Give me some space | Making room for imagination in ministry

My friend April recently posted some great photos of her kids on her blog. She captured pictures of her two doll baby children and their wonderfully creative sleep patterns.

For us, we might find some of these postures awkward (if not impossible!).
For them, it's just the way they do things. It's natural. It get's the job done.

So, I peeked in on my youngest tonight. In the darkness of her room I snapped a shot of her sleeping. I'll call this the rainbow position: back bend, hands over head, books and toys strategically placed...at perfect peace.



Since I am completely opposite of her right now--up at a ridculous hour--not able to shut my eyes to save my life--I find my own posture on my couch with my keyboard, finding rest in another way.

This got me thinking about ministry to young teenagers. (Almost everything gets me thinking about teenagers.)
On Wednesday night, I asked the question.
What blocks you from seeing Jesus in your life?
What is so loud and distracting that you forget about his living presence and work in your every day life?


I sat with a group of six middle school boys as they told me the same story about how they think about sports and video games but mainly it's their imaginations that distract them the most.

Hmmmm.

I wonder if our focus on grades in school, on standardized tests, and honor roll has limited our teenagers in their imaginations. These guys told me they just start thinking about stuff and they find themselves making up stories in their heads and chasing them around for awhile and before you know it, they've lost track of time.

I personally don't know any middle school student who doesn't get distracted.
Even the most organized, type A, disciplined student--I've seen him and her wander "somewhere else" and forget something important.

Imagination is God given. It's a wonderful thing. And I'm wondering if we limit it in the church like it's limited in schools for the sake of grades and keeping peace in the classroom?

I wonder if I've limited their freedom to understand God, the Bible, prayer, community to the way I see it and the way I know how to do it because, to be frank, it's just the way we've always done it.

What if teenagers are more like our infant and toddler children, growing in spiritual positions we could never imagine working at all, but it does.

I've got our Sunday morning discipleship hour on my brain. We've moved from a up front teaching time to an around tables with leaders guided study. We've seen some great changes and growth in doing this.

But I'm thinking maybe they need more space. Still.

Just as my youngest daughter has more space to sleep than she needs--it's totally necessary for her to grow, for her to find her own way of doing things, for her to rest. At the same time, it's necessary that the space to have some limits to keep her from harm.

I want to give teenagers the space to imagine their own ways of praying, reading the Bible, translating it from their context and applying it in ways that help them. I think they need more space to do that. I think they need us to ask them--"how would you go about praying or talking to a friend about God or serving others". Their answers might want us to get out our phones and take a picture.

After I get back from vacation, I'd like to do a few things:

1. Recruit two middle school girls, and two middle school guys to help me as I plan my lesson each week. Let them give me ideas for how to teach the material. Let them tell me what they think about the ideas before I tell them what I think about them.

2. Change their environments often. My girls bring all sorts of craziness into their beds to help them sleep. What would a teenager want to be in their space as they learn about Jesus. Find this out.

3. Take good notes. Listen to them by noticing what they draw, what lights up their faces, what causes them to turn inward.

4. Pray and ask God to open our eyes to see where we need to give space and where we need to provide protection.

I hope this is making sense. Any thoughts are welcome here....

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