What Our Youth are Hungry For

11:38 AMHeather

I've reached a conclusion.  And it's a big one. With far reaching implications.  After years months of research observations with hundreds a few dozen teens and preteens.

I think we adults have sold them short.  I think we adults can easily become out of touch with kids these days.  I think we've underestimated the youth of our culture.

And here's where I am getting this.  A few months ago, I picked up the mantle to lead a bi-weekly Bible study with fifth grade girls from my daughter's public elementary school.  Prior years, other mamas have taken this last year before middle school to help root their girls in the Word and in Christ centered friendships before leaving elementary school.  I loved the idea so I dove in.  Pretty much oblivious to what to expect.  

And I've probably learned far more from these girls than vice versa.

Additionally, I'm a mom of two teenage sons.  I'm a mom who works hard at being connected to my kids.  I'm a mom who attempts to drive the kids or host the kids.  I'd like to think I've done a decent job at keeping a finger on the pulse of my kids and their peers.

And, I'm a mom who believes firmly and deeply in the band of mothers coming together to be a village for all of our kids. Trading ideas and insights and wisdom and intel. 

So, from these very limited observations and interactions, here is the conclusion I've reached.

Our kids are starving.  They are hungry.  And I don't mean the never ending pursuit to keep the bellies of my teenage sons' full.  I mean, in our information and technology age, our kids are starving.

What are they hungry for?  What do they crave?

I think they crave the truth.  I think they crave someone who will not look down upon them for their youth, but will instead see the opportunity and the willingness.  To find answers to big questions. To really dig to the depths on a moral compass and Biblical truths. I think we spend so much time concerned about blocking the information and messages that the media and technology barrage them with that we have forgotten to instead just fill the void.  

We have forgotten that their minds are sharp and their ideas are valid and their questions are huge.  And they are savvy beyond anything we tend to give them credit for.

This ain't your mama's youth group.

What they need is someone to take them seriously.  What they are starving for is someone who will sit and listen and not laugh at the huge questions filling their minds.  What they desire is someone who will plunge the depths with them and be a safe place to ask and feel and question and wonder. Someone who will mine the treasures of the Bible with them, guiding them and equipping them to dig on their own.  Not spoon feeding them rote and ritual and cliche Biblical answers.

They need someone who will go to the dark places and allow the hard questions and make the commitment to stay by their side, coaching them along.  Someone brave enough to not balk at the questions like, "If God is powerful, then why did my friend commit suicide?"  Or, "If God is good, then why has Ebola ravished some countries?"  Or even, "How do I know God is real?" and "Is Jesus really the only way?"  And here's one for this current generation..."If God is love, then why do Christians seem to hate gays and picket abortion clinics with hateful signs?"

Big, huge, scary questions.

Questions that honestly, God can handle.  Jesus allowed all sorts of doubtful questions from his disciples, the religious, the Gentiles, and the crowds.  Jesus never deflected or shyed away from such questions.

Instead, Jesus engaged the one asking the questions. He didn't cut them off, but instead listened.  And then answered.

And if we want our kids to really grow deep roots in building their own faith, then we need to rally.  We need to pull our heads out of the sand and take them seriously.  This is a generation passionate about social justice.  This is a generation bombarded with information and images and news in real time.  This is a generation battling depression and huge expectations and fighting for a sense of hope when the news is constantly cramming fear and famine and crime and unrest down their throats.

This is a generation who knows what terrorism is.  That it happens on our soil.  That ISIS is beheading Christians at this very moment. And Christians seem content to float along, skimming the surface and singing our praise songs but not allowing the hard, nitty-gritty questions.

This is a generation who is far more sophisticated than I was at that age.  

And we parents need to meet them where they are.  

I am clearly stating here something that I need to do a much better job with for my own kids and their friends.  I am boldly saying that we must not shy away from it or discount the deep struggles of our youth and their deep hunger for something more.

Because for all that the world is throwing at them, a watered down Sunday School answer will not suffice.

Let me tell you a bit more about how my eyes are opening to this trend and this need and this call for us grown-ups.  I started this fifth grade girls Bible study thinking we'd sorta skim the surface and build some rapport and teach some good lessons from the Bible.

Here is week one.  THIS is how fifth grade girls are thinking.

--"What does co-exist mean?  Is Jesus really the only way to heaven?"

--"Is Ebola part of the diseases and plagues from the tribulation?"

--"I think I remember hearing that there would be wars and rumors of wars in the end times.  Are we in the end time?"

Not even kidding.  I was all ready for a lovely little fluff lesson on Esther and being daughters of the King.  These girls weren't messing around. They were cutting to the chase.

These girls ain't playing. So neither can I.

And I have drawn the same conclusions from overhearing conversations and making observations from all my kids and from talking to other parents.

Our kids need us to get down in the trenches with them and let them dig.  Let them dig into the truth of God's Word.  Show them how to do it on their own.  Let them ask the hard questions and quit giving them fluff and cliches.  


These kids are all too aware of just how broken this world is.  Just what a mess we all are.  Just how hard things can be.  

And they will not be satisfied with a quick little devotion or pat answer.  It will only leave them walking away hungry.  And if we cannot show them the meat and the substance of the Bible and the willingness of God to be asked the hard questions, such as Job asked throughout the book about him...then that is exactly what our kids are going to do.

Walk away.

Hungry.

Looking for someone who will go deep with them.  Who will explore and allow the questions and the doubt and discuss even the hard things.

It's a war.  It's a battle for our kids' minds and hearts.  And the culture is hitting them hard and heavy with some pretty deep things.  Things that disturb them.  Plague them.  Evoke great anxiety within them (Side note:  anxiety, by the way, I am coming to believe is a plague of epic proportions for our youth).

So if we are not serious, with swords drawn and armor on and standing firm to fight the battle for them and with them...then we are setting ourselves up for defeat.

I'm so far from there myself.  So I'm here to bemoan my own current status and challenge myself to do better for our kids.  To be the one.  To just be available and make the connections and be committed.  To allow the hard things and big questions.  To know that our kids have needs and a hunger to which I best pay attention. To knock on heaven's doors constantly in prayer cover for our kiddos.  To take it all seriously.  To take them seriously.

And I think it all starts with an awareness.  That we are feeding our kids fast food and junk with no nutritional value...while their souls are starving for the good stuff.  

So, let's get it together.  Let's do this.  Let's create spaces and relationships where we no longer go with the philosophy that raising them in a Christian home is enough.  But we realize the depths that must be plunged and explored.  Digging holes with them where deep spiritual roots can take hold.  Where authenticity and questioning are all part of feeding the hunger.

May we dare to raise up a generation in this information age who have been allowed to discover the truths that are sharper than a two edged sword.  Who have been shown how big God is and who He is.  Not raised to follow some legalistic moral standard.  But coached and allowed to plunge the depths of grace.  Believing firmly that the Spirit has the power to save them, the Word has the power to equip them, and our God has the power to guide them.

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