I am a meteorologist and a former youth leader at church…I have a lot to say on both subjects…and then some
I was listening to a couple of things tonight. One was the most recent Mars Hill Bible church sermon by a guest teacher Peter Rollins. They are doing a series on Ecclesiastes. However, one of the stories he tells was of somebody person on a train that loses their wallet which has their ticket in it. Because of this she has a lengthy conversation with the conductor. The story ends with the conductor telling the train rider that there is no problem with the lost ticket, because she noticed him. Most would think that he is noticed all the time, but really he is just a part of the machinery. Nobody notices him.
Then I was listening to some music right after that and the song by The Letter Black, “Hanging on by a Thread,” came on in the playlist, and this part of the song struck me:
Save me from losing myself
I’m hanging on by a thread
Can You see who I am
Underneath my scars?
I’m afraid to fall
So I’m holding on to You
No I won’t let go
I’m hanging on by a thread
The song is asking for God to notice them and love them. That’s what Peter Rollins asserts that noticing your neighbor is loving them. People are in need of love, being noticed is a part of that.
So now I take it a step further. With teens, what are they longing for? Belonging, being noticed, by their friends, in their world, and for some in their families. Being noticed, being accepted, belonging. The one thing that I have noticed about the TV show Skins, the kids are all looking for belonging. The show is all based on them finding ways to be noticed by their friends, and in many cases finding ways to be noticed by their families. Many times, it is in not so healthy way.
So one of the ways that experts have found to keep teens and young adults to remain in church, is to give them responsibility in church. When the church notices them, they stay in community. Plugging people into the community is key to discipling them.
I have worked hard at making sure that our kids are noticed by Mary and I. I have worked hard to make sure that kids in youth group are noticed. Has it all worked out? Not always. I still struggle to notice and love people sometimes. Things get in the way. If you read Ecclesiastes, King Solomon admits that everything is futile. In Ecclesiastes 2:1-10, he lists off all of the things that he has experienced: pleasure, alcohol, building bigger houses, accumulations of possessions, etc. Everything is empty. His conclusion? Be content with what you have (Ecc 2:24-26) and enjoy your work. When you skip to Ecc. 12, you find that he has come full circle, honor God, because this all disappears.