I know…I’ve got it bad.
So bad, in fact, that I check the Broncos Web site almost daily. I like to keep up with the running pre-season stories and see which underdogs are going to make the team. Given that this is the last week of the pre-season, all of those “on the bubble” players are going to be cut. I really feel bad for those guys because they work so hard and practice with the team from April to September, only to be cut at the very last minute. What a terrible feeling to be told you aren’t good enough to belong.
I know how it feels.
I grew up in the big city of Denver, and though it had its perks—no one knows who you are, or what you do, or how you feel—there’s this pervasive sense of belonging that is absent.
I noticed it most during my high school years. I went to a large high school in a county with a handful of other large high schools—each with about 2,500 students. My graduating class had just less than 500 people, with the incoming freshman class topping 1,000.
The traffic is the main thing I hate about cities. People don’t really look out for one another, and the traffic is horrible. It takes you an hour to get to work, even if it’s only 10 miles away. Same thing in high school—people don’t look out for each other and in the halls you’re just another “vehicle.”
With so many people around, there’s not too many who care about who you are or what you do. Most high school kids have a handful of friends and likely only know a handful of others in their graduating class by name.
The one thing that’s lacking is the sense of belonging—especially for today’s generation of sheltered, protected Millennials. These kids are dying to belong to something greater than themselves, that’s why you see so many teenagers today volunteering to help rebuild New Orleans or take food to a homeless shelter. They want to belong to something worthwhile, something definitive, something life-changing.
I want the same thing they want—and I know you’ll understsand when I say I find my life-changing mission in youth ministry. As a youth minister I’ve got my little brothers and sisters who I go watch play football and soccer and basketball, I’ve got my aunts and uncles who invite me over for dinner every now and then, and I’ve got my grandmas and grandpas who shake my hand with some wise words of advice and like to surprise me with a plate of cookies every now and then. It is such an awesome feeling to do God’s kingdom work standing alongside those fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. At no other time do I feel like I belong more than at those times, and it’s because we’re unified by one thing: Jesus. And he offers all those things that teenagers desire so badly: a life worthwhile, definitive, and ground-breaking.
Want to teach more teenagers about Jesus? Want to bring more of them into a relationship with Him? Recognize their need for belonging, and create ways for them to experience that feeling. Don’t ever let them feel like they’re only “on the bubble”—they get far too much of that from the pressure-packed school and home life that tells them they have to be #1 at everything.
They belong to Christ, you just have to help them realize it.
Chris Roberts is Associate Editor for Group Magazine, and is a 6-year youth ministry veteran. You can contact him at croberts@GroupPublishing.com.
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