Amidst all the youth group games, trips to play lazer tag, and Halo tournaments, do you ever give your teens some time of rest, peace, and quiet to just enjoy life as it is, without all the hype and distractions? I recently attended a youth ministry workshop led by Marc Yaconelli, author of such texts as Contemplative Youth Ministry and Growing Souls. More than your ability to be a "cool" youth pastor or to entertain a crowd, Mark argues that what youth really want to know is if you know how to be truly alive in this culture, to maintain your passion, and to enjoy life in God's creation.
Many of our youth are being raised in a culture that convinces them they are not truly alive -- but they will be if they drive the right car, buy the right toothpaste, wear the right shoes. In contrast, Jesus says you don't have to wait to be alive. You can be alive right now, in God's kingdom. Jesus says there is no reason to be anxious about life --that he is enough. That the path he invites us to walk leads straight to true life. That we don't have to be afraid of the world. We just have to live the life that God has given us, resting in the trust that God loves us and cares for us unconditionally. The big question I have is: "Is this the Jesus, is this the God, we live out in our churches and youth ministries?"
Mark's latest book, Downtime: Helping Teenagers Pray, is an excellent resource for beginning the journey of helping your youth to slow down, to pay attention to the life they are already living (not the one our culture says they should be striving for) and to listen and watch for the presence of God's spirit in the here-and-now. Much less theoretical than his last books, this one offers a whole host of contemplative prayer exercises and experiences to help you and those teens you lead to slow down, rest in God, and live life more fully.