This past Sunday I had the opportunity to preach on the Markan passages related to the feeding of the 5000 and Jesus walking on water -- an interesting challenge for someone who reads much of the Bible as metaphor. My sermon primarily focused on the walking on water episode and the Markan theme of "fear." In the passage, the disciples see Jesus coming across the water, but they don't recognize him. They think they are seeing a ghost and freak out! Of course, the Markan disciples are always having trouble understanding who Jesus is -- they just don't get him. In the end of the gospel, their fear wins out over their trust and they run off to hide.
My time in youth ministry has taught me that many of us who minister to young people are constantly operating under this sort of "fear factor." We are often paralyzed in our effort to offer an authentic faith experience to our youth because we fear that if we do 1) it'll bore the teens and our group won't grow and, consequently, 2) the kids will stop coming and the group will shrink, 3) we fear the church won't think we are successful in terms of numbers and activity, 4) we fear everyone will find out that we don't exactly have this youth ministry-thing down to a science, 5) we fear we will fail.
So, we play it safe. We play to to our comforts and to the comforts of our youth: movie nights and pizza parties and Christian concerts and trips to Six Flags when what are youth really need is quiet, rest, time alone with God, authentic relationship, and a chance to see the true reality that exists just beyond the veil of our consumer culture. The challenge, as I see it, is for those of us in youth ministry is to get beyond our fears (or "anxieties," as others might label the problem) and trust that God is already working in the lives of these young people. Our task, perhaps, is simply to provide the quiet spaces where they can hear God's call on their hearts.