If you interact with children or teens at all, you have noticed something: They have more stress, more anxiety, more busyness in their lives than ever before. There is this culture, especially in suburbia, that tells them and their parents: "If you aren’t doing all AP classes, 5 extra-curricular activities, all while maintaining a perfect image; then you just won’t make the cut.”
This culture tells them that if they aren’t doing all of these things perfectly or better than everyone else who is doing them, then they won’t get into the best college, and then they won’t get the best job, and then their life will be a failure.
Let me just stop there and tell you that this is all a bunch of crap!
There I said it. This whole story of the perfect American dream pathway is a total scam.
Coaches are telling 3rd graders that if they don’t play travel ball year round on their special team that the child won’t play on the high school team.
Parents are told that if their child isn’t in AP everything that they won’t be allowed into a decent college.
Students and parents are told that college is the answer for everything.
Young people are told that a college degree guarantees a great job.
Parents and students are worrying more about test scores than actual learning.
All of these stories are just simply not true, and sadly everyone is falling into it because everyone around them is telling it to them. It is as if someone yelled, “Gold this way!” and everyone just started blindly running without even knowing the finish line.
Here is why this makes me sad, I see teens who simply, “can’t even” because they have some much to do, believing everything is riding on every grade, game, and concert they do.
But this finish line has become teens and young adults who are so burned out that they can’t function anymore. They need more medication than ever because they are expected to retain more than ever. They have more sport injuries than ever before because they work too hard at too young of an age without rest. They stress more than ever because they think every little thing will make or break their entire future.
We live in a culture of that celebrates perfection and busyness, and it is breaking our young people.
So what does this mean for youth and children’s ministry?
I think, especially in youth ministry, we have only added to the culture of busy and stress with lock-ins, retreats, big events, all adding to the non-stop culture and even less sleep than are young people are getting already.
IT IS TIME FOR A CHANGE. IT'S TIME FOR A SHIFT.
The church needs to be a safe place to simply be. Our slogans should be, “come and rest; come and recharge; come and do nothing. PAUSE, knowing God is God and we don't have to be. You are loved.”
What if we stopped programming?
What if we stopped planning event after event?
What if we did less, so we could be present more?
The last few weeks in youth group, we had different experiential prayer stations that teens could interact with at their own pace and own order, with no rules. In fact, several just went to the chill spot (a corner with pillows) and just laid down and did nothing.
Maybe we need more of this as a church?
The church has always had a call to be counter-cultural, so if our culture is one of never stopping, what if we were the place where people knew they could come and just be?
What would this look like?
What needs to change to achieve this?
I believe that our communities are in great need of a place to simply come and be.
I think the church should be this place.
Who is with me?