Can Teenagers Grow Up Quickly?
I did some reading recently on Adolescence in the book, Starting Right. Worth reading if you haven't already. It got me thinking about some stuff.
In the book, Adolescence is defined as, "the period of life between childhood and adulthood... (the process) lasts from roughly 10-13 years of age and ends at 18-22 years of age, (however) defining when adolescence ends is not an easy task. It has been said that adolescence begins in biology and ends in culture." (Santrock cited in Dean et. al. 2001: 45). It is that final bit that I find most interesting, adolescence ends in culture.
Youth Ministry is vitally important because it intersects this period of life. Where children become adults. Where they are trying to figure out who they are. Where their parents are still important, but where they want to become individuated from them. Individuation is the process every person undergoes where they become their own person. It can be a long (up to 15 years) process that is very difficult. People at this time will be seeking to find their true identity.
The gift that we have as Youth Ministers is we can alert these young people to the truth; God gives us our identity, and we don't need to search very far or wide to discover that identity. All people are created in the image of God (Gen 1:27) and therefore all people are inherently relational. All people have been purchased by the death of Jesus Christ (Psalm 139, Romans 8). Our job is to help young people to discover this reality. We are failing young people if they leave our ministry never knowing these two key facts! (God made them, God has saved them).
We have the ability to create communities where young people can go through this process of discovering themselves (individuation) whilst also experiencing meaningful, deep, loving relationships with people who love and follow Jesus. That is, we can create a culture in our Youth Ministries where we end adolescence because people find their identity in Christ and can then take on more adult responsibility.
That's why youth ministry is exciting to be a part of and why youth ministry is a non-negotiable part of any church anywhere. It's no wonder so many (roughly 80% of people) make commitments to following Jesus at this time of their life. What a joy to help someone who is confused about who they are discover their true identity is found in Jesus.
Following Jesus in Australia
Chris Bowditch is the Youth Minister at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Doncaster, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Hi is also studying for a Masters of Divinity at Ridley Melbourne Ministry and Mission College, also in Australia. He has a Bachelor of Arts with a majors in Sociology and Public Policy and enjoys thinking about how Christians can engage their culture, which he does frequently on his blog Youth Ministry and Me. He was born in 1984 and has been a Christian since 2001. He got his start in Youth Ministry in 2002 as a junior leader on a week long junior high summer camp and he has been in some form of 'professional' Youth Ministry since 2006. In January 2010 Chris got married to the love of his life, Ellisa.