Notes from Autobiographies of Older Teenagers

From Volume 4: Number 1, Fall 2005 of The Journal of Youth Ministry
Don’t Make Jesus Cry: A Qualitative Analysis of Spiritual Autobiographies of Older Teenagers by Delia Nuesch-Olver

I read this article from the Journal of Youth Ministry a few months go, but I am just now getting to thinking and posting about it. Here are some quotes (highlighted) and my thoughts.

“Without a single exception, students told stories from their own lives that underscored the power of mentoring and accountability in their faith journey. To a person, they used language that clearly illustrated their conviction that relationships were of higher importance in the shaping of their faith than programming. In describing their relationships with their mentors, many students use language of ‘family,’ and ‘parent figure when my own parents were not available.'”

It isn’t surprising that mentoring relationships are more important in the formation of young people than programs. I always say in my classes that the programs are an excuse for the relationship.

“Consistently, these older teenagers reflected on the impact made on their lives by adults who went beyond the scheduled youth ministry activities.”

My most vivid memories, both as a member of a youth group and as a youth pastor were the times away from youth ministry activities. Spending time with people will always be more memorable than just “another Bible study lesson”. It truly shows the interest that someone has in you if they want to spend time with you outside the group time.

“Moral failures of youth pastors destroyed much more than trust for the one person involved. It challenged, to the very core, all that the youth worker and the church had attempted to teach.” (101)

Our actions affect many more people than just those “involved.” One sure way to destroy a young person’s faith is for them to see moral failure in the life of a youth pastor. God, protect me from that.

“Apparently, many of my students hear how Jesus can help them with what they perceive to be ‘normal issues,’ while they, and their friends, are dealing with incest and other sexual offenses, domestic abuse, eating disorders, and fear of terrorist attacks, to name just a few. Their experience in church leaves some of them thinking that, ‘Jesus has no clue,’ and wondering about the relevance of the Christian faith.”

The Bible and Christianity must be practical. There are many “hurts” in the lives of those around us. We must be willing to talk about those things and show an interest in their lives in order to help them. Jesus is relevant to our lives. Unfortunately, most of the time the modern church isn’t.

“What they hear from the pulpit does not translate into the right responses to situations that are normal to them.” (107)

There needs to be a connection between what we teach and what they are experiencing.

“When mission trip was placed in a theological context linked to the cross-cultural mission of God, and when it happened in the context of a mission minded church, students tended to return with a professed need for a more intentional pursuit of God – a desire for more spiritual growth.” (109)

Missions is a forming experience. It allows you to see God working in different places. You see God from a different perspective, and you are changed. Missions ought to be a vital part of the Christian experience.