forty years ago, wanda and i started doing youth ministry together. nobody taught us anything. we just dove in. we were 18 years old and we began sharing life with people. i was a full-time student and worked nearly full-time at a local boys club. wanda was a full-time legal secretary.
we were still a couple of years away from marriage, so we were juggling a dating life on top of everything else. but we made time for relationships…deep ones. and a bunch of them. we invested in young people and made commitments that demanded more than just our time. it demanded our hearts.
over the years, it was more of the same. we have always been part of groups of people who shared life and did ministry together. the time commitment was always steep. even though my “job” has always given me greater flexibility to control my own schedule than most, the people we’ve worked with have had to dig deeper.
in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, it was common for a volunteer youth leader to give 10-12 hours per week (or more) to discipling young people and investing in their lives by going to their games and sharing cokes after school and coming to weekly bible studies and overseeing small groups. not to mention camps and retreats and group activities on many weekends.
on top of that, there was always a determination to spend time together as youth leaders…to grow as followers of christ and to deepen our relationship to each other for the good of the kingdom in the lives of kids. and there was never a shortage of adults who wanted to do this.
but it has all changed in the past ten years.
it has grown harder and harder to find people who want to pour into relationships…who crave sharing life together…who see the value of investing deeply in the lives of others.
i’m sorry, but i don’t believe that people are busier now than they we were twenty years ago. that’s just baloney. i have always worked side by side with people who put in 50-60 work weeks…that owned homes…that had babies and young children…that extended themselves financially…and were tired at the end of the day. but they still made time for deep relationships and shared ministry.
they knew they had to. they knew their lives would be empty without it. they knew the lives they touched would not be the same, either.
so what’s the difference in the past ten years? where are the people who know the value of going above and beyond for the honor of god and the good of people? where are the people who don’t grow weary of relationships? where are the people who refuse to hide behind their schedules as an excuse for not investing deeply in the lives of others?
could it be that we have multiple generations of people who have grown accustomed to relationships being played out in 140 characters? could it be that online social networking has convinced people that it doesn’t take as long to get what you want out of a relationship as it used to? has the satisfaction of reading what our friends write about themselves…on our time and in our schedule…replaced the thrill of getting together for dinner or sharing in a committed group experience?
i have to ask it again: what has changed in the past ten years? and what can we do, if anything, to get back to extending our lives for the good of others and living our lives as if the kingdom meant everything to us?