Why Youth Ministry Needs Lent
It's here! That time in the church calendar when people are posting on social media about giving up chocolate, Diet Coke, and Facebook for 40 days (well it's more like 46 days but Sunday's don't count, but that doesn't mean you can cheat. Remember God is watching!). I was involved in an exchange today in a Facebook youth ministry group regarding Lent. It went something like this:
Him: What is your reasoning for doing lent? I do not participate but am curious as to your answers and how you explain it to your teens.
Others: We don't do Lent either, we're Baptist. Blah, blah, blah. That's too Catholic for us. Blah, blah, blah. Lent is too hard for students to understand.
Me: Is this a serious question? Lent is part of the church calendar. A time of preparation leading up to Easter. A way for us to focus on Christ in a way similar to his 40 day experience in the desert. Ignoring Lent and only focusing on "happy" parts of the church year is a diluted version of the Gospel. And a diluted version of the Gospel isn't the Gospel at all. It's just you and not Christ. Do you not observe Easter or Christmas? What about Advent?
Once again, my lack of filter might have stirred the pot a little bit more than I had anticipated or desired.
I find it interesting and frightening that throughout youth ministry theology is being removed.
We want to have a relationship with students, to be their friend, and then maybe talk about Jesus a little bit. You know, just enough to say we did but not enough to engage in thought provoking questions or even questions we might not know the answer to.
There's a saying, "Theology is the part of religion that requires a brain." It's like we've removed the brains from youth ministry and are just running on Red Bull, Dodgeball, and raging hormones.
Youth Ministry Needs Lent
There, I said it.
Youth ministry needs Lent because all throughout the year students are being told that Jesus loves them, they should love Jesus, and that because of that love they have a responsibility to represent Jesus in everything they do. Well, part of the responsibility of representing Jesus includes remembering that Jesus spent 40 days in the desert. And those 40 days included fasting and temptation. When we participate in the act of fasting as a preparation for Christ's journey to the cross we are focusing on Christ rather than the chocolate, Diet Coke, or Facebook posts that are distracting us from Jesus.
But are those things really distracting our teenagers from Jesus? Or is it things like the pressure of performing perfectly in school or on the soccer field? Maybe it's the family practice of skipping church without batting an eyelash but then never missing The Walking Dead on Sunday's at 9:00 PM.
Youth ministry needs Lent because Lent provides us with 40 days (46 really) to build spiritual disciplines. And believe it or not, in a world where youth ministry involves more dodgeball, food, and video games than Jesus we need spiritual disciplines.
We, youth ministry, needs Lent because we've dropped the ball. We've reduced spiritual practices to little more than saying your prayers before going to sleep and 'liking' the daily devotion post on the youth group Instagram page.