Life Sized Decisions
Large-scale events create the space teenagers need to experience genuine faith. Life is only lived by a teenager with others, especially peers. Things only make sense by testing their thoughts by interacting with someone else. This whole process is amplified when 7,000 of them get together at the same time and place. Now, they are home.
I wrote a paper a couple of years ago for the journal Missiology. You can read the whole thing if you want. TL; dr -- The gist of the research contends teenagers listen most closely to God's calling when they are in a group setting, outside of a regular routine, and have the ear of a close mentor figure. NYC took care of two of the three. What teenagers need now is a mentor figure.
Try not to dump a bunch of things from the world these teenagers left: chores, work details, stressful stuff that happened at home while they were gone. Let them ease back into home life.
They might have already talked about the Big Important Things That Happened at NYC.
Now, it's the small conversations and quiet realizations about what God means to them or what He wants them to do with their lives that might still bang around their skulls; they are not sure ... yet ... what to do with these thoughts and decisions. This could take some time for them to sort out.
They think you want them to be a doctor, but they've heard from God Who wants them to learn Spanish and live in an urban barrio ministering to drug addicts, and they are worried sick about how Mom or Dad are going to react. Be ready and prayerful and patient, did I mention being ready, already? Let your response be less reactive and more receptive.
True, you the parent might need as much grace as the child in responding to God's calling. Be ready. Ephesians 6:15 calls all Christians to be prepared (with the "readiness") to take the "gospel of peace" wherever it is needed. It might be needed in your teen's heart and mind right now. So, be ready.
As my friend Moise in Benin would say, "C'est chaud!" [French pronounced like "say show" meaning "it's hot!"] In other words, don't wait until memories fade, and things cool down. The time is now for these major decisions to turn into life trajectories. Keep the momentum going.
Mentors will help keep the energy of last week rolling forward into the rest of your teen's life.
Make Your Gratitude Obvious
Finally, be thankful for events like NYC. Be grateful for the adults that planned it and accompanied them. Write a quick note to one of the organizers like Justin Pickard at NYI's US/Canada office or if you're from the East Central U.S. Field (East Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio districts), let James Smith know how much you appreciate the work put into this event. Maybe even send your district organizer(s) a gift card. They put a lot into your children this past week/month/year. Make your gratitude tangible.
Things happen at NYC that could never have been planned or anticipated. God works through events like this one. It's scary, I know, a lot has happened in a few days.
I've been a teen, a youth pastor, and a parent. This is what God created us--and our teens--for.
Let His Kingdom come and shine forth!
7/13/2015 03:22:20 am
Great article - I remember the impact that NYC made on me as a teen, and several more as a leader. So glad for this great week for our youth. It is lifechanging.
7/13/2015 04:27:40 am
Well said professor! I still remember very well some profound moments from NYC '91. Some things surely fade a bit with time, but with apt responses from parents and mentors, who knows what God will do in the thousands that are on fire right now?? C'est chaud maintenant!
7/13/2015 09:09:43 am
Hi Spencer!!! So cool to be reading this and see your name! 8 of us went from lake city!
7/13/2015 04:53:52 am
yesterday later I pray at the end of the Sunday Service a lady member of the church came to me asking me to pray for her teenager, a 14 years old girl. According to her mom she was possessed by demons. When I had the chance to speak with the girl she told me his papa left the family when she was close to get 15's, her mother took her to the doctor because she tough was with dementia and she was feeling alone. I ask about her relationship with God and she answers "He is my Pather and I love Him". She cried a lot. Broken my heart. I prayed not for her instead with her for her parent and now she is better, smiling and ready to continue being the daughter of the God she loves. We need to work with teenager close and with love. Nazarenes are challenged to be better Christians starting at home with the family.
7/13/2015 07:42:21 am
This is great stuff. Thank you for sharing!
