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July 23, 2014 / BTM

Avoiding the Trap of Mediocricy

A little over a year ago, I lost an extended family member to a recreational drug related complication. It led to a lengthy conversation with an other family member about the overwhelming need for significance that most people crave during their teens and early twenties (and possibly beyond). This family member suggested that drugs were often how young people, including people he knew, dealt with that overwhelming sense of insignificance.

Neither of these family members were Christians, nor did they have any faith background to speak of. At the time I felt that they had rejected the one thing that could have given them the significance that they desired outside of themselves: God.

I still feel that way, except that Christian kids can often also fall into the trap of feeling mediocre and insignificant as well. Why is that?

A few of my favorite bloggers have recently posted on how to prepare young Christians to handle the pressure to ‘be cool’ – which usually involves ditching their faith to some degree (see recent posts by Christian Mom Thoughts and Wintery Knight as examples).

It strikes me that too few North Americans have genuinely been touched by the power of having significance in and to the world. When we succumb to holding the same beliefs, interests, dress and activities as the majority (I order to be cool and accepted by them), we’ve ceased to be a unique person. And I believe that this goes opposite to our genuine craving for significance.

A little while ago, I came across a great video by Seth Barnes (youth pastor, founder and CEO of Adventures in Mission and father of five) called: How to Ruin Young People.

Barnes says that all young people experience a restlessness that whispers to them “There’s more”. The worst thing you can do is to try to tame that restlessness with practical mediocrity.

When we don’t help our child identify and explore that sense of restlessness, and allow it to drive them toward doing something daring and significant, I think they will fall into the trap of seeking their sense of worth in the eyes of others. And that is the trap of mediocrity.

How do you help your kids to avoid the trap? First and foremost, don’t encourage them to settle down and get an education, a job and a mortgage when their restlessness is aching for more.

Instead:

Expose them to a variety of challenges and opportunities. These could include going on a mission trip or two, attending debates between Christians and noted atheists, participating in a local or global Christian cause that interests them, having missionaries or Christians from persecuted nations over for dinner, travelling somewhere poor to help the local church or an orphanage. Basically, don’t hide the world’s brokenness from them. Allow it to break and challenge them.

Encourage them to dream. My parents made me feel like I could do anything I wanted. They were wrong, of course. Many options were out of my reach. But, giving me the ability to dream gave me the courage to take steps toward making those dreams a reality.

Give them the tools they need to have significance in the world. Make sure they have answers to the tough questions they’ll encounter, like “How do you know that God exists?” “Does Truth even exist?” and “Can we trust the Bible and its authors?” Watch debates so they can test how well these arguments hold up under scrutiny. Equip them with a Christian worldview and show them how it works in the real world. Hone their money-making or fundraising skills if they want to help finance solutions to the world’s problems. Help them to acquire the skills they’ll need if their restlessness calls them to a different country: language skills, street and travel smarts, etc. Give them the chance to meet people from various Christian charities, missions agencies or apologetics centres that might pull on their sense of restlessness.

Encourage them to rebel against the pressure to be a perfect Christian on the outside. If you allow your kids to be real with you and with others about their questions and doubts and struggles, you’ll give them the opportunity to make their faith their own. We don’t need more people that look great on the outside, but are falling apart on the inside.  This is a system that they can rebel against – the pressure to fit in rather than to be authentic.

Make them aware of role models. Natasha Crain also mentioned this one. There are great role models in every interest area.

Get them out of their comfort zone for at least a month. Often this will require being on a missions trip or some sort – preferably somewhere completely different and poor! – to give them a chance, as Barnes says, to deal with their own brokenness (selfishness, shallowness, unbelief) while they are seeking to give of themselves to heal others’ brokenness. You can’t hide your own brokenness for a month or longer. It will start to come out.

I encourage you to watch Barnes’ video address. I think its great. I really believe that someone who has tapped in to that inner sense of restlessness and been able to discover first-hand that there is ‘something more’ will not be interested in conforming to the rest of his or her peers. And thank God for that!

What do you think? What did you do to address your inner sense of restlessness as a teen or young adult? What most influenced you to a sense of purpose in life?

 

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