As a pastor with major responsibilities in youth ministry, these words from Peter Block in his book “Community: The Structure of Belonging” are words that every church community needs to engrain within their identity. This is the lens by which your youth pastors and youth leaders view your youth.
Youth are a unifying force in community. Hard to argue against the next generation. An alternative future opens when we shift our view of youth (say 14 – 24 years old) from problem to possibility, from deficiency to gift. When you drive by a street corner and see young people hanging out at odd hours making a living in odd ways, we can view them as having gifts waiting to be given, rather than being problems waiting to be solved.
If you notice they are dealing drugs, you hold the thought that they have entrepreneurial skill: it is just aimed in the wrong direction. If you are concerned that they are not in school, well, they are learning something, just not what we had in mind.
Someone recently said that for youth who have dropped out of school and who have no support system around them, the street corner is the only classroom that welcomes them and is available to them. It has no entrance requirements and is open 24 hours a day. Is this way of thinking true? Not exactly, but it is useful because it puts us in a more forgiving stance.
If we care about youth instead of trying to control and inculcate them, then we have to deal with our adultism. This means we have to change the nature of our listening. Create places and people that welcome youth, where youth see themselves reflected in those who have chosen to work with them.
pages 165 – 166.
How do you view the youth in your church? Where do you see possibility? Where do you see gift?