Awakening The Sleeping Giant
The Sleeping Giant. This idea has been the inspiration behind music projects, the focus of books, the content for art, and the object of photography for years. Just look it up on Google or any search engine. I believe there is a sleeping giant in America. The 26 million teenagers in our country! And we have a responsibility to shape this generation and raise it. Afterall, they will be the minds and the resource behind future government, education, business, entertainment, and religious movements in our country.
I want to call you to the greatest task before us as a nation. The preparation of our young people to lead the way to the future. As Plato has said, "if we are going to fundamentally change a society we must start with its young people." And Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” And even the Apostle Paul said, "You have 10,000 teachers but no fathers (parent)."
Let's call this task before us awakening the sleeping giant. To become all they can be. Let me explain.
Mentoring young people takes work. It isn't easy and it takes a lot of time. Mentoring young people is often discouraging. And it isn't convenient and it can be unpredictable. Mentoring young people is too difficult. It is easy to look at the younger generation and throw our hands up in the air and give up. Well, for some people.
Ha-Ha. That's so true in many ways. But, here's the good news. Young people are dying to be mentored by older people. Literally. Older people have the misconception that younger people do not want to hear from them.
The older set comes from a generation that taught us to be morally biblical and conservative. The younger set comes from a generation that celebrates all things as truth and they are pretty progressive. The older set was after an ideal of success while the younger set is after an experience with success. However, the simple question is, “Will you set aside the pre-conceived ideas of mentoring and invest in the younger generation?” In my experience, young people are looking for a model, a mentor, a coach, or a parent!
Awaken the young people of your church
We've got the largest sleeping giant in the history of the church sitting in our pews – young people. Here is a short list of how to begin to awaken the young people of your church before the world gets them or before they lose interest in the church. These steps will help you build an effective, purpose-driven ministry in your church to young people.
1. Make an introduction and make yourself available. I find that lunch is a great time to connect since we all need to eat. And young people are usually up by then. Or maybe you could just introduce yourself to them in the hallways at church. And invite them to spend one lunch a month investing in a young persons life.
2. Ask significant spiritual questions and master the art of listening. Bob Biehl said, "Ask shallow questions, get shallow answers; ask profound questions, get profound answers; ask no questions, get no answers." Go after the deep stuff. Ask about devotions, doubt, sexual purity, the future, etc. Don't avoid the issues you are uncomfortable with. Because they are the issues that matter most to a teenager.
3. Take an interest in their life and culture. Their music, clothes, and conversations might seem weird to you, but it's not to them. As a matter of fact, the styles and trends that we were into 30 years ago have made a classic run to the present. Just look at the myriad of styles around you. Notice that shirt, pant, or shoe. Classic styles are in. Your interest will teach you a thing or two and connect you with them.
4. Make it a point to know their likes and dislikes. This is just good advice in any friendship or relationship. But genuineness and authenticity will go a long way to cover up for your lack of 'cool'. To be honest, teens don't care if you are 'cool'. They will be much more impacted by your care than your 'cool'. To know the likes and dislikes of a person will help you avoid wasted time. It will get you right to the heart of a person. Find out if they value words, touch, humor, sports, art, or silence. It will help you bridge the gap.
5. Compliment their strengths. God has given them unique gifts, talents, and strengths, just like you. Celebrate uniqueness. As you encourage and compliment what you see, you will achieve far more in their lives than you'll ever accomplish with cynicism or trying to conform them to your box. Everyone likes to talk about themselves. Or to hear others talk about themselves! And your words will give them the confidence to take on life's journey head-on.
Next week we are going to get very practical with this 2-part blog. Check in next week and see how to do this. In the meantime, make it a point to read through these and value them. Take action by identifying a young man in your church and do something. This is how discipleship and church growth takes place. Be willing to nudge the sleeping giant this week. And I'll give you more prax next week.
The opportunity is before us
The sustainability we want in the church will come from this generation of teens. Did you hear that? If the church is in the hands of the young people that I see across America, the church is in great hands. It is vital to the building of the church that we awaken the sleeping giant. An opportunity is like a train pulling away from the station. If you fail to get on, you missed the opportunity to reach your destination. The train is at the station for the church. Are we going to get on?