29 November 2004

Knowing that the older generation has experienced more

First, I refer you all to my main squeeze's blog about things that we have in common and those "God things" that others would call coincidences. Not to mention the quote on her post about reading our blogs will give a testimony to "Jeff and Mary's love story." I prayerfully want people to be able to read our blogs and realize that our love is not based on the superficial things that seem to pervade our society. We especially recognize the fact that since we both work with the youth groups at our respective churches that we can set an example as a couple on how a godly relationship occurs and matures through the dating/courting (for you Josh Harris fans) process, not to mention the struggles that every couple go through whether you're a teenager or around 40 (or even older).

That brings me to today's topic which is the fact that the younger generations don't seem to catch onto the fact that older generation has gone through the same problems that they are struggling with currently. Whether it is relationships, peer pressure, materialism etc. This doesn't come as a complete shock as it took me until my late 20s or early 30s to realize that we often don't go to those who have the experience when it comes to personal problems. Each generation goes through this when they are teenagers. For whatever reason, we think we and our peers have the answers and that the older generation is out of touch with what we are going through. Really, the only thing that the older generation may be out of touch with is the generational culture, but as far as personal/relationship problems, the same problems keep repeating themsleves in every generation. It isn't until the teenager becomes a mature young adult, and usually with kids of their own, that they grasp this fact. Then they try to communicate these facts to their own kids.

For me this illumination, occurred as I began to work in youth ministry (since I don't have my own kids). Although I did go to my parents for some advice, I had never considered the fact that as a teenager, Mom and Dad may have experienced what I was going through. I was no different and today's teens aren't either.

I was discussing with one of our graduated youth group members about a doing a bible study during the summer and if they may want to help lead it with me. They came back that they didn't think that they could lead it because they didn't think that they were "good enough," and apologized if that disturbed me. I proceeded to tell them that I wasn't good enough either, going through some of my past and that in some ways I was in the same boat about 20 years ago when I was in college. I then reminded them that when they were in youth group that I would tell them that they needed to keep in mind that Bethany (the youth pastor at the time) nor myself popped out as mature Christians. We went through our own struggles with faith and life and still do. This reminded me of the time as a kid it was hard to fathom that Mom and Dad were kids themselves because since I had always known them, they were always grown ups. I think that it is that matter of perspective that is lost on younger generations, that their parents and adult friends were never kids, because they have always known them as adults.

So what to we do to combat this perspective? The biggest thing I think, as adults, is to mentor kids and teens, and be able to share your struggles. Not just the past ones, but the current ones as well(within reason). This will help them to understand that we all go through things, and that the key is how you handle it. As I have dealt with teenagers and 20 somethings over the past 5 years in youth ministry, it is the pesonal relationships that we forge and maintain that determines spiritual health of this generation and in the long term, the spiritual health of the church.

This is probably the one place that the church, in general, fails. The attitude that I run into at times when trying to recruit more volunteers to come to the youth group is a "been there done that so I don't need to do it anymore," attitude. However, God doesn't call us to stop once your kids are out of school. We all have responsibility to teach the future generations whether they are your own biological kids or not.
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