This box is called by many names. Sometimes it's "youth group." Sometimes it's "Sunday School." Other times it is "small group," and other times it's even "school." Mostly, though, it can fall under the category of being a "teenager." This box with many names, if identified by those inside of it, is maddening. It makes you bang your tin cup on the cell bars and pray for a prison break.
Youth. Teens. Kids.
I love the heck out of grown ups. I've wanted to be an adult since I can remember. I've never understood why Peter Pan wanted to live in Neverland, and I can't wait to be independent with my own house and my own family and the excitement of an unknown future. I used to be upset when told to play with the little kids at dinner parties because I just wanted to sit and chew on whatever the adults were talking about, even though I didn't really understand all of it.
This is not me talking about how mature I am. I still can't get through a sermon about "duty" on Sundays without biting my lip to keep from giggling. SpongeBob cracks me up. I still eat way too much sugar. I'm not some kid who stands above her peers for this kind of desire and mindset. This is about a lot of kids.
But the problem is, our numbers are shrinking. We keep getting beat over the head with our youth, and so we start to believe it. We start to believe that we're only capable of doing so much because of our age. We start to build up little cells inside of the ones we've been put in already, simply doing more damage and giving ourselves less room to grow big and strong.
Fellow young people,
Fight it. Talk about this issue with people in your church or community with whom you share mutual trust. Stop letting yourself believe that you can't do things because you are young. Figure out what your passions are and go for them, even if you are met with doubt by people who say you can't. Talk to your parents. Meet adults and make friends with them; you won't regret their influence on you. It is essential to grow up, and especially this day in age, you have to dig through a lot of stigmas to do so. Just go for it. Set examples for other young adults around you. In the past, up until the past century, you were either a child or an adult. No in between... no teenagers. Only you, with the help of God on your side, can choose which one you will be.
Give us some of your trust. Try to believe in us. We want so badly to live up to high standards, in our heart of hearts, but unless you set these standards for us, we simply won't bother. We will postpone adulthood as long as possible. Introduce your children to your peers. Make your children sit at the dinner table with you when your friends visit. Don't let us escape into our own worlds of self-centered entertainment, as we are so prone to do. Let us be a part of a group of adults so that we can see how to act as one and learn how to shed childhood. Segregating us to a particular age group and leaving us there will only slow the process.
I am so irked, lately, by the way people my age are treated. We young people cannot give full glory to God if we are left to do less than our potential because of the age categories we're shoved into. We need to be immersed in the world of adulthood so we know how to behave.
Where I stand, currently, there's not a whole lot I can do. I live in a foreign country and will only be attending my current church for a few more months before I'm back in the States attending college. But I am considering writing a book on this very topic at some point, maybe over the summer, and I would love to hear your thoughts, young or old.
This is not about accusing kids of not acting their age. Yes, this should be convicting and should inspire young people to action. However, this should challenge adults. If kids don't understand their potential, then we can't blame them wholly. Churches and communities have got to learn that in order to raise young people into functioning members of society who will keep these institutions going strong, they have to raise the bar.
We want higher standards to achieve.
We love a challenge.