Last Saturday a group from our church was blessed to serve some of our neighbors. Trash was picked up off the street, lawns were mowed and trimmed, fallen trees were sawed and moved, and lots of overgrowth was removed from houses, bushes, fences, and trees.
At one house, we spent a lot of time on a tree in the front yard. It was a nice strong tree, but intertwined all throughout it were weeds. Throughout the tree’s life, it had not received much care. What was a beautiful tree had become infested with these foreign weeds. As we worked, more and more overgrowth was removed from the tree. By the time we left, it looked like a completely different tree.
I think this happens with our faith, and especially the faith of our teens. As young people grow, they start to develop their own faith. Thanks to someone in their life, likely a parent or parents, they have some foundational faith knowledge and belief. That belief is going to grow one way or another, and if we as caring Christian adults allow them to grow on their own, they may end up like the tree with all the weeds.
Teens are faced with a whole mess of media everyday. And this is not a “let’s all throw our phones away and hide in a dark room” essay. In fact, I think many in our Christian circles underestimate our teenagers’ ability to handle pop culture properly. However, because of this massive exposure to social media, music, movies, and the internet, sometimes it’s hard to decipher what is right and what isn’t. Many people have what I’m going to refer to as a “weeded faith.” For too long caring Christian adults were unavailable or assuming that “they’ll figure it out,” and now different weeds of the common culture have grown into our faith alongside the branches of truth.
I think that most of this transpires in more controversial topics that for too long Christians have shuddered in fear that a teen might approach them with. For example, topics of sexual identity. Many teens have never had a caring adult enter into a conversation with them about this topic outside of the likely “don’t ever do that” or “that’s wrong to do” lecture. In these realms, the Church is often silent and teens are left to fend for themselves. It turns out that the current culture is not quiet about these sort of topics, and if that is the only voice someone hears, they are likely to adopt that view into their faith.
And no, I’m not a parent and I never have been. BUT I have been a teenager, and I am part of a generation that is largely a result of this phenomenon. Too often adolescents are left to spiritually fend for themselves because they feel like they will be judged for having questions or because they believe they will get the same short and easy answer that doesn’t seem to cut it.
It’s time for the church to try and take care of some of these weeds. No these conversations are not easy to have, and no these conversations are not always fun. For too long we have looked the other way and chosen to believe, “Our teens don’t deal with that stuff.” We need not only to simply be open to the conversation, but we need to initiate an open conversation on these tough topics.
Passing down faith to the next generation is impossible without verbally expressing our views and values. Someone is going to speak into the lives of our church’s youth, and it is up to us to make sure that they are hearing truth.