Is Age Appropriate Ministry Appropriate? Term Paper

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Youth Oriented Ministry

Youth-oriented ministry -- the need for age-appropriate teaching and activities minister's responsibility is not merely to convey the gospel, for that purpose, a parishioner could merely turn to the text. Instead, a minister's pastoral responsibility is to provide guidance to the members of a congregation, depending on their immediate spiritual needs. A minister must also creatively respond to individual's unique social needs and take into consideration where they are located in their personal life journey history. Today, young people are faced with tremendous moral challenges about what makes a meaningful Christian life. Should they pursue wealth as a way of making a better life for their future families? Should they become active or critical consumers of the mass media? How can they be true to themselves and be part of their current generation? Although, from a minister's view, the underlying message of finding fulfilling devotion in serving Christ may be the same for all Christians, the way that message is conveyed must be tailored to suit a person's current stage of development.

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Ministry with college-age youth needs to be deliberate and intentional" in order to effectively meet the growth challenges and changes of their lives. Although the minister's intent may be to bring the individual into his or her sense of participation in a wider Christian community, the minister must be aware that many temptations are open to young people today, and there are many confusing messages and peer pressures to make different choices that might be harmful to a young person's spiritual health. Breaking away from one's family, establishing independence and a personal value system is a critical part of American society. It is viewed as normal to want to be independent, and indeed it is normal and healthy for a young person to assume new responsibilities, pleasures, and redefine and clarify his or her a sense of who he or she is, and the purpose of his or her life. "Spiritual formation that takes into account the whole person considers all aspects of the individual's life: spirit, mind, heart, emotions, will, and body."

Term Paper on Is Age Appropriate Ministry Appropriate? Assignment

Above all, it is important to recognize that young people are no longer children. Today, young people may have the difficult task of going to a competitive institution of learning, have to face the pressure of work, classes, and the social pressures of peers, and still find a way of leading a meaningful life. Today's youth have seen their country go to war, and may have had friends or loved ones participate in that war. They must learn to exercise their critical thinking faculties, and in fact are likely to want to do so, and will do so amongst themselves, without prodding, even though they may be silent upon such topics in the presence of adults. The adults in their lives must find a way of creating a safe, directional, and nonjudgmental yet still faith-based place to teach the young.

Jean Piaget's work in cognitive development reveals that young adults are at the prime of their ability to do abstract thinking and enjoy talking about deeper and more difficult issues. Unfortunately, many churches are uncomfortable entertaining these difficult questions; they may actually stifle creative and imaginative dialogue because it tests the strength of longstanding church doctrines or positions." The minister must not fear dissent, or questioning, because to live today as a young person is to question. By making the church a place of debate rather than a place to repeat doctrine, young people are, ironically, brought more securely into the fold and are less apt to make bad decisions later on. But regardless, adolescents are not children, and must not be treated like children who do not grapple with the big issues of life.

The Christian developmental theorist William Perry noted that young people, as part of their moral development pass through various stages of intellectual and ethical reflection before they achieve an adult appreciation of their personal faith and relationship with God and the Christian community. "Three critical stages identified by Perry include (1) a dualistic or polarized worldview in which all problems are viewed simplistically as having either a right or wrong answer, (2) multiplicity in which several possible good answers to problems are recognized, and (3) the final level where a student recognizes the need to press through pluralism to the point of making personal commitments." This third stage, also called the "synthetic-conventional" stage is when faith becomes shaped by community relationships. "Faith here is affected by concerns for identity and results in conforming to the expectations of others. There is a clear perception of who is in and out of the community of faith based on their conforming to the expectations of the group."

The first point-of-view might be seen in the mindset of the young person who divides the world into good or bad, or us vs. them. This might seem to be the 'true believer' or someone who accepts doctrine, but does so without criticism or application to his or her life decisions in a meaningful fashion (like the child who tells a lie, but knows to say 'lying is wrong'), or the young teen who mindlessly rebels against all of his or her parent's values. The second stage is the true questioning stage, when the young person realizes that not all of his or her parent's values were wrong, but that new challenges are facing his or her generation. The teen might be exposed to individuals from different faith groups, and began to question his or her faith Christianity, or at least the appropriateness of his or her sect of Christianity for modern life. The third and final stage is when the individual accepts a personal schema of morality, while pluralism and dissent in the hearts and minds of others are still tolerated. This stage development can be seen in the words of one youth minister: "Church was all I knew and I accepted Christ because that was the thing we were supposed to do... [until]I went to the church youth camp, [then] my eyes were opened up. I experienced God in a completely new way and I realized that I had just been going through the motions." Of course, it is possible for an individual to get 'stuck' in a particular stage, such as a young person who becomes mired in cynicism, never really learns to apply doctrine to real life, or someone who spends his or her adult years 'finding him/herself' rather than making a commitment to building a meaningful life. But getting stuck does not mean that there is no hope for meaningful change at all, and no matter how lost a young person may seem, a minister must never give up hope for spiritual progress and the possibility of insight.

James Fowler has identified a fourth stage of faith development, which he sees as endemic to the college years, called "individuative-reflective" or the final examination and questioning of beliefs and. "A personal ownership of one's faith emerges" during this stage, "but not without struggle." During this stage, because of the intense self-examination that is characteristic of college life during this era, "a deep hunger" is created "for a personal relationship with a God who knows, loves, and affirms," that may be accompanied by some exterior "questioning" and even "cynicism" because of the elusive nature of this relationship. The college years are characterized by asking questions like, "What is the meaning of my life?" "Who am I?" And "Where am I going in life?" It is the minister's role and responsibility to place these questions in a Christian context, but also to normalize these struggles, for many Christians have experienced these doubts before. An apparently secular question such as whether a young person should go to law school, for example, can require both the individual and the minister to discuss the person's life expectations, reasons for going, and ethical orientation.

Of course, besides vocation, another common concern for young people is their relations with the opposite sex. A frank acknowledgement of the challenges of creating a meaningful relationship and sexual identity is required of the minister. This does not mean that he or she must ignore morality, but he must show his or her realistic understanding of the world that the concern about these issues is 'there,' and that struggles are normal. Above all, the minister must realize that being brought up in a faith, even from a young age, is not enough to ensure that the young person can have an easy adolescence. Questioning, discussion, and learning how to apply faith to practice are the cornerstones of transitioning into meaningful adult life.

This emphasis on the individual should not exclude the Christian community from the young person's moral development, of course. Services, retreats, and other spiritual practices can be meaningful and welcome, no matter how busy a student's life, provided they address his or her concerns. Doing such activities with other teens facing the same issues may be more meaningful… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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