build a fire, dance around it, speak into the life of kids, reapeat

Yesterday I had a phone interview for an article to appear in a Christian magazine. One of the questions that the writer submitted prior to the interview was, “why do tweens and jr high students need their own music when they can just listen to the music now that they will eventually listen to when they are teenagers?” I intended to steer the interview as much as possible to the underlying theme of what is wrong with our current systems and practices for walking beside the youth in our churches as they grow up. We have traded many traditions in our faith for rearing children for a ‘just get through it’ mentality. In so doing, the real damage done is a failure to equip students with a faith that holds together during life’s crisis moments. (AKA Jr High)

I feel like the greatest lesson for transition into tween ministry within the church came from the Disney Movie "Brother Bear". I know, forget about all the stupid new age overtones and see how the community walked their young through a process of maturing into adult hood. The key to me was how they were all involved. Remember the party around the camp fire when the whole community presented the young Indians with their tokens. How awesome would it be if we were constantly be sitting our students down and affirming the gifts that we see in them. We need to let them know that those gifts are needed in the Body. (NOW and when they graduate)

I firmly feel there is great significance in the concrete right of passage they had set up on the movie. You were allowed to put your hand on the wall and join the larger adult community (or in our case, join this more mature age group of tween ministry in the church) when the whole community gathered around you and acknowledge your growth. They made it a BIG STINKING deal.

Rights of passage are a strong force in so many cultures around the world. Have we neglected the purpose and shaping power in these corporate faith traditions in protestant America?

Furthermore, we all know that the most important things happen in Big Church and the Sr. Pastor says it . . . perhaps this would be the best place to start. HEY! ALL you SR. Pastors out there reading this discussion (that you find fascinating) on transitions in student ministry: Make this important. Let's build a fire, dance in big church and hand out wooden tokens to our kids.

Rent the freaking movie! It's awesome.


Travis Long said...

good stuff johnny.

jimkastkeat said...

Totally agree.

Rights of passage or so essential and so absent in our churches.

For me and my team the most difficult is developing rights of passage that won't just become "another new thing."

How do you create something that has "staying" power?