Monday, November 8, 2010

The Test

This past Wednesday and Sunday, we focused on stewardship at mid and senior high youth groups. As a part of our study of using our time, talents, and gifts, our 6th-12th grade students were given the opportunity to take a spiritual gifts inventory. The goal was that this “test” will help them understand some of the talents they have and the ways they can share some of their talents with Zion Lutheran Church. If you didn’t get to take the inventory, you can access it here to either take it online or print it out and take it:

Despite its length (it’s hard to focus for that many questions), I really do like this inventory and the resources that go with it! It offers a perspective on one’s spiritual and relational talents. That same site offers a resource in the youth category called “Using Your Gifts.” Once the inventory is taken, this sheet tells a little more about how one can use their spiritual and relational strengths.

Some of the Zion youth who took this “test” shared their results with me. Knowing what I know about several of these students (and teens in general), I expected our students to receive high scores and to be talented in areas of gifts like music, leadership, and even service. However, there seems to be a common theme from the results of many of the Zion teens who took the inventory. Many of them scored high in the categories of relational gifts over spiritual gifts. In particular in that relational category, many of the youth have their top gifts in listening and intergenerational openness.

For me, this speaks volumes, especially in the area of intergenerational openness. In my master’s degree work, I studied lot about adolescent growth and development, in addition to faith development of teens. Adolescence is a time of rapid physical, intellectual, social, and emotional growth. And, as most of us could probably guess, a typical characteristic of teenage development is discovering their self identity and expressing that identity to others. Often, this leads to a “breaking away” from parents and various expressions of asserting independence. While often times this is trying on families and parents, this is actually a very healthy and normal teenage experience.

From time to time, as their youth minister, youth share things with me that they don’t feel comfortable sharing with their parents. For this very reason, having an adult role model, that is trustworthy, is so important for teenagers. And barring any harm from what they share may cause to themselves or another, a smart youth minister would not break the confidence of a teenager. On the other hand, not every teenager will connect with their youth minister. I’ve not met a youth minister, yet, who had a daily/weekly, strong, personal, wonderful connection with every youth on their church’s roster. It’s just not possible.

Can they be cordial and friendly? Sure! But this is part of the key to having adult church members serve as volunteers in a church’s youth ministry. While I (the youth minister) may not have an instant connection with every youth in the church, I bet I can find an adult in our church who does! That is a fascinating part of ministry for me! In the past 9 years of doing youth ministry, I have loved promoting and seeing the relationships formed between youth and youth ministry volunteers. I have loved (and do love) the connections I have made. It is truly a visual representation of the vows we (as a church) say when we baptize our children … that we are going to love and support them (and their parents) as they grow up in the Christian faith.

I am so thankful for the volunteers at Zion who have stepped forward to be in relationship with our youth – those who help with youth group, teach Sunday school, go on trips, cook meals with or for our students, and so much more! The good news is, according to the gifts and talents of our youth, Zion students are very open to this intergenerational connection. What an exciting place and situation to share in ministry!

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