the ‘maelstrom’ of adolescence

As a parent in the midst of potty-training my two-year-old, I could only partially relate to these wise words on the efforts of parenting. I have much to look forward to!
Too often the parents make absolutely nothing of their children’s coming-of-age. They let it happen, as it were, by accident. Ho! They took more time over potty training than they take over training toward adulthood. They imply, then, that it is nothing, this ‘growing up’--or else that it is a distinct hazard in the household, a problem, a sin, a sickness, something that wants correcting. In consequence, the adolescent, unprepared, is shocked by the maelstrom which he has entered. Next, he feels an abiding, unspoken guilt at the changes occurring in him. And when he most needs resources to fight this good fight, he least has them. Indeed, the fight seems anything but good and heroic when his voice breaks, her cramps come, but the family (neither parents nor society) has given no dignified name or place to these profound and exhausting efforts. (Walter Wangerin, Jr., Ragman: And Other Cries of Faith).
This is the "maelstrom" of adolescence.

Naturally, as a pastor, I wonder how the church contributes to these problems of unpreparedness in today’s youth. Perhaps we need another program to help kids transition into adolescence? Oh wait, we have youth groups. Maybe youth groups need to talk about real issues? Hmm, I think they try and do that too, often through a myriad of guest speakers, retreats, devotionals, and one-to-one mentoring. In some cases, I even think youth groups tackle issues of adolescence quite clearly, exploring the relationship of faith and life in helpful and honest ways, acknowledging just how difficult it can be to navigate the murky waters of teenage-dom. Personally, youth group was vital as I danced through adolescence.

So, maybe the church has nothing to do with problems associated with adolescence. It’s all on the parents! Yes and no.

True, parents need to realize that any church program doesn’t replace our responsibility to raise our kids. We shouldn’t bracket out spirituality and leave that up to a Sunday School teacher or youth pastor. But do we? And does the church contribute to this?

At this point, I mainly have more questions:

How much inter-generational ministry goes on in an average N.A. church? Who are the youth sponsors? In my experience, they are often (not always!) recent youth. How many baby boomers are youth leaders!?! How many grandpa’s teach Sunday School (or men in general)? How many business executives mentor young leaders in the church? In any given congregation, how many teachers, nurses and other “social” professionals walk with youth through the messiness of adolescence inside the church? Sure, parents also need to take responsibility for their kids’ lives, opening up honest dialogue that engenders trust for whatever situation arises. The church can’t do it all. Yet, the church does act as the family of God - “one body.” I think Paul’s words in Romans remind us that parents aren’t alone:

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality (Rom. 12:3-13 TNIV).
Apply that to youth ministry!


Ann Kroeker said...

I'm parenting three adolescent girls at the moment (along with a 9yo boy), and I'm grateful to be attending a church that is big enough to have some youth programs but small enough to have inter-generational relationships. In fact, our youth pastor is a youthful grandfather and serves side-by-side with his wife.

I have been grateful that as I work hard to model and teach various truths and spiritual disciplines and life changes and other life/faith issues, my kids also have other adults of various ages doing the same thing. I model a quiet time and describe what I'm doing and encourage my teens to find their own time alone with the Lord, but recently they made a strong commitment to devotional Bible reading and journaling because of the testimony of a 30-year-old young woman who talked about how journaling is a way that she pours out her heart to the Lord.

I love that they see others talking about and living out their faith in addition to their mom and dad.

David Warkentin said...

Hi Ann,

Glad to hear you and your kids are having a positive experience integrating faith, church, and life. It sounds like you are part of a great church community!

And isn't it true how the same thing a parent says, when said by someone else, can have a profound impact on the life of a youth.

Blessings in your continued parenthood journey!

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