Music youth ministry

I like Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream

Currently, Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream is top 10 on iTunes. It’s huge. And I am not ashamed to admit that when it pops up on my iTunes I listen to it 3-4 times in a row.

While I’m sure most youth workers groan when they hear this song… I take a totally different perspective.

I want this to be my students dream, too.

Well, not exactly— since the video leaves a lot to the imagination. Here’s what I mean by “I want this to be my students dream, too.

  • I want my students to have a fun, audacious, spontaneous, and exciting sex life. (Until they get married- “Pre-sex lives.”)
  • I want them to fall in love and be happy with that person for a long time. I want their love life to be fun, like a teenage dream.
  • I want them to fall in love early in life. I want them to grow up (meaning, take full responsibility for themselves) and get married ASAP. I believe we’re creating a self-fulfilling prophesy that they aren’t ready when they are.

Perhaps the reason this song speaks to so many people is because we tell people to wait too long for this type of relationship? Perhaps there was no room in our lives at 18 or 19 years old for a no-regrets love affair? Perhaps our parents scared us out of teenage dreams with statistics about divorce and telling us we needed to go to college first?

But this dream, I believe, is quite similar to God’s desire for us. The Bible is clear about sex before marriage. But it is equally clear about early marriage.

I just know when I watch this video I think about my relationship with Kristen. We were almost 19 when we met. We took lots of walks on the beach. (aka- free dates) Outside of the motel line– that video was us! Our parents both told us we were too young and we ignored them. (Just like they ignored their parents warnings!)

When we got married at 21 we fulfilled the dreams of this video and it was great. (Though, Kristen grew up baptist so skin tight jeans were out of the question.)

My prayer for youth ministry is that we are crazy enough to tell our students and their helicopter parents that they need to have teenage dreams for themselves. I pray that we become culture creators and truth tellers in such a way that gives our society a wake-up call. Teenage Dreams isn’t shameful. We would not exist as a people if it weren’t for generations of teenage dreamers. We don’t need to shame teenagers from their sexuality, we need to teach them appropriate ways to embrace it.

Christian Living Church Leadership

Myth: God opens and closes doors

I’ve heard this phrase to the point where I think people actually believe this is somehow a biblical concept.

God has opened the door for me to ____.

I was pursuing something I really felt called to, but God closed the door.

That’s not in the Bible folks. It is a non-biblical, non-Christian philosophy called fatalism.

I believe this little phrase, God opens and closes doors, has lead to people falsely blaming God for missed opportunities. We put this philosophy of open and closed doors above biblical concepts like perseverance, patience, and long-suffering.

Instead, many have bought into a mentality that it’s meant to be, God will open doors. If it isn’t meant to be, God will close doors.

Again, that’s fatalism. That isn’t how God works. Nor is it how God’s people are asked to look at the world.

This is what God says about opening doors:

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20

  • Did David tell his friends, “Yeah, I was anointed as the next king, I don’t know though. Clearly, Saul doesn’t like me so I think God is closing that door?
  • I don’t think God cared too much about Jonah’s “closing the door” on going to Ninevah.
  • I don’t remember Jesus telling Paul the whole blinding thing was an open door to a life in ministry.
  • And a ship-wreck was clearly a “closed door” if I’ve ever seen one. But did that stop him?
  • Persecutions of the first apostles weren’t seen as God closing doors. The only door that ended their ministry typically involved lions.
  • Pharaoh refusing to release the Jews for the first 9 plagues wasn’t God closing a door.
  • Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had an open door to a fiery furnace. But that didn’t stop them, did it?
  • Seems like the doors were closed around old Jericho, weren’t they? Did that stop God’s people from taking action?

On and on we see that Scripture is not fatalistic about vocation, doing good, doing right, or fulfilling our call!

But God does work in us and through us when we persevere, when we are patient in affliction, when we long-suffer for doing right.

God rewards the righteous. God smiles on those who seek justice. God hears and answers prayer. God wants us to seek wise-council. God’s calling is true. God can move literal and figurative mountains for the faithful.

God calls us and asks us to depend on Him and Him alone.

He could care less about our education. (Paul) He could care less about our abilities. (Moses) He could care less about our lack of faith. (Jonah) He could care less about our past failures. (David)

When God asks us to do something open and closed doors are meaningless.

If He is asking you to do something He will make a way.

Rather than worrying about if the door is open or closed we are asked to open the door. We may have to kick it in. And we may need to buy a sledge-hammer to make a way where there is no way.

But waiting for doors to open or doors to close is meaningly, dangerous, and destructive. The only door you should be closing is on fatalism. The only door you should be opening is to Jesus, “Here I am, use me how you want. I am yours. You are my Savior and Lord.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

Church Leadership youth ministry

Is this a safe place?

Photo by ekai via Flickr (Creative Commons)

About 10 months ago a group of people sat on Chris’ back porch talking about starting a youth ministry for our church, Harbor Mid-City. As we chatted, dreamt, and prayed about this ministry one of the things that came out was… “We want it to be a safe place for students to explore a relationship with Jesus.

That phrase stuck. It actually became a part of our ministry description which we recite during every meeting. “IOB is a safe place for students to explore a relationship with Jesus.

That phrase got tested a bit last night.

Stephen, our teaching/senior pastor, came to youth group last night to teach on and invite students to participate in baptism. His teaching was pretty simple… this is what baptism is, this is what it symbolizes, this is who should get baptized, this is how our church does it, we’d love it if you would consider getting baptized. He did a great job.

I could tell during his teaching time that some students were uneasy about this whole thing. They didn’t feel safe. It wasn’t that Stephen was teaching anything bad or that they were intimidated in any way or even that he was manipulating them to make a decision they didn’t want to make– there was just something about the truths of Scripture that Stephen was saying that gave the room a funny, rare vibe.

You could see it in their posture. You could see it in the way they looked at him. You could see it in the way they listened to his talk.

To follow-up, we broke up into small groups and the leaders were asked to dig a little deeper with the students and ask if any of them would like to be baptized.

Three responses from my circle that tested me in my response.

  • Is there any way I can get unbaptized? My parents baptized me as a baby and I don’t want to follow God.
  • I’m not ready to get baptized. I understand the Gospel and I get what Stephen was talking about, but I’m just not ready to put my faith in Jesus yet.
  • Why did my parents baptize me? If they made a covenant to God than they didn’t live up to it at all.

Mince no words. These were questions that pushed me back to that discussion 10 months before. Was IOB really a safe place to explore Jesus? If so, how I responded either validated that statement or invalidated it.

Open questions for readers:

What would be answers to these responses which would communicate that IOB isn’t a safe place?

What would be some “this is a safe place” answers to these questions?