Chap Clark argues in his text "Hurt: Inside the World of Today's Teenagers " that the youth of today have, in many ways, been abandoned by adults who are too busy to to spend quality time with adolescents. As a result, teens have little understanding of what it means to become an adult and no road map for figuring out how to get to adulthood. These same sentiments were echoed by Mark Yaconelli in a keynote he offered at a recent youth ministry conference I attended. Mark suggested that rather than asking youth "What do you want to be(when you grow up)?" we should be asking them "Who are you becoming?" I'd like to think that this question goes beyond asking youth to simply ponder their future and instead really gets to the heart of the spiritual discipline of discernment -- an intentional practice of discovering who God is calling us to be and how we are called to be part of God's mission in the world. So often we ask youth what job they plan to have some day, where they are going to go to college, how much money they hope to make, but how often do we sit them down and ask "What do you think God wants of your life?"
Questions: What do you want to be when you grow up? Where would you like to travel some day? What sort of family would you like to live in 10-20 years from now? What new hobby or skill would you like to have in the future? Where would you hope to live someday?
Digging In: Searching the Scriptures - Reminding youth that the next question (Who are you becoming?) is our real focus for the study, invite the group to take a quick look at two passages where Jesus is discerning his own identity and calling.
In Luke 2: 41-52, Jesus' parents are searching for him and are surprised to find him in the Temple sitting amongst the teachers and when they ask what he's doing, he answers "Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" Ask: What might this passage tell us about how Jesus was coming to understand himself and his identity? What can you already know about yourself at such an early age? What thoughts or experiences that you've had might suggest you have begun already to discern a calling from God for your lives?
In Matthew: 16: 13-20 Jesus poses this question to his disciples "Who do you say that I am?" In what ways have others helped you to understand who you are/your identity/your gifts/your calling? What might be the advantages of inviting others to help you answer this question for yourself?
Going Deeper: Creating a Mandala - As a way to help the youth think about their own sense of who they are becoming, invite them to create a mandala, an ancient spiritual practice that aids meditation. Youth will be given a sheet of paper with a large circle divided into sections. Working in silence, in one section they will write words, symbols or images that reflect their spiritual life. In another section, they will express symbols and words that represent parts of their life that they consider separate from their spiritual being (Note: Though I would personally consider everything to be part of my spiritual life, clearly we do not always view things that way. Some youth may want to depict images or words that overlap these two sections of the mandala.) In one inner circle they reflect on their hoped for future and in the most inner circle they draw or write something that represents their understanding/relationship with God. This activity could be done strictly with pencil and paper or could involve a myriad of artistic elements such as paint, beads, feather, sand, magazine images, and so on.
After 20 or 30 minutes, come back together and invite those who are willing to share reflections on the activity of creating the mandala, what thoughts or awarenesses came to them during the meditation, and how they might begin to answer the question "Who am I becoming?" Ask: What do you notice about how you grouped things in your design? What does your mandala say about you as a person? Where does God fit into your design? What might be missing? It will be important during this process to affirm whatever the youth choose to share and to maintain an atmosphere of respect and thoughtfulness.
Closing: Perhaps invite youth to write a short note to themselves, sharing their thoughts for this moment in time about how they have begun to discern the call of God in their lives. Save these letters and return them to the youth in a few months as a reminder to them to continue this process of discernment.