I noticed a trend in our house as of late. Let me give you some background to help elaborate where I’m coming from. And bear with me. Today’s post is a somewhat lengthy one, but I believe it is one that needs to be read and heard by the masses!
Jason and I love cooking! It’s a ton of fun, especially when we get to do it together and get to try and create new things, and it usually tastes better and is healthier than store-bought meals either in a box or from the frozen section. When we were dating, 9 times out of 10 we’d find a recipe and cook it together at my parents house and sit down to watch a movie. When we first got married, all we ever did once I got home from work was cook fresh new meals. In fact, I didn’t have much on my plate (at work, not literally in regards to food) at the time, so I spend much of my time browsing for new and exciting recipes! However, a lot changed when we moved to PA.
When we moved to Lewisburg, Jason and I were staying in someone’s guest house. We are forever grateful to this wonderful couple for their hospitality! The guest house had a few cooking supplies, but we were limited with the tools we had at our disposal. We made a few trips to the trailer that housed all of our belongings to grab spices and things, but didn’t want to unload everything just to pack it back up again. With that said, we were able to make a few meals, but our healthy eating habits were out the door, and many of our meals were pre- or partially pre-prepared. After two months we moved into a house we were in the process of buying, though after a few months the loan fell through and we had to find another place. But we did quite a bit of our own cooking here. Our healthy habits were in and out depending on what church or youth events we were having at the time, but we did pretty well given the circumstances.
So you’d think that after moving into our permanent residence our healthy eating habits would fall right back into place and progress from somewhat healthy to very healthy. Unfortunately, that was not the case. The oven. Oh, the oven… Within our first day in our new home we found out that the oven would not turn on or heat up. You couldn’t even open the oven door because it was locked and had no way to unlock it. Thankfully, the seller knows us and was very gracious with helping us get it fixed. The people who were doing the repairs, however, were a pain to deal with. After a month we were finally able to use the oven, but now the clock doesn’t stay lit and needs to be fiddled with to set the oven temperature. I can’t wait to get a new oven! That’s what started our continuation of very bad eating habits. We had to resort to only stovetop, microwave, or restaurant prepared meals at the time.
Our habits didn’t stop there. I personally attribute it to our cold house, but it could be a number of reasons of which I am unaware. Our house is set on 50 degrees, so I don’t particularly enjoy spending 30 minutes to an hour in the kitchen preparing a meal. I’d rather throw something on the stove or in the oven and go sit on the couch in front of our cozy space heater. As you can probably imagine, that means we have been on a diet of “bowl meals”.
Let me explain. The past few times that I’ve run our dishwasher, there hasn’t been a single plate to be loaded. Rather, it was full of our bowls and spoons. So much so that we ran our of spoons in our silverware drawer once (we have more bowls than sets of silverware)! That’s when I realized how much we were relying on prefab meals. Everything was coming from the box or the freezer. We had the same frozen meats in our freezer for weeks and didn’t touch them because “it takes too long to thaw” or “I don’t want to stand in the cold so long”. We left everything in the hands of the manufacturers of things like macaroni and cheese and hamburger helper type meals. I like my prefab meals, but part of me misses the creativity, enjoyment, and health benefits we got out of preparing our own meals completely from scratch.
And finally, my realization. We do the same with our spirituality.
Think about it. How often do we read the Bible for ourselves? Or do we spend most of time reading articles and books, and listening to sermons from other people about the Bible? Or what about this – how often do we do use prefab studies in our Bible Study groups? Shouldn’t we be studying the Bible in Bible Study and other such groups, like small groups, instead of studying what someone else has to say about the Bible?
Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way bashing reading other books that provide great insight into the things of God. If it weren’t for scholars and other authors getting their research, study, and insight into our hands, much of God’s Word would go unnoticed. I believe it takes a great effort from all of us to continue to learn more about God and His Word. I love hearing other peoples’ perspectives on different topics. But we MUST go back to the Source (Acts 17:11)! I will never say to throw all prefab meals out the door. That goes for real food and spiritual food. But we need to spend the better part of our time and energy exploring God’s Word ourselves. We need to spend our own time in prayer in our “secret place”. God doesn’t come in a box and can’t be confined to a bowl for our occasional spiritual enjoyment. He is much more than that! Like any home cooked meal, when we explore God and his Word for ourselves, His Word tastes much better, is much healthier for our walk with God, and our lives are much more exciting, fresh, and full.
As far as youth ministry goes, we need to be teaching our students what it’s like to “cook your own meal”. We spend much of our time preparing lessons and small group questions. Camps and retreats are all laid out for them. But we cannot leave them there. If we do, what will happen when they leave our ministries and are faced with the real world? …The same thing that is already happening. 3 out of every 5 students disconnect from the church during their teenage years. The numbers are only rising. Why is that? Barna says this: “No single reason dominated the break-up between church and young adults. Instead, a variety of reasons emerged. Overall, the research uncovered six significant themes why nearly three out of every five young Christians (59%) disconnect either permanently or for an extended period of time from church life after age 15.” You can read the rest of the article here.
Now, granted, I am no researcher. But I would venture to say there is a 7th, overarching reason: our teens are not being taught to own their faith. Even if you are of the few who write your own lessons and small group questions, your students are still only getting fed by us instead of digging in themselves. Out of the 30 regular students that are a part of our youth ministry, only 2, maybe 3, read their Bible on a regular basis throughout any given week. 1 or 2 have expressed to me that they have a desire to get in the Scriptures more than they already do. What does that mean? Well, that means, for public school kids, that they only dose of God they are getting in their lives is on Sunday mornings and at any of our youth programming they attend. Unless they have great, God-honoring parents who challenge them and teach them also. I fear for students who attend Christian school more-so, because they are getting spoon fed every day. And a good portion of their homework involving the Bible is only done because it is required, not because they have a love for Scripture. And before you hurl tomatoes my way, please understand that I went to a Christian school 12 out of my 15 years (pre-school through 12th) and a Christian university. Maybe the Christian school in your area has different students, but this was largely true for a number of the students with whom I went to school. Or maybe you’re naive to what’s happening. Anyways, I digress.
I write this say, or rather beg you, that we must be teaching and discipling our students more than we are. They need to know what it’s like to be truly in love with God and His Word instead of it being just a label. They need to know what it feels like to prepare a “spiritual meal” from scratch, so to speak. They deserve to learn how to live healthy spiritual lives now instead of being fed to the wolves and have to crawl their way back when they start a family and feel like they “have” to go to church for their kids’ sakes, where the process will most likely only repeat itself. We hold a tremendous responsibility to guide them into a life of dependence on God alone, instead of spiritual crutches.The reason I even wanted to go into youth ministry is because it is our last touch point with them before they enter the real world and start making decisions for themselves. Please don’t waste these 4-7 years of their lives. Invest in your students in the greatest way possible and teach them how to stand on their own to feet. If you don’t know how to “cook” on your own or how to show someone else how to “cook” on their own, then do some research (John McArther has some things to say here)! If you’re not a good “cook”, then practice. Get rid of your spiritual “bowl meals” (for the most part) and start exploring who God is and what His Word is all about for yourself. You might just be surprised at how much more fun, healthier, an exciting your life with become!
Posted on January 26, 2012, in Christian Living, Leadership and tagged Authentic, Bible, Christianity, Church, Church Ministry, Communication, cooking, Discipleship, Faith, Family Ministry, God, Jesus, Leadership, Life, Parenting, Pastor, Religion, Student Ministry, Youth Ministry, Youth Pastor, Youth Work. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.