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youth ministry

How do you measure teenage maturity?

News on teenagers consistently conflicts.

  • We are ecstatic about teenage Olympians. No one puts a teenage qualifier on their accomplishments, an Olympic medal is an Olympic medal, it doesn’t count for half a medal because someone is under 18.
  • Our laws define someone as an adult the moment they hit 18 while providing a completely different legal statute for people under 18. Yet neurologists and developmental/behavioral psychologists are proving that every adolescent matures are a different pace depending on a wide variety of variables. (Some inborn, some learned, some internal)

The Love/Hate Relationship with our Nations Teenagers

We have a love/hate relationship with teenagers. We love their accomplishments, we are disgusted when they fail. We are simultaneously infatuated and disgusted by teenage sexuality. Gasp, Justin Bieber has a girlfriend! OMG, I can’t believe she might be pregnant. Oh, I’m going to watch 2 hours of TV talking about it and tweet/Facebook about how disgusted I am… gimme, gimme, gimme more news on teenage sexuality! I’m not exaggerating all that much, am I?

A 16 year old wins a gold medal and she’s on The Today Show. That girl is so mature for her age! (Succeeding at sports makes you mature) Her girlfriend, in the same school and grade gets pregnant? Oh, becoming a mother isn’t an accomplishment… that’s a statistic! She is SO STUPID! We might even make her go to a different school. 

We (rightfully) decide things have to change when a teenager attempts suicide. But funding the school counselor or making sure her parents insurance covered her treatment before it was a suicide attempt? Well, common logic states, that’s really a parental issue.

This continues on after 18, of course. Those who go to college– well, we give them a pass on being adults because they are students. And students can’t be expected to act like adults because they are students. So we allow college students a pass on being mature. In fact, walk around a college campus and you’ll see that “what’s cool” is to act like a 13 year old, fully fulfilled! (Think about it… a “cool college guy” is loud, obnoxious, gets drunk, sleeps around, avoids responsibility, and doesn’t take school all that seriously. There’s nothing mature about that– but college culture celebrates this as a fully embraces college lifestyle.) But someone doesn’t go to college? Well, they better get a job and fend for themselves. They are an adult now…

So how do we measure maturity?

The point of this post is to point out that our society gives many mixed messages about adolescent maturity. Science and common sense says that maturity isn’t an arbitrary age. It depends on a wide variety of factors. One person becomes and adult at 16 while another might not become an adult until 25.

But we have an arbitrary line. Legally, and to a lesser extent culturally, a person is an adult at age 18.

The Supreme Court has now affirmed that not all teenage criminals are the same, some can get life sentences for their crimes while others can’t, the courts are now allowed to look at other factors besides physical age to judge their ability to understand their crimes. This is a big step. 

I suppose I’m wondering when we, those who work with students in schools, churches, and our neighborhoods, will begin to do the same?

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Church Leadership

Jesus is the worst sales pitch ever

I'm sure this is a real page turner...

Have  you ever sat in on a timeshare presentation? You’re on vacation, spending $100 every time you get out of the car with your family, and a very nice front desk person tells you… “Mr. McLane, if you’d be willing to sit down and talk with us about our vacation packages, we’ll give you $100 in cash and free tickets to a show. It’ll only be about an hour.

It seems like it will be worth it until you actually do it. For an hour they berate you with every sales tactic in the book. They show you the property. They say, “Imagine coming here for two weeks every year, wouldn’t that be great?” Or “You can trade your weeks for points and go anywhere in the world! And it’ll already be paid for.” Or my favorite, “Mr. McLane, you work hard. Doesn’t your family deserve a vacation like this every year?

It’s moment of insincerity, remembering your kids names, relating stories of other pastors who have joined, on and on. The more they talk the more you want to punch them in the face. It’s hard to say $100 for an hour of your time isn’t worth it. But it’s not worth it.

No offense to those who have bought timeshares. But you go into the presentation either knowing you want to buy one or you don’t.

In which case, since I’m already wanting to buy in the pitch is useless. And for the person who already knows they don’t want to buy the salesperson is just going through the motions and so are you… you just want to be nice enough to get the $100. (And those who get talked into it are more preyed upon than sold on it, right?)

It’s all just a game, isn’t it? I know I’m not going to cave and buy a $30,000 timeshare because I don’t want one. And before I arrived at the presentation my wife and I already told ourselves that no matter what, we’re going to be polite, but we’re just taking our $100 and going to the beach later.

We are not buying a timeshare in Ft. Lauderdale.

Selling Jesus

Photo by David Prasad via Flickr (Creative Commons)

This is, at it’s core, the problem with the “If you build it, they will come” strategy so popular in Christianity.

The sales manager (aka the pastor) polishes up his sales pitch and tells his sales team (congregation) that if they can bring the prospects, (non-church goers) he will close the deal. (I mean, get them to give their lives to Jesus.)

When pastors tell their congregation to do this, there is always a sly little smile, as if to say… “They’ll never know that what we’re about to do is tell them about Jesus.”  Yeah– as if visitors are surprised that your marriage seminar is really a Gospel presentation? Doubt it.

The problem is that the psychology doesn’t work.

Put yourself in the car of a non-church goer about to visit your church with you. You are either interested or you aren’t before you even get there, right? If you aren’t interested in church you are thinking, “No matter what, just be polite, drink the coffee, and peace out ASAP. I’m doing this for my friend.

No amount of manipulation or sales pitch methods will get that person to change their mind. Why? They are locked in as uninterested. And one could argue that those who get talked into it are more preyed upon than sold on it, right?

The problem is that the theology doesn’t work.

Jesus isn’t a deal.

  • Regeneration of the soul happens only when the Holy Spirit calls a person to Himself, right? (Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter X) A sales pitch can be used by the Holy Spirit. But, as I heard over and over again in Haiti, an earthquake can be just as effective a call.
  • A life with Jesus is messier than a tight 35 minutes with 5 points, isn’t it? While a presentation of the Gospel is excellent at piecing things together in someone’s mind, coming to faith in Christ is more an unwinding of life’s ball of yarn than winding it up into a ball.
  • Jesus promises that a life lived in relationship with Him will be more difficult than a life without Him in your life. (Romans 12:1; John 15:18) That is a pretty tough thing to “sell” from a platform. Come and be like Jesus, who died on a cross penniless and almost no friends!
  • In a world that lives for today, an assurance of heaven, pearly gates, and a mansion tomorrow is a program they don’t want. That doesn’t make salvation any less important. You just can’t stand in front of people and say, “If you were to die tonight… would it be heaven or would it be hell?” Culturally, that’s just not what people are thinking about!
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Video Clip

Elevator Psychology