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[Creativity] The Curse of Invisibility

The other day I was standing in the checkout lane at our neighborhood grocery store, waiting to pay while the checker scanned a few things. After her initial (grunted) “hello,” she paid no attention to me. Instead, she talked with a co-worker about how sick of her job she was, and how she wished she could move from a “regular” lane to the self-check lanes so she wouldn’t have to interact with people.

People like me…

I was about 18 inches away from this interchange, but I felt invisible. And this was not a new feeling—I’ve noticed that at many retail outlets the employees often seem to forget about the customer who’s a few inches away. They live in a bubble that “sees” only other employees, because (it’s inferred) those are the people they’re most interested in building connection with.

They are home-blind. And we who are in ministry are also-often home-blind.

Home-blind people have lost their sense of the “other”—they’ve become so acclimated to their persistent reality that they literally don’t see what is obvious to others. The effect is to push people away—to make them feel invisible. And that’s a poison-pill for relationships, killing any access to our heart and to potential community. The reverse of home-blindness is also powerfully true: simply, we’re drawn to places and to people who “see” us—who not only don’t treat us as if we’re invisible, but accentuate the clouded beauty of who we really are. In short, the feeling of being seen and enjoyed for our embedded “self” is likely the most powerful magnet in the universe.

And home-blindness negates that magnet—big-time.

So, here’s a sampler list of ways we’re often home-blind in youth ministry. Use whatever is convicting on this list as a merciful wake-up call to re-engage our heart and creativity as we serve…

• We’ve spent so many years “dialing in” what we believe that we’re repelled by the doubts of others, and feel lost in responding to them. So we attack those doubts or functionally ignore them instead of inviting conversation around them.

• We’re so weary of putting our best stuff out there for kids to consume, then sensing that our “best stuff” is making little impact, that we allow a jaded attitude to infiltrate all of our interactions with them.

• We’re so tired of the mess and chaos and mystery of youth ministry that we place “right behavior” above “unconditional welcome.”

• We’ve been reading and studying the Bible for so long that we forget that the lingo we’ve developed to describe biblical truth (“saved” or “Holy Ghost” or “armor of God” or “spiritual warfare,” for example) sounds ridiculous and off-putting to the uninitiated.

• We equate cultural and aesthetic differences with sin, and default to shortcut labels in the way we relate to those differences.

• We’ve been following Jesus so long that we think we already know everything there is to know about Him, so we stop exploring Him in favor of topics that are of more interest to us. This, even though every survey project we’ve done in the last five years that targets what kids want from church lists “more about Jesus” as the top vote-getter.

I’m sure there are many, many other examples of home-blindness we could add to this list—and please do. Add your own examples in the comments section, and Tweet or post this link so others can weigh-in. Let’s stir up the “sleeping giant” inside our own soul and be awake to our own blindness.

Jesus came to give sight to the blind—and all of us qualify for that gift…



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12 thoughts on “[Creativity] The Curse of Invisibility

  1. Christie Kelly

    Thanks for this Rick! Really needed to read it today. Was feeling jaded this morning. God reaffirmed the attitude correction I need to make with His help.

    • Rick Lawrence

      Christie, just reading your comment reminds me of the overwhelming strength of humility—our ability to grow into God’s dreams for us is so dependent on our receptivity… Thanks for the encouragement to do “likewise”…

  2. Patty J Kernstock

    I often think about losing the “awe factor” when we do things with kids that for them is the first (and many times only) opportunity they will get. We take them on their first mission trip, for example, and they are blown away by what they see- while we think (and stupidly, sometimes say!) “Oh, this is NOTHING! You should have seen when we were in ______________” or they are deeply moved by a retreat or camp experience and we think (and stupidly, sometimes say!) “Last year’s was way better.”

    God forgive us for letting the air ( or spirit, or Pneuma!) out of tires and balloons!!!

    • Rick Lawrence

      Patty, I think you’re dead-on about our diminished “awe factor” and the unsuspecting ways we communicate a kind of “diminishing” message to kids.The other night a friend said it was hard for him to imagine doing what the Bible suggests we’ll be doing for eternity in heaven—worshipping Jesus. I said it’s impossible for us to imagine doing something like that and not getting bored pretty quickly—unless worship in the presence of Jesus is almost an involuntary physical response. What if we are so continuously attracted to Jesus that we don’t even realize we’re worshipping Him? An eternity of that is possible. And that’s the essence of “not losing our awe”—to be continually impressed by, and drawn to, Jesus…

  3. Always trying to stress the importance of a RELATIONSHIP with Jesus. How can we have a relationship with someone we don’t know? The importance of knowing all about Him and His love for us is key to nurturing that relationship. Packing all of this into the short time we have with these precious kids is truly a challenge!

    • Rick Lawrence

      Lynn, this is exactly why I wrote (and am right now re-writing completely, for a March 2014 release) a book eight years ago called Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry. We are inundated with competing goals and imperatives in ministry, but as Jesus said to Martha: “Only one thing is necessary.” If our only goal was channeling everything we do into an environment that deepens knowledge about, and intimacy with, Jesus—then our mission is clear…

    • There are times I think our kids really don’t care to know Jesus. He is invisible and hard for them to grab on to sometimes. Developing a relationship with someone you can not see or even know is hard for anyone.

      • Rick Lawrence

        An honest revelation, for sure… In my own experience, I’ve never seen anyone (students included) not be drawn to Jesus when the environment is infused with wonder and awe toward Him… The hard, self-revelatory, question is: “Am I more or less passionate about who Jesus is, and what He’s doing in my life, than I was last year?” The answer to that question isn’t fodder for “shoulds” or “shaming”—it’s planting a seed for a longing that has slowly escaped us… To paraphrase the honest man seeking healing for his son in Mark 9: “I do love You Jesus, but help my lack of wonder.”

  4. Great stuff, Rick. I actually noted yesterday how many of our church announcements were full of insider’s language. Our guy who does them always does a great job with presence and personality, but when we say things like “See Jon on this” or “Turn in your Connection Card,” we leave people who don’t the “who” or “what” feeling invisible.. and then we wonder why they don’t assimilate in.

    I wonder how many inside jokes in youth ministry leave students feeling like outsiders.

    • Rick Lawrence

      Tony, that’s exactly it… I think our best work almost always starts out with “I wonder…”

  5. Hi. Rick. Great breakdown on “home-blindness.” It sounds a lot like what afflicts the church. It raises the question of how we get the church, and that includes youth ministry, to understand, recognize, accept, and turn from home-blindness. Lots of work to be done and it starts with us/me.

    • Rick Lawrence

      Thanks for weighing in on this, Claire… Humble acceptance of the truth is bravery…

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[Creativity] The Curse of Invisibility

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