YS

This post was originally posted at YouthSpecialties.com.

I can remember having to put together a whole rite of passage project for students “coming of age” when I was in the School of Youth Ministry at Christ for the Nations Institute in Texas. It was my last year as a student at CFNI and this was the big project for a class called “Adolescent Development”. We studied adolescent development (big surprise), how junior highers process things differently on a mental level, social groupings, and different ways that the church can celebrate their transformation from “tween-ager” to teenager. It all seemed so simple and easy to me then. I even got an “A+” on the big project.

Fast forward ten years… I’ve been in full time youth ministry since graduating and now have two teenage daughters of my own. I feel like I am more perplexed about how to walk through this thing called adolescence than I was ten years ago — especially as a parent! Woo-boy! It’s easier to disseminate head knowledge to someone’s kid and share with them “how it is/should be” and how “scientifically, it’s been said…” It’s an entirely different thing to go through the process and experience adolescence with your own kids.

I’ve thought to myself several times… “oh, so this is what Mom and Dad felt like when I was [doing that crazy stuff when I was in junior high].”

The emotional extremes and craziness that I’ve always known to exist — because I lived it out myself (and laugh about it now) — is being played out every day in front of me. It’s just weird watching it from the other side, as a pastor and a parent. It’s such an important time in the formation of spiritual and moral disciplines. What can we do to help our young ones step into this next phase of life?

  • I’ve seen full blown bar mitzvah-type ceremonies with parents and loved ones offering their prayers and words of advice.
  • I’ve seen programs where leaders walk students through physical, mental, and spiritual challenges.
  • I’ve seen camping trips with the guys and sleep-overs with the girls along with cake and candles.

I’m not sure what works best, but I am certain that any chance to celebrate students’ growth and relationship with Jesus is worth it. And I definitely believe this is a tradition that we should encourage parents and youth workers alike to carry on.

Check out this short clip taken from my family’s recent celebration of my daughter, Cynthia, turning 13. It was during a time that we had several adults saying prayers of blessing / protection over her and giving our “words of wisdom”. Autumn, Cynthia’s older sister by one year, had been downstairs watching the little ones and we had just brought her up to pray over her sister. This was her prayer…

I won’t soon forget this moment. It’s my prayer that Cynthia won’t either.


Shawn Michael

Husband, father, musician, pastor, Internet junkie, and Foursquare District NextGen Rep for the Gateway District

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