Jun 24 2009

Teens Need Grace

“Unmerited favor.”

For some reason, I remember that being the classic simple definition of grace I have heard over the years of my religious experience.  I would always smile and nod, and offer my intellectual agreement with this two word explanation.  But truthfully, “unmerited favor” just doesn’t connect with me in any real-life kind of way.  You?

“Cut me some slack, please!” Now that is a real cry for grace, if ever there was one.  I can sure relate to that one.  It’s like, “I know you don’t have to give me a break and go easy on me, but it sure would mean the world to me right now if you would.”

“I know I messed up (again), but I really am trying.  Really.  Please be patient with me!” Okay, I’ve been there many times my self.

“I feel so much pressure on me right now, I don’t even know where to begin!  I’m sorry I’m not living up to your expectations.  And I’m sorry I don’t even know what to do about it.” Been there, for sure!

If you haven’t found your self in a position of needing some grace, I’ve got news for you – you must not be a human being!  Because as far as I can tell, every one of us desperately needs others to cut us some slack and give us a break here and there along our journeys.

Especially teenagers!  This is not about picking on teens and saying they screw up a lot.  Sure they do.  Don’t we all?  It just seems that the mistakes and failures of adolescents can be more glaring and obvious, and they are often more painfully aware of their need of grace than us “grown-up” types.  As parents, teachers, counselors, youth pastors, coaches, and other adults who live up close and personal with teens – are we aware of how much they need grace from us?

I am not saying we throw responsibility and accountability out the window and just let teens run willy nilly in a boundary-free field of grace with no consequences.  That simply wouldn’t be loving.  But within the important rules and boundaries we set for our teens, let us all remember to include generous helpings of grace.  Sometimes they have already paid enough of a price, before we even find out what they have done.  And what they need most from us the grace to embrace and accept them with their failure, and lovingly encourage them along the path to recovery and growth.  Just look at the response of the Father to his “prodigal” son!

Other times, what teens need most from us is the loving enforcement of firm consequences to deliver enough suffering and guidance to help them learn from their mistake – and the grace to embrace and accept them with their failure and to lovingly encourage them along the path to recovery and growth.

May you grow in grace.  And may your teens thrive in the grace they find in you.

4 responses so far

  • Glenn

    You don’t have to be a fully grown adult to benefit from and grow in grace–anyone with a mind and heart after God’s can do this. The two teenagers I immediately think of are Mary (the mother of Jesus) and David.

  • Glenn

    found a highly opinionated article about appealing to the youth crowd, and thought you’d be interested >

    By Paul Proctor

    July 13, 2007


    Christian Post reporter, Nathan Black began his latest article titled, “How to Get Youth to Show Up at Church Outreaches” with this little nugget:

    Youth leaders generally anticipate high attendance at planned events, but oftentimes only 20 to 50 percent of the expected number show up, according to long-time youth leader Jonathan McKee.

    “I find that the majority of us sometimes have high expectations and maybe even try to spiritualize it, [saying] ‘We have this God-sized goal,'” McKee, author of the new book Getting Students to Show Up, pointed out in an interview with Youth Specialties.

    McKee says the biggest mistake when it comes to trying to get students to show up to events is “the draw.” A lot of times, youth leaders just don’t provide any “draw” or forget about it completely.

    “We think ‘if we build it, they’ll come,'” noted McKee, who heads The Source for Youth Ministry, which equips youth workers with free resources.

    Instead of calling it “the draw,” why doesn’t Mr. Mckee call it what it really is – the bribe – the sacred modus operandi of today’s church – and point blank ask, “How can we bribe them?”

    He follows with the usual pragmatic reasoning that almost always accompanies such godless manipulation:

    “Why on earth would a student want to come here (Church) on Friday night?” the former Youth for Christ staff posed as a question youth leaders should answer when planning outreaches or spiritual growth events.

    “Why is a kid going to want to leave MySpace and cable or his girlfriend, to come out to our outreach program on Wednesday night?”

    And so, what does Mckee suggest youth leaders do to lure them in?

    Some of the simple draw concepts McKee suggested was free pizza or sporting events that youth like.

