Adapted from Dr. Reginald Blount’s Princeton Lecture on Youth, Church, and Culture from the 2005 Forum on Youth Ministry. See full text here.
Telling a Worthy Story
I believe real transformation takes place when young people are able to find their place in the Story, when they can see themselves in God’s greater Story. Young people will not be transformed by a faith they cannot connect with. Transformation will take place when they can find identity and purpose in the Story. Transformation will take place when they believe it is a Story they can become passionate about. Transformation will take place when they feel it is a Story worthy of dying for, worthy of living for.
Young people are already naturally prone to take risks. Why can’t we make room for them to take healthy risks for Christ?
Teaching to transform is about aiding young people to claim their voice and vocation, identity and purpose within the context of a community of faith. It’s about providing an environment for young people to discover they have a place and a role to play in God’s continuing and unfolding drama. It’s leading young people to discover they have a role in God’s story worthy of dying for, worthy of living for.
Discipleship as Risky Business
As we lead young people toward living water, I believe that we must not only teach to transmit and teach to transform, but also teach to transgress. I’m defining transgression as acting out of one’s transformation. It is acting out of one’s newfound identity and purpose. It is a willingness to take risks for the faith, for Jesus.
In her book The Romance of Risk: Why Teenagers Do the Things They Do, Lynn Ponton points out that “adolescents take risks as a way of developing and defining themselves…Risk-taking is the tool that adolescents use to shape their identities. Both directly and indirectly, risk-taking affects all aspects of development during this important period of life—physical, social, psychological, sexual and cultural.”¹ And I must include—most importantly—spiritual as well.
We must allow our young people to take healthy risks on behalf of their faith commitments. We must allow our young people to be transgressors. Young people are already naturally prone to take risks. Why can’t we make room for them to take healthy risks for Christ? Kenda Creasy Dean says, “[i]mmersing adolescents in the practices that participate in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ does not just turn them into nice people that help others; it shapes them into subversives and prophets, forever marked by their identification with Jesus Christ and set apart by grace for lives of holy service.”²
1. Lynn E. Ponton, The Romance ofRisk: Why Teenagers Do the Things They Do (New York: Basic Books, 1998), 273. (Emphasis ours.)
2. Kenda Creasy Dean, Practicing Passion: Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church (Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2004), 254.
The Rev. Dr. Reginald Blount is an Assistant Professor of Formation, Youth, and Culture at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. A sought-after speaker and workshop leader, Dr. Blount has served as a contributor to the CEB Student Bible and Making God Real for a Next Generation: Ministry with Millennials Born from 1982 to 1999 (Discipleship Resources, 2003). He also currently serves as Pastor of Arnett Chapel A.M.E Church in Chicago.