Most of us love superhero stories, even though they force us to suspend our disbelief. Why hasn’t anyone figured out that Superman is Clark Kent or that Bruce Wayne is Batman? Do a pair of glasses and a mask really confound us? Are we so focused on the cape that we miss their imperfections?
If you or I were a superhero, the pressure of saving the world would likely be too much to handle. And today’s young people, marked by the pursuit of perfection, can relate to that. Four out of five teenagers believe they’re more driven than their peers. In other words, they don’t realize that for every Spider Man, there’s a Peter Parker—and for everyone who hides behind a strength, there is weakness.
And this is where the Holy Spirit steps in—turning their weaknesses into strengths. Few teenagers live as if they can conquer anything. But we can help them realize they don’t need to hide who they are. (After all, just like Clark Kent, we all can see their true identity anyway.) Here are a few ideas:
Help kids grasp who God created them to be.
In youth ministry, we want teenagers to find their identity in Christ. But it’s tough for them (and us!) to understand and accept that reality. They need to know that it’s impossible to discover and live out of our “true self” by relying on our own strength . Students (just like us) believe life is about “trying harder to get better.” Paul says: “It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for” (Ephesians 1:11, The Message). Make this the filter for everything you do in ministry.
Help students embrace the adventure Jesus has in store for them.
Jesus calls each of his children into an epic adventure. We can live in the small story we construct for ourselves, or the big story he’s inviting us into. How? In our ministry, we encourage teenagers to open their hands before the Lord and say: “Whatever you ask, I will do. Then, wherever you take me, I will go.” This is a crazy journey with unexpected turns, but it’s the only adventure truly worth taking. And we can take the first step forward only if our life is “hidden” in Jesus, not when we’re relying on our own human strength.
Model how to live without a cape (or net).
We can easily get trapped in trying to accomplish “good” in our own strength. Yet the Avengers and Justice League are who they are because they’re a team of heroes with different powers that don’t come from their own conjuring. The Flash was hit by lightning, Superman comes from Krypton, Aquaman hails from Atlantis, and so on. All superheroes must learn three things: 1. Their power is present only because of an outside source. 2. In some way, they need others to support them. 3. They must take the plunge into living fully as the person they were made to be. Saving the world is far too important. There’s no other secret formula for success.
We want our kids to embrace their life with Jesus and stop trying so hard. Their weakness is really made strong in the power of Jesus, who makes them superheroes.