7/13/2015 07:46:13 am
NYC 15 really changed the way I've been looking at God. The last night I finally realized what God is calling me to do, become a pastor
"The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it." 1 Thess 5:24. Always remember, even when things get hazy and confusing. Prepare to do what God has called you to do. It will be hard, this preparation: personally, it's more difficult to work with a person's soul than their bodies (doctors) or their machines (engineers). There's an eternity being at stake. This is your calling, step forward into it, and shine forth. You are part of the coming wave. I'm not sure what God is up to, but I know it's more than any of us could ever imagine.
7/13/2015 08:15:18 am
Very well stated, and so true. The impact of NYC will be enhanced by wise response from parents, pastors, and friends!
A pleasant surprise to hear from you. Thanks for the encouragement, which is no surprise at all! The full impac of NYC is yet to be determined but it's an honor to be part of what's happening today. God is calling many young lives right now, and it is overwhelming and challenging but I wouldn't want it to be any other way. BTW, you might be interested in my work on megaregions; my first post is on this blog, last week, with much more to come.
7/13/2015 01:27:24 pm
NYC was amazing. I was there as a youth leader. I can not wait to see the fruit in the lives of these teens. God was there. God gave our teens hope!!! Keep praying. We prayed do much before NYC but now is when the students will keep and live out what they heard.
7/13/2015 02:13:18 pm
Our daughter gets home tomorrow, I can hear in her voice the excitement & "change" this week has made in her life. Thank you to everyone who contributed & invested in these kid's life, you are much appreciated & such a blessing!
7/13/2015 03:40:42 pm
That's the exact reaction we had when we picked our son up. And he has been talking just like your article says and we have been listening and thankful to God for all that we have seen and heard. Where did our old son go he was a wonderful kid but wow did God ever improve on the old version. I hope everyone's child came back like ours
And, it's our ears they need right now. I'm listening more than talking. I'm hearing great stories. I just need to remember to tell our youth workers what is happening in the lives of my kids. They wore themselves out last week, and they need the encouragement too. I plan on posting a lot more in the next few days and weeks to follow-up.
7/13/2015 03:44:12 pm
My son just returned last night from NYC and my first reaction was that this was not the kid that I dropped off at the bus. My son has been so full of life and calmness. He returned home to a chaotic house with 3 other siblings and grandparents under one room and he is calm. I am so thankful he had this experience and I continue to pray that he will build on what he learned at NYC. God is amazing!!
It is just like when Jesus calmed the disciples in the middle of the storm. It's right in that moment that faith was most evident. Praying that your son continues to grow into all that happened last week. I'll post some more in the following days and weeks that might be of some help.
7/14/2015 12:28:19 am
Our teens got home late last night. Haven't had a chance to see them yet. But this so true about NYC returnees. I had the chance to coordinate our Canada West District NYC for Orlando, Phoenix & St. Louis and be a sponsor for Toronto. NYC is an amazing experience and one I would definitely promote to any parent/pastor/grandparent to do what you can to get your teens there. Start saving/fund raising for the next one now. .
7/14/2015 01:56:01 am
I just wish life hadn't slammed our daughter in the face the minute she got home. The bounce was taken from her. I'm praying after this storm passes she can get it back.
7/14/2015 08:53:55 am
Matt, this was a wonderful read at a perfect time. Thank you for your insight as a youth pastor, pastor, parent, educator. I appreciate your wisdom and insight. Keep these coming!
7/14/2015 09:54:47 am
Thanks for this great article. My daughter was impacted in a powerful way by this event. Thankful for her youth pastor who discipled the youth group before, during, and now after the event. Thankful to those who organized and helped to make this event happen...no small feat. God spoke...and those at NYC heard...and He continues to speak.
7/16/2015 12:41:00 am
This nailed the exact scenario of what I've been hearing in my home. God's Spirit is at work. "Whether they turn to the right or to the left, may they hear a voice behind them saying, 'this is the way, walk in it!" Thank you for the truth of your article.
11/5/2021 01:47:42 am
It helped when you mentioned that the small conversations are important that give realizations about what God means to teenagers. My cousin mentioned to me last night that he and his friends are planning to go to a youth conference and asked if I have any idea what is the best option to do. Thanks to this informative article and I'll be sure to tell him that it will be much better if they consult youth conference service as they can answer all their inquiries.
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