What of youth ministry in light of basic Doctrinal and Theological literacy? What of the newer trends in youth worship? How does all this interlock with what is no doubt coming as creation approaches biblical millenial times? These are challenging questions for all who are parents or who work with young Christians, especially in the church context.
Young people, particularly in their intellectual and emotional growth, express their process at least partially, and often loudly in one way or another, by carving out a different perspective, a ground that is their own. This may have many divergent facets, but it expresses the need to risk in defining their own environment for growth, independent of past paradigms in one way or another. They are pressing towards the mark, as we have been exhorted to do in Scripture. The key for young (as well as older Christians, for that matter) is that the mark in question be Christ. Does that imply that the perspective that they carve out must be overtly in the church or even in ministry? I don’t think so. The mark is the focus on being lead in Him, irrespective of the outward manifestation, though clearly this would not lead of sinful pursuits.
Since we live in a fallen world, there are many destructive ways that this process can emerge, and the long term potential is often the root cause of both societal and family concern. Furthermore, in our current society, with most of the previous moral and ethical structures made effectively moot due to relativism and the associated void of values endemic in the education system, the dangers increase exponentially. Nonetheless, this process must occur and we must focus on it as part of the Lord’s plan for emerging young people. Developing young people are wired to take risks. One could propose that since developmental paradigms were created by the Lord, then this penchant for risk is expressly to allow the young to press forward for the Kingdom in ways that are more inhibited in older Christians.
In this situation, we once again return to the need for firm grounding in foundational theology and doctrine, as lay out in Which Theology and Doctrine?. In this case, however, the most significant focus is on very basic training in these concepts before adolescence, and upon a Scriptural, discussion oriented approach during adolescence. The intention here is more mentoring and accompanyment than training. Assuming that the concepts are in place up front, the natural struggles are precisely that, natural, and can follow the Lord’s leading.
Then what of areas change might conflict with established organizational norms, not outside Christian beliefs or in sin, but simply outside “the way things are done”? A prime example of this would be worship style.
In the development of Christian youth, the Lord is clearly very gracious. Those among the youth who are believers often express both their belief and their emerging identity through worship styles that some many find at odds with tradition. They may even be sited as lacking in some nuances of doctrine. Though factually these concerns may be correct, and assuming that they do not deviate into obvious sin, I would propose that in this situation they are moot. Through their worship and concomitant focus on Him, the Lord has provided a framework for these young believers in which they may strike out, yet do so with His sword and shield of protection still in place. The experience can be as emotional and overwhelming as fits the individual, yet still in Christ. As with all believers, with the Lord in absolute sovereign control all is well. This, of course, continues to depend upon the framework of the faith already being in place. As with all senarios that are in the Lord, youth then experiment and redefine within Him. Older believers must retain this perspective in supporting youth as they strike out to create their own place in life, while holding to our Lord.
The Sovereign Will of God is just as much solidly in place among these members of the flock as anywhere else. Concern over style can be missplaced. Certainly guidance is appropriate, but our Lord is providing for these, His people, as he aways has.
The spectre of young Christians coming together to celebrate both our Lord and his provision is wonderfully inspiring and uplifting. The overt form is not an issue. Let us enjoy the gracious freedom that the Lord has provided to the youth, while still championing the faith and remaining vigilant on their behalf. He has designed them to go forth on their own, for Him and in Him.
There is no conflict between this freedom and our comments concerning Theological and Doctrinal literacy. Both have a place and are essential over time, that all Glory will be to God alone.