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“Last Jedi” Lessons About Working With Teenagers

You hope it’s good. You want it to be good. And…it is. It’s absolutely beautiful. Plus, [tweet_dis]the latest “Star Wars” movie has so much to teach us about youth ministry and parenting[/tweet_dis].

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is an epic, jaw-dropping high-five that’s also soulful, comedic, inspiring, and introspective. The heroes of the Resistance must try to survive the attacks of the evil First Order, scrapping for any victory they can claim, large or small. Because the Resistance is underfunded, thin on participants, and light on leadership, you constantly wonder if they’ll make it…and if so, how.

You know, kind of like youth ministry or parenting teenagers.

This amazing installment in the newest trilogy is filled with valuable insights for youth groups and families as they engage in spiritual battle against the forces of darkness in this world:

  • “The Fast and the Furious” franchise was a hit because people love the thrill of muscle cars driven with swagger through tight turns. The Last Jedi taps into that through bullheaded pilots and central characters willing to risk everything on behalf of the Rebellion. Does your ministry or household have an appropriately cocky young person or adult willing to inspire others as a fiery example of righteousness? Who regularly steps into seemingly hopeless places to fight for Jesus-centered life amid spiritual death?
Genuine humor
  • You know those awkward things junior highers do when they’re sleep-deprived or the slapstick antics some high schoolers enjoy? In the movie, that type of humor is peppered into the tough realities of war the Rebels face. It’s a reminder that “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength” (Proverbs 17:22, NLT). When is the last time your youth group or family made time to laugh together?
Unfamiliar landscape
  • Beautiful imagery. Weird creatures. Cute and fuzzy furry things. “Star Wars” is famous for revealing familiarity in the unfamiliar, just as solid mission trips take us to foreign lands so we can discover what’s inside us. Is it time to step onto new soil together to figure out what Jesus wants to plant into you?
  • Rey seeks someone to help her find her place in the universe, but Luke Skywalker is still wounded from having mentored the worst kind of Judas. Rey begs him not to think of himself as a legend who must be flawless but simply as someone willing to invest into her. How does that message ring true for you? [tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]Youth leaders and parents are what the next generation is to outgrow, if only we’ll help them grow.[/tweet_box]
  • This may seem odd, but (as one character points out) our greatest goal isn’t merely to impart our strengths into the next generation but also to help them process our failures so they know how to navigate their own. Cynicism and optimism need each other so neither is raw and unfiltered. As Jesus put it, “Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16, NIV).
  • Some people view any type of structure or movement as a machine in which good and evil are merely words. Perhaps we’ve been let down by one too many authority figures who abuse their position. But at the end of the day, someone must organize the chaos so the heart-heavy, the soulful, the thinkers, and the doers can live together under values that help them grow together. Who’s leading your ministry or your home? Is it the loudest voice in the room or people with the deepest ear to Jesus?
  • Anyone searching for identity is looking for a name. When we can’t find it in all the usual places, we seek it in unusual places. Who’s naming the teenagers around you? Who’s sharing truths and possibilities with them? If youth leaders and parents aren’t helping kids hear Jesus’ voice, someone else will help them hear the voice of the moment.
Say what?
  • The Last Jedi goes quiet when you expect it to go loud. It allows death when you anticipate life, and vice versa. It’s unpredictable yet somehow reliable. Teenagers need the adults in their lives to structure some “say what?” moments rather than the same weekly routine. [tweet_dis]What would it look like to appropriately disrupt kids from Jesus, through Jesus, for Jesus?[/tweet_dis]

The Last Jedi is filled with great quotes, but perhaps the most telling is this: “[tweet_dis]Hope is like the sun.[/tweet_dis] If you only believe in it when you see it, you’ll never make it through the night.” That sounds like Jesus speaking to Thomas after the Resurrection. It also sounds like something kids need to learn from youth leaders and parents about faith.

That’s the big takeaway: The flame will die out if it isn’t passed from one generation to the next (see Judges 2:10). But even in the darkest moments, we can always find the spark of Jesus (who’s way more personal than an impersonal Force). For every hit we take that makes us feel as if everything’s lost, Jesus reminds us that we’re the light of the world and that God’s words do not return void.

To again quote the movie: “That’s how we’re going to win. Not fighting what we hate. Saving what we love.”

Actively teach your hotshots how to be hotshots. Regularly remind the mechanics, brawlers, diplomats, and strategists to do their thing, too. Remember that successful discipleship with teenagers doesn’t involve turning them into the Luke, Leia, or Han of your generation but helping them become who Jesus calls them to be in this generation.

You hope it’s good. You want it to be good.

It is. It’s absolutely beautiful.

Pass this on.

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