cloud roll back, freaky flying things, etc” type of vision, but something right in front of me that was supposed to teach me something.
First, I noticed one of the students who was worshipping with all she had. Her hands were lifted to the heavens, but they weren’t able to extend straight and high. They were bent and pointed at different angles because she has cerebral palsy. Yet she was praising God with all she had, in spite of circumstances which some would use to excuse cynicism in her. She was an example for me and inspired me to join in worship and turn over my situation to God.
I was sitting on the end of a row, trying to sit up with the students (instead of standing in the back like too many of the adults). Just a couple of seats over from me was a middle school boy. As he sat down after worshipping, he launched into his “sermon snack” which consisted of Sour Punch Straws, Reeses Pieces and a Coke Zero (that in and of itself is funny). It comes to offering time and an appeal is made to help with access to clean water. In mid bite of pure sugar, my young row-mate doesn’t miss a beat. He tucks his Coke Zero under his arm, pulls out his retro Velcro wallet and plucks a $5 bill from it. That may or may not have been a lot to him, I don’t know. What God showed me was the attitude of immediate response to a need and a 12 year old demonstrated it for me.
At YouthHOPE, we believe that youth are ready and capable for ministry now. Every time I hang out with students, they teach me something. That is not just true at my home church, but as I travel the world. I am consistently impressed at the generation that God is raising up. Many times the world’s youth have a lot of circumstances to overcome. However that should not be an excuse or a reason to not expect from them what God has created in them. If their lives are going to be transformed, they will need to be a part of the process.
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12:1-2 The Message