Rethinking Youth Ministry
Teen's YouTube Cry for Help Becomes Message of Hope
How many other teens like Jonah are out there? How many are carrying private pain but have no one to tell? The good news is that Jonah has found friends who love him and cherish him. In the wake of his video going viral, he has received hundreds of messages of support and gratitude from those who have been touched by his courage. In the past few months, Jonah has even posted some new videos in which he is smiling and laughing. He attributes his new positive attitude partly to the response to his video and partly to the unconditional love he received from his parents after finally sharing with them that he is gay. He even took his new message of hope to "Good Morning America" recently, encouraging other youth to reach out and share their burdens with others.
This season of Advent is often ushered in with talk of the end of the old ways and an ushering in of something new that God is about to do in the world. We wait with anticipation for that new life that comes each time we welcome Christ again into our midst.
I wonder what the teens in our own communities are waiting for this Advent season? What changes do they desperately need to know and experience so that they might fully receive God's gifts of hope, joy, peace, and love at Christmas? Many of us become so caught up in the nostalgia of Christmas that we fail to see Advent as a time to look ahead, not backward, at the potential for God's love to heal a hurting world. What many young people need is not necessarily the often too-sweet message of an "all is right with the world" Christmas season, but rather the radical message of Advent that God can make a change in our broken lives. For those of us who love and care for young people, perhaps our challenge is to really get to know them, private pains and all, and to help make real for them the Advent promise of Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.
Rev. Brian Kirk is an ordained pastor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and currently serves an inner-city church in St. Louis, Missouri. He also teaches as adjunct faculty at Eden Theological Seminary, and co-writes the blog rethinkingyouthministry.com.