October/November 2014 - Vol. 76..

The God of the Locks
by Michael Shaughnessy

Most Christians can point to a moment or an event that was life changing for them. Something happened that enabled them to live their faith at a higher level than they did previously. Many can point to several high-impact experiences, whether it was a retreat where they gave their life to the Lord, a Life in the Spirit Seminar when they were baptized in the Holy Spirit, or a prayer meeting when they suddenly knew they needed to do a GAP year as a missionary.

The dynamic of high-impact events is similar to a ship going through a lock. The lock raises the ship to a new level – a level the ship would not be able to reach otherwise.

Good youth work capitalizes on this dynamic. It recognizes that change often happens quickly for teens, whether the change is physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. Providing high-impact events is an important part of any effective strategy for moving youth ahead in their faith. It is why we build in opportunities, or locks, for this to happen.

Adventure trips help young teens by giving them the chance to experience the grandeur of God reflected in his creation.

The Youth Equipped to Stand Retreat (Y.E.S.) presents a clear call to respond to the Gospel message. Many churched youth believe in God, pray, obey their parents (usually), and are “good kids,” but they have not really taken the step of inviting Jesus to be Lord of their life. It is this step, going through this lock, that is necessary for them to become an adult disciple and live their faith at a new level.

Mission trips have a “lock effect” by helping youth choose to live in love and service to others, and not to live just for themselves.

A GAP year brings a new maturity of faith, personal discipline, and clarity about following the Lord. It’s a year of one’s life that affects the rest of one’s life. One of the most important things youth workers and parents can do for teens is to encourage them to attend these high-impact events and give the God of the locks the chance to raise them to the next level. More information on each of these programs is available at www.kairos-na.org.

Transplant Shock

The transition from high school into college is one fraught with challenge for Christian youth. All freshmen are likely to experience the equivalent of “transplant shock” to their faith. For those who move away from home and into a dorm the shock can be severe.

It doesn’t need to be so. Transplant shock can be handled. It is caused by the loss of the aids necessary to support faith.

At home youth knew where the church was and the service times, but most of them will show up on campus with no information about church. They attended a youth program they liked in an environment they knew, but their parish youth program won’t exist on campus. They had a Christian peer group at home, but will be thrown into a multiple new peer groups they don’t know, and whose values may differ wildly from their own, with no strategy to defend their faith. They will almost certainly be hit by loneliness, high pressure to conform, and an assault on their beliefs by those who educate them. Add that they have lost the onsite moral support of parents and youth workers, and faith transplant shock is almost inevitable.

Kairos has recently initiated going into Christian schools and speaking to graduating seniors about transplant shock and what they can do to about it. If we expect them to be missionaries we must prepare them for the role.

Mike Shaughnessy is an elder in The Servants of the Word and the Director of Kairos in North America. Kairos is an international federation of outreaches to high school, university and post university aged people.

Photo credit: Regents Canal Lock in Camden, London by Cathryn
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