Youth work whereas in search of safety at dwelling | The alternate
It is the last stretch for the 2020 school year and in a normal year it would be filled with several "ledges" that help young people to close when they move from one class to another and start the summer break. Of course, this year is anything but normal.
Young people are at home, activities are stopped and many of these “groins” are lost.
Schools and churches are launching digital programs to deliver content to the generation of our country that is the most digital among us. Other generations are learning and exploring this great new digital land where our teenagers have built settlements and cities. In many ways it is their country and we penetrate it.
And it is time.
The teens in your church and congregation need you right now to accept the awkwardness of discovering a new country to reach them. They probably won't tell you that and you probably won't get a welcome party, but they need you there with them and they're worth it.
This generation of teenagers is the most networked generation we've ever seen, and at the same time the most separated. They have thousands of relationships and conversations at the surface level, while few people in their lives really know them. Anxiety, loneliness, and depression are serious challenges they faced before COVID-19 and local protection had the potential to turn into isolation.
The message of hope in Jesus is the conversation your teenagers need. They have to hear it from you and they have to be equipped to have this conversation with their friends. In many ways, the Studentenwerk is able to equip young people in such a way that they can speak more about their belief in Jesus more than at any other time. They are ready to hear it and they are ready to pass it on to their friends.
The work of the heads of the student ministry in the first weeks of this pandemic encouraged me to put programming online. It was an incredible effort, fueled by the desire to continue serving teenagers. My challenge for the heads of the Studentenwerk is to go beyond online programming to content that is specifically tailored to the needs and opportunities of the moment.
In 2 Corinthians 3:18 we see that when we stare at Jesus we transform into His image. We know that we are staring at his picture through the Bible. The reality is that your teenagers will stare at something in their lives and their identity will change around this picture: injury, depression, religiosity, relationships, fear, COVID-19 and so on.
One of the main tasks of the Studentenwerk is to help teenagers learn how to keep their eyes on Jesus, instead of the plethora of other options that we have to stare at in our world.
"Unprecedented" is a word that has been used many times to describe this moment. I believe that given the amount of time that teenagers have now associated with an attitude of willingness to hear from God, as the director of the student services organization, you have an unprecedented moment to help students learn God's Word in new and more consistent ways to deal with.
Dream with me for a moment about what it could look like. What if there were thousands of teenagers who were constantly reading the Bible while we were sheltering at home?
What would families, churches and communities be like if teenagers' lives were changed by God's Word and what would the same things be like in a decade? What if home accommodation became the spark of revival so often cited by young people in our nation's history?
I believe these things can happen, but you, Head of the Department of Student Affairs, must continue to settle in a new, already inhabited digital country, and you must be ready to stay there when we no longer seek shelter at home.
Ben Trueblood is director of LifeWay Students.
The LifeWay student team provides help to student ministers during the COVID 19 crisis. If you're looking for free digital Bible studies, need help troubleshooting Zoom or Google Hangouts, or just looking for community and support from other student ministers, visit https://studentministry.lifeway.com/hub/.