I recently bought The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry by Andrew Root and Kenda Creasy Dean. This is a great book and really thick, as the name and authors would suggest. As I am working through the book (which I will review on Monday) I was struck by a chapter written by Dean called, Proclaiming Salvation. Under the section Salvation and identity formation: Trying not to disappear, she makes the case that part of the reason students do outlandish and obnoxious behavior is so they don't disappear and become absorbed by those more powerful or colorful. As students develop their identity they begin wrestling with a true fear of insignificance. The gospel becomes a deep theological and practical answer to this fear.
We must be careful to craft a ministry informed by this reality. Youth ministry historically has lifted up and highlighted the powerful, colorful, popular, and even obnoxious students with in our ministries. Without even realizing it, through our actions we've said that, in order to be seen as valuable, or seen at all, they must stand out.
Rather than confirming their fear of disappearing, we must instead be informed by this theological and developmental reality. This means that we work hard to actually see all the students God has entrusted to us, to see them as the unique and precious person their Creator does. The gospel of Jesus is exactly that--Jesus leaving the 99 and running after the sheep who has disappeared. And when He finds her, He celebrates!
Jesus sees students, and really, all of us, personally and individually, not as a crowd. He reaches out to us and invites us to be a part of His family, to live with Him, and to be a part of the family business. We were once not a people, and now we are the people of God. We were once homeless orphans, and now we are co-heirs with Christ.
I look forward to the rest of the book and reviewing it over the weekend. But until then, I hope you enjoy Audio Adrenaline's 1995's answer to the question of identity and belonging. Enjoy the Cheese!