I Was a Teenage Prodigal

by | Aug 31, 2005 | Blogs, Fire in My Bones


Although I attended church as a teenager, I was anything but spiritually grounded. By age 16 I was questioning the Bible, God’s authority and all my parents’ religious traditions. I flirted with becoming a Jew and then considered atheism. I’m sure I gave my mother fits. But thanks to her prayers, my dad’s patience and the intervention of a youth pastor, my life was turned around by the time I headed to college two years later.


To this day I can’t figure out why Barry St. Clair took an interest in me. He was a busy guy, involved in training youth pastors all over the country. Yet he invited me to his weekly youth Bible study, included me in his social life and allowed me to hang out with him and his wife and kids at his home.


When he found out I wanted to become a Jew, he didn’t lecture me—he just kept on building our friendship while intensifying his prayers. When I decided in 1976 to make Jesus the absolute Lord of my life, Barry was the first person I told.


Today Barry is still a close mentor and one of my dearest friends. I call him before I make any major decision, and he e-mails me almost monthly to say that he is praying for my ministry.


The Lord sent Barry into my life more than 30 years ago. I am grateful that a godly man saw some hidden potential in a confused, frizzy-haired 10th-grader from Atlanta. Today when I speak to teenagers or college students, I get a déjà vu feeling when I realize that I sometimes preach like Barry. He reproduced himself in me because he took the necessary time for something we don’t seem to value much these days: personal, one-on-one discipleship.


In this month’s issue we are highlighting the fact that the American church is dangerously close to losing the younger generation (see Ron Luce’s article on page 36). As we consider solving this crisis, I propose that we make some radical shifts in our strategy:


1. Focus youth ministry on relationships. Today’s teens are the most disenfranchised kids in American history. Many are passed from one house to the other every week depending on whether mom or dad has custody. Is it any surprise that these kids would rather play video games than visit a traditional church?


Sermons and concerts may reach them initially, but the only way to press beyond the pain of divorce and rejection is genuine friendship. Youth today need overdoses of love from surrogate parents and peers who can show them real trust and commitment.


2. Get rid of the hype. A lot of us adults have been conditioned to shout and swoon every time the preacher raises his voice or twitches his arm during a sermon. But teenagers are not impressed. They don’t fall on the floor just because somebody places a quivering hand on their heads. They are looking for real spiritual substance, not the charismatic fluff we have been conditioned to applaud.


3. Banish legalism. Many teens leave church because they’ve been fed a diet of toxic religion. For them, Christianity is just a bunch of rules about what to wear and what not to smoke. Yet they become radical for Jesus when they discover that real faith is about a close, intimate relationship with a God who can heal their hurts and empower them to work miracles.


4. Start youth churches. Statistics show that we aren’t reaching teens fast enough today. We are stupid to think we will reach them by doing church the same way we’ve done it since Grandma bought the first stained-glass window back in 1935. It’s time for radical, out-of-the-box solutions.


If teens aren’t showing up to sit on your wooden pews, then plant a youth church at the local skate park or coffee bar. Take the church to them. Then, when kids get saved, let them take leadership roles and implement their own strategies to reach other kids—using their music (and chairs that don’t look weird).


Today’s prodigals need a shoulder to cry on, a loving home to visit and caring mentors like Barry St. Clair to help them find their way back to the Father. Nothing can replace the power of the personal touch. Youth ministry won’t be successful without it.

CHARISMA NEWSLETTERS

Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


MORE FROM CHARISMA

Why There is Power in Your Song

Why There is Power in Your Song

Do you have a great voice? If so, then sing! Do you have a horrible voice? If so, then sing! There is power in the song. God gave you your vocal cords, voice and ability to sing. There has never been a culture in which music was not part of society. We see music...

How Would an Encounter in Heaven Transform Your Life?

How Would an Encounter in Heaven Transform Your Life?

Have you ever wondered what heaven was like? What does a person see and experience when they are in heaven? Is the arrival in immediate when a believer dies? These are great questions and ones that Rabbi Felix Halpern can answer. A mix-up in medicine brought about a...

Prophet: Learning to Listen With Discernment

Prophet: Learning to Listen With Discernment

Learning to listen with discernment means that you begin to recognize the voice of God so well that other voices sound unfamiliar. In John 10:5a, Jesus told his followers, "Yet they will never follow a stranger." This statement needs to become a reality in your life....

5 Stages of Building a Successful Team

5 Stages of Building a Successful Team

The definition and purpose of leadership are directly tied to organizational models and the five stages of building an organizational model. Let’s talk about those five stages. What we say here may sound somewhat like what you may have heard before about building a...

Mario Murillo Compares America Now to Israel on Mount Carmel

Mario Murillo Compares America Now to Israel on Mount Carmel

America stands in a crucial moment, much like the moment where Elijah made Israel choose between Baal and Jehovah. Elijah said to the people, "How long do you halt between two opinions? If Baal is God..." That's according to Evangelist Mario Murillo, whose ministry...

Spirit-Filled Pastor: Can I Ask God for Confirmation?

Spirit-Filled Pastor: Can I Ask God for Confirmation?

There are many incidents of God giving people a sign throughout the Bible. Although I believe God still does this, I also believe that we must be careful. Asking for a sign can be misleading if other factors are not taken into consideration. In Genesis, we find an...

RECENT ARTICLES

Man Who Spent 23 Minutes in Hell: Are You Ready To Meet Jesus?

The last words Jesus spoke to me in my 23 Minutes In Hell vision were, “Tell them I am coming very, very soon.” Then He repeated Himself and said again, “Tell them I am coming very, very soon.” The...
Prophecy: The Breach in Our Nation Will Be Repaired

Prophecy: The Breach in Our Nation Will Be Repaired

Praise be to Almighty God, righteous judge, holy of holies, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. The earth is His footstool, and to His kingdom there is no end! Breached Births The Spirit of the Lord says this day: “There has been a breach—breached births, My...

10 Reasons the Apostolic Movement Is Essential to Gospel Expansion

10 Reasons the Apostolic Movement Is Essential to Gospel Expansion

The global apostolic movement is the most significant expression of Christianity today. This is the view expressed by historian Philip Jenkins. He talks about the rapid expansion of the church in the global south, much of which is reminiscent of the first-century...

Experience a Better Kind of Love in Your Relationships

Experience a Better Kind of Love in Your Relationships

Do you have any relationship struggles? Perhaps you want to learn how to love, for real. Too often today, people search for a fairytale love and are disappointed when the fairytale fizzles, which it will. Michael Gibson, author of Real Life Love, challenges folks to...

The Power of Godly Words Over Another Life—and Yours

The Power of Godly Words Over Another Life—and Yours

Have the words that others have spoken over you ever significantly impacted you? Words can birth destinies on the inside of us and bring hope to our hearts for the future. They have the power to ignite our dreams and give life to our souls. At the same time, negative...

How You Can Foil the Plot Against Your Life

How You Can Foil the Plot Against Your Life

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Jesus warned us that we have an enemy, and he is a thief. He steals our joy, purpose, peace and, if he can, our future. Jesus knew it was important to warn us...

How You Can Foil the Plot Against Your Life

How You Can Foil the Plot Against Your Life

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Jesus warned us that we have an enemy, and he is a thief. He steals our joy, purpose, peace and, if he can, our future. Jesus knew it was important to warn us...

Pin It on Pinterest

[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]