FIRST-PERSON: A generation of pain
BARRE, Vt. (BP)--Life can be painful. A few months ago I spoke to a large group of teenagers who had gathered for a youth rally in our area. Though I did not know all the teenagers who were there, I knew enough of them to know it was a room full of pain.
The "normal" painful things were represented, like broken homes and financial needs. But there were also five teenagers present who had lost at least one parent to death, two only 48 hours before the rally. There were teenagers present who had been physically abused as well as some who had been sexually abused. At least one I knew in the group bounces from house to house, never quite knowing where "home" is any particular week. A number have lost friends in car accidents and/or in a tragic house fire that took several lives four years ago. Several of those present were struggling with addictions in their own lives or in the lives of their parents. There were at least two "cutters" in the group and at least three who were struggling with their sexual identity. Wow -- what a lot of pain for one room. Whatever happened to teenagers just hanging out and being kids?
My experience speaking to that group reinforced in my mind that the current generation is a generation of pain. In many ways they are a generation of broken families and emotional problems. They are the first generation that will most likely be less well off than their parents. They are inheriting an economy that is in shambles, morality that has collapsed and a nation that is not as well liked around the world as it once was. With so much stacked against them, the last thing they need is a church that does not care about their pain or help them with their struggles. Yet, that is what many of them find.
Young people are leaving the church in large numbers. It is not that they don't believe in God; statistics actually say that today's teenagers are more likely to believe in God than their parents. It is just that they are not finding God in many churches. So they look for Him in other places.
Yet the church has been called to hold the keys to the Kingdom of God. Too many churches have lost the keys they are supposed to be holding. Churches need to rediscover those keys before they lose a whole generation. One of the ways churches can rediscover the keys to the Kingdom and unlock spiritual truth for teenagers is to help them deal with the pain they have experienced.
Thankfully, we have an Advocate who stays closer than a brother. Christ is the One who was wounded for our transgressions and by His stripes we can be healed. So we have a lot to offer to young people that can ease their pain, if we are willing to offer it. Encourage your church to be a voice of healing for a generation in pain.
Terry Dorsett is director of the Green Mountain Baptist Association. For information, visit VermontBaptist.org.