September 8, 2007

Comments regarding "Age of Opportunity"

In another week or so, I am set to begin a 3-week block class entitled, "Philosophy of Youth Ministry." When I saw the books to be used, I was excited. The first was, "Age of Opportunity" by Tripp. I had heard of the book and I am pretty sure my church has used it in a parenting class. But I had never read it.

So, I am through the first chapter now. If the rest of the book builds on that, (and I suspect it will) it will be a great read.

Through other reads (Scripture and other books), as well as talks with pastors and youth workers, I have become increasingly aware that our confessional theology and our practical theology are incongruous when it comes to dealing with teens. In other words, what we would say we believe does not align with what we actually believe, which is revealed by what we practice.

Tripp says in his book (chapter 1, obviously) that most (probably 99.9%) parents see child-raising as a survival contest. Tripp consistently argues that the teen years are minimally an "Age of Opportunity." (hence the title) For anyone who ever reads this, filter the typical comments that you hear/have heard from parents into this analysis. Having analyzed them, would you say parents (or churches for that matter) see teenage years in 'opportunity mode' or 'survival mode'?

Back to my thesis of incongruous theologies, we preach (I hope at least...) a limitless Gospel. We would agree that the Gospel is the only way a person is changed, yet in our practice we show that we are really practical unbelievers, because we primarily concern ourselves with persuading our teens to adopt an external Gospel, where they are viewed as 'ok' because they can look, talk like, and act like 'Christian school kids.'

I love Tripp's focus on the Gospel in the opening chapter. On page 24, he states: "This time provided many opportunities for listening, love, encouragement, and the Gospel."

He discusses in some length the 'cultural cynicism' that Christian parents have adopted. (By the way, this is a quintessential example of what Paul means when he says in Romans 12:1-2 "Don't be conformed to the world, but (all of you) be transformed by the renenwing of your mind." To see the teen years as an 'aggrevation' or an 'incovenience' or even a 'survivial period' is to adopt the very attitude of people who hate the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We must REJECT this model.

As a sort of antidote to this worldly epidemic, Tripp states:
"If we are to be his instruments, we must deal with our own idolatry and bring a robust, Biblical faith to each rocky moment , a faith that believes that God rules over all things for our sake, that He is an ever-present help in trouble, that He is at work in every situation accomplishing His redemptive purpose, and that His Word is powerful, active, and effective." (Tripp 27)

We show what we believe when we wake up each morning. With every frustrating situation that presses us, we reveal whether we actually believe what we confess to believe. Instead of "surviving," we must be transformed by having our minds renewed by the Gospel.