by Morgan Stafford
As I prepare and review lessons for this season of Lent, I find great wisdom in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. Paul aims to encourage and motivate his fellow followers of Christ to deepen their inner faith despite a myriad of outer circumstances which could easily prevent this aspiration. As a youth minister in an urban setting, I witness the challenges which young people must deal with on a daily basis.
Just as Paul must acknowledge the difficulties facing the Corinthians, I must consider the context in which these young people live. How can I teach reconciliation and righteousness without acknowledging stress and suffering? Just as the Corinthians received both “honor and dishonor,” I must equip my youth to live out their faith in a world which may reward this faith in some settings while punishing them in others.
“Great endurance” is required for the Christian faith. I worry that many of our young people are not equipped with the tools to persevere in their new faith. How do our local church youth ministries better prepare young people to remain faithful and even deepen their faith during this season of Lent?
Empowering young people to live out their faith amidst today’s society, rather than in spite of it, is at the center of my call to ministry. For too long the church has shielded young people from the realities of the world in which we live, rather than equipping them to live in a world capable of both tremendous harm and miraculous healing. Protecting our youth from pain and suffering is a defensive strategy which does not prepare young followers of Christ to make disciples and transform the world.
“Now is the right time!” exclaims Paul in the sixth chapter of 2 Corinthians. Young adults continue to exit the church and organized religion in masses, but the problem traces back further. Our teenagers must be equipped with a deeper faith, and the tools in which the process of deepening may continue throughout their faith journey. This faith is not a fast decision. This journey is not a one-stop destination. This walk requires everything we have – “having nothing but owning everything,” as Paul writes.
During this season of Lent, I have no intentions of asking my youth to merely give up a favorite hobby or habit. No, chocolate or Netflix or Instagram just won’t do. This Lent is a time for a deeper journey to begin. Let us strive for a more worthy goal, one worthy of the sacrifice made on our behalf by Jesus Christ, and let us encourage and motivate the young people in our midst to follow us on this deeper journey. Amen.
Morgan Stafford is the Minister of Young People at Christ’s Foundry United Methodist Mission in Dallas, Texas. To learn more about ministry at Christ’s Foundry, visit www.christsfoundry.org or www.facebook.com/ChristsFoundry. For more reflections on urban youth ministry, follow Morgan on Twitter (@morgansstafford).