This post is not about the expectations of a 12 year old joining a youth ministry programme. This post is about our expectations as those leading youth ministry of 12 year olds.
What will they do? What do they know? Will they hack it after “just” being on the receiving end of children’s ministry?
We need to lift our eyes, our dreams, our hopes and our expectations higher!
An example from my own experience and then a look at Jesus ::
Daniel and David.
No, I don’t mean Daniel and David of the Bible. I mean Daniel (aged 7) and David (aged 8) who gobsmacked me some years ago now when I was leading some children’s work at a Christian holiday. These two lads bounded up to me one morning and declared, “God has been speaking to us through dreams and pictures!” They then talked about the dreams (pretty stonking stuff) and asked me what they meant. I was stumped, how could I know? Being spiritual though I suggested they “go and pray about it some more and ask God to show you what they mean.” (ha, got out of that one!)
Off the went. That night they excitedly returned and proceeded to tell me that God had told them what the dreams meant and that they were being asked to “pray for leaders, so being a leader can you get as many leaders together as you can so we can pray for them?” (ouch, that will teach me!)
I said yes. That night I had gathered about 100 leaders from the children’s programme and these two boys arrived with their embarrassed looking mums. They then proceeded to pray for the next 40 minutes for every leader. One walked around introducing himself and asking if there was anything in particular he could pray about. The other would just put a hand on a leaders shoulder and pray quietly in tongues and then move on to the next one.
As they finished they came up to me and said, “can you ask if anyone felt they met with God whilst we prayed so we might be encouraged?” I asked. A forest of hands went up and the two lads punched the air!
These lads were still three years away from the youth group, probably both in Year 3 at school. Year 3. What are our expectations of young people?
Didn’t you know?
Jesus to his parents, Luke 2:49
Didn’t you know? No, they didn’t! This story occurs after Jesus and his family have been in Jerusalem for the Passover. They have then assumed, as they head home, that Jesus is somewhere in the family group. One day out they realise that he is not with them (that is then another day to get back), they then search Jerusalem for a further three days. Total time parents are loosing it = 5 days!
For five days Jesus has been in the temple courts. He is listening and asking questions (which is how Jesus goes on to engage with people in his adult ministry after his baptism 18 years later).
We might have a youth programme where we consider they young people have had enough “spiritual input” if we have a five minute epilogue never mind five days.
He was 12 years old. It isn’t an incidental thing for Luke to mention in his account, of all the gospel writers, Luke is most deliberate with his statements of fact and circumstance. There is good evidence that in Jesus’ time, as so today, a Jewish boy did not reach what was understood to be an adult age until they were 13.
Jesus knows who he is. Jesus knows what he is being called to. Jesus is thirsty for knowledge. As well as asking questions, clearly the religious teachers are also asking him questions as it states in the passage, “everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers”. This is not simply a child waiting to be filled with what adults have to give him.
I know, I know – we can look at this passage and think – well yes, he was 12, but he was also the son of God! That is true, but the passage finishes with something special that we would do well to remember if we intend to make a huge distinction between this 12 year old and our own youth group.
And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man
Jesus is still a boy with growing and learning to do. The son of God, learning and growing in wisdom. I don’t know how that worked for Jesus, I wish we had more of scripture with Jesus as a young man – but, we don’t we have this glimpse. Yet, despite who his parents knew he was – he still managed to confound their expectations. Those closest to him did not see it.
What are we missing as we work with our own young people? What do we hold back on doing because “they aren’t ready?” Is that really the case – or is it that we aren’t ready? Are we ready for the journey our young people might take us on as they grow ever more excited about meeting with Jesus, learning from him through the scriptures and by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in them.
Our young people and our children do not received a “baby” or “junior” version of the Holy Spirit. It is the same Spirit that we receive.
What might God be longing to do? What might God already be doing?
Don’t miss it. Raise your expectations. Encourage your young people, give them permission to go deeper – some will wait for your lead, but they are ready. Watch out too for the mavericks, the ones on the edge – who aren’t looking for your permission or waiting for your blessing – they are already getting on with it and pursuing what God has for them. Catch up. Run alongside as an encourager and friend.
Lets expect more of God, lets expect more of our young people.