Category Archives: Youth

“Priorities” by Doug Reedy

By accident, our ski trip was less regimented time-wise this year, and that proved to be a wonderful blessing. Our youth spent time together playing cards, ice skating, tubing, and watching football, as well as skiing. Many serious, reflective life discussions were shared, often about pressures they face. Time away allows young people to open up. It has great value.

So many of our youth have absolutely crushing demands on their time it makes me reluctant to add on to their burden by pushing for more church participation. Still, it doesn’t stop me. I worry about the priorities we place on our teenagers.

I love sports. I love competition. I try to get to games (the biggest barrier I face is Wednesday night being the most popular time to schedule high school soccer). I see the value in team sports. It teaches young people how to win or lose with dignity and how to use their unique abilities to contribute to making the whole greater than the sum of its parts, which is a valuable tool (especially for church).

Everyone enjoys entertainment. We have been blessed with young men and women with lovely voices over the years. I have seen many youth get involved in local theater, and it has given some of them more confidence.

Academic work is extremely important to advancement in life. So important, in fact, that I choose to give it a pass in this discussion. The one exception is to say that, if nearly every high school student sees their mountain of homework (often redundant busy work) as something they must share with each other, rather than complete on their own due to time constraints, something is wrong.

For most, almost all, of us, sports and drama are simply character building hobbies at best. A quick Google search reveals that roughly 2% of female high school soccer players (1% for males) end up playing division one college soccer and that even at the highest level of college soccer, the scholarships cover roughly 1/3 of their school expenses. Roughly 1 in 1250 ever plays professionally.

Also with a quick search I was able to learn there are roughly 70,000 full time actors in the United States (out of a population of 300+ million). This is already a tiny percentage, but of the 70,000 very few are actually making “real money” at it. Hoping to make a living on stage or screen is very similar to hoping to win the lottery.

It is a commandment to have no other gods before God. Someone might mention that church isn’t God either, and I agree. However, for sheer return on investment over the long haul of your teenager’s life, I would say an argument can be made that spiritual development, being part of a youth group, experiencing travel, and most of all belonging to a family of faith should be high priority. Of course, as a youth minister I may be biased.

“Empathizing with Young People” by Doug Reedy

noun: empathy—the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

During the early stages of the Growing Young process, the most surprising disconnect from the early feedback we have received has been on the subject of empathy. From the results of a quick Wednesday night survey by David of mostly senior adults, an equally informal and unscientific survey by me of our high school juniors and seniors, and our official small team feedback from the folks who attended in the seminar, empathy results have varied the most.

The empathy our church feels for young people was rated fairly high by one group, but dead last (of the six characteristics of a healthy, attractional church) by the other two. This was absolutely fascinating to me. Sure, our perceptions of empathy vary naturally with age. We joke about overly dramatic teenagers lamenting that “no one understands me!” as they slam their bedroom door, or grandparents who complain that kids today don’t know what it was like to walk seven miles to school and back (uphill both ways) every day, usually in the snow. While there is some truth to these stereotypes, the differences between now and then are almost always exaggerated.

I have heard some ludicrous statements over the years. Some highlights include “young people in this town didn’t drink alcohol before so-and-so came along” (a parent complaining about a former youth leader), “there simply weren’t drugs around when we were teenagers” (a parent who was a teen in the 1980s), and “we didn’t have the temptation of sex that these kids have to face” (from an era of more free time and less supervision). Really?! Either time clouds our memories or we prefer nostalgia over reality.

Yes, social media is a big deal. Yes, they have more homework and less free time now. Yes, technology has made growing up easier in some ways, more complicated in others. Let’s not blow these differences out of proportion to the point of pretending it is impossible to empathize.

What matters to young people? Relationships. Complicated relationships with family members. Changing landscapes and allegiances with their friends. Complex relationships with God. Falling in love. Being accepted and rejected. Trying to fit in and avoiding loneliness. Trying to be good for all the right or wrong reasons. Anger, jealously, and pride leading to setbacks. Achieving goals through hard work. In other words, what matters to them are the exact same things that matter to you!

On Sunday nights, in order to illustrate certain universal truths and to spark discussion of realistic teenage situations, we are using a television show produced in the 90s set in 1980. Why does that work? It works because the show focuses on relationships. It focuses on boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, and friendship. It does so in a realistic way that makes us laugh at ourselves. Time is just a setting. The things that mattered when you were a teenager matter just as much today. Empathizing with young (or old) people is easy. They want love, acceptance, and a sense of purpose. Just like you.

“Emotions” by Doug Reedy

If you have never taken a Myers Briggs personality indicator test, it is worth your while.  There are free ones online that only take a few minutes to complete.  It is sometimes especially helpful in terms of your spiritual development and relationships to know how you differ from others in the way you preserve God, life, and family.

I’m an INTJ.  Without getting too deeply into it, INTJs tend to prefer rationality over emotion.  It doesn’t mean we don’t feel emotional at times, but it does mean we don’t make decisions based on them.  That’s a good thing, because emotions are buzzing around me like gnats right now.

After an intense week of camp with some truly amazing teenagers, I am always a little emotional.  They each are dealing with their own private issues, some that most adults would buckle under.  Seeing them bond together and support each other is a truly beautiful thing.  Although we see glimpses of that here, taking them to another setting always results in spiritual and relational breakthroughs.

Immediately coming off those emotions and coming home to see my much missed wife, daughter, and (to a lesser extent) dog stirs the soul even more so.  Then, seeing a youth hospitalized, seeing some of our collegians in town that don’t come often, and packing for what is sure to be a challenging hike totally off the grid, the last day or two has provided no emotional peace.

I am grateful that the next week will provide a lot of time to pray, walk, and soak in God’s creation.  It will provide time for reflection, and more prayer.  As I switch from the challenge of a 500+ student camp in the city to the challenge of no technology (seriously, we can’t even bring a watch) in the wilderness, my emotions could overwhelm me.  Yet, God is God and worrying is a waste.  Much love to the folks back home.  Prayers appreciated.

Peace, Doug

“Youth Mission Trip 2017” by Doug Reedy

Last August, when the Youth Committee and I met to plan the 2016-2017 year, we decided to raise the participation requirements quite high for going on the mission trip.  This, combined with a shorter trip, has left us with a much smaller group than we have become accustomed to traveling with to M-Fuge.  Although I expected them to be disappointed in this year’s numbers, the youth going on the trip are more excited for M-Fuge than I can ever remember.

Many of the youth going this year have reminded me that the smaller trips are often the best.  Some years I’m up late each night talking and praying individually with different youth into the early morning hours and still don’t get to have a one on one conversation with everyone.  This year, it is entirely possible I will be able to.

Some years, youth stay within their individual cliques as much as possible.  This year, I don’t expect that.  Everyone going has been hyper involved with our youth group this year, and some are becoming more involved with our church at large.  They are a close knit group already, and I expect them to grow closer.

For numerous reasons, I feel this year’s trip will be amazing.  I am expecting the Holy Spirit to move throughout our group and each individual attending.  Our hearts are open, and when hearts are open God never disappoints.

Please be in prayer for us.  Pray for individual decisions to be made.  Pray for damaged friendships to mend.  Play for youth who have never seen themselves as leaders to step up and lead.  Pray for unity.  Pray for our safety.  This year we bring a smaller, yet more committed group to Charleston asking for guidance from God.  Pray God will use us, especially these youth, to grow the Kingdom in ways we have not imagined.

Peace, Doug