    Pizza? Surely we can do better than that! Here’s a better idea; Why not offer attendees a chance to win an iPod, iPhone or some other latest greatest gadget like, say, a brand new Wii console? That’s what they’re doing online now. Or, better yet – why not pay the prettiest girls or handsomest boys from your Congregation to personally invite, flirt with, or even date those hard-to-reach youth? If it gets the job done, what’s wrong with that?

    Mckee goes on to explain why tactics like mere self-promotion don’t work anymore:

    McKee had been invited to speak at a youth rally on the East Coast. As he drove into town, he saw a large sign that read “Youth Rally. Speaker: Jonathan McKee.”
    But for many, the names of youth workers including McKee typically do not ring a bell among youth or others.

    “If I’m not Justin Timberlake or Diddy, I’m not a draw,” complained McKee.

    See, you youth leaders out there just need to savvy up, combine your efforts and raise more mega-church money so you can afford to pay the hottest singers and celebrities to appear and/or perform at your Christian events.

    Obviously, you’ve been thinking way too small, oh ye of little faith.

    But hey – if you don’t mind throwing money around for Jesus – and booking big stars is out of your budget – why not just do what I suggested in an earlier article from 2003 titled, “Brotherly Bribes” and offer those kids CASH to show up?

    Trust me – if that doesn’t work, nothing will.

    $20 ought to do it.

    “And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.” – 2nd Peter 2:2-4

    Related articles:

    1, Brotherly Bribes
    2, Whatever Works
    3, What’s Love Got To Do With It?

    © 2007 Paul Proctor – All Rights Reserved-


    Paul Proctor, a rural resident of the Volunteer state and seasoned veteran of the country music industry, retired from showbiz in the late 1990’s to dedicate himself to addressing important social issues from a distinctly biblical perspective. As a freelance writer and regular columnist for NewsWithViews.com, he extols the wisdom and truths of scripture through commentary and insight on cultural trends and current events. His articles appear regularly on a variety of news and opinion sites across the internet and in print.

    E-Mail: watchman@usa.com (Paul Proctor)

  • Roger Butner

    Thanks for sharing this, Glenn. I can certainly appreciate Proctor’s cynicism, particularly in light of the kind of appeal to which he is reacting. So, what do I think?

    I think McKee is right in that there needs to be a compelling draw for kids to motivated them to attend church events and such. Let’s face it, the video games and such that Proctor mentions are certainly a powerful draw, and there seems to be almost a gravitational force at play in all of souls. We will move toward those things that most capture our hearts. Didn’t Jesus say, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”?

    I think where youth pastors can miss the mark is by trying to essentially compete on the level of flesh to create enough draw to pull the kids away from other things. I understand the challenge, and how easy it is to take the simpler flesh road, as I have been in that very position. The challenge is to go to a deeper level of heart and spirit.

    It begins with asking, “What is it about these other things that draws kids to them? Where is it touching their hearts and spirits? What hunger is it filling? What broken place is it offering to heal? What important identity or meaning is it offering?”

    If we can get to these hard-core heart of the matter issues, then we can begin to offer the real, substantive things for which these kids are presently accepting the cheap imitations. And it isn’t as simple as merely saying, “Well, we’re sharing the Truth. The Gospel is the answer to all their questions, the food that satisfies all their hunger. If we preach it, they will come.”

    Yes, the young people of our day are in desperate need of the information presented in the Truth of God’s Word. But unless we share with them the experience of the power of the Gospel of God’s love and grace, they will have little reason to give much time and attention to the precious information. We must be incarnational. We must bring real life love, acceptance, and grace into their worlds where they are in ways that truly touch and fill and heal their empty, thirsty, longing hearts.

    Isn’t that what Jesus did for us? He left the perfect piety of Heaven to step into our broken mess and reach out and touch us and love us right where we are.

  • Glenn

    Thanks, Roger. Have read many of Proctor’s views and articles and his main thrust runs along that very line in the third paragraph–about the worldly ways of flesh appealing to the flesh, to draw youth into the Church–rather than Christ alone. I agree if someone’s treasure is in ‘things’ (possessions, toys, pursuits) then like the rich spoiled youth who approached Christ and asked Him what must he do to be saved, that youth will walk AWAY from Christ with his heart possessed by the ‘things’ filling up his already stuffed-to-the brim heart. Appreciate your care and input. Love in Christ, GLENN