An example from Howard Hendrick’s book Teaching to Change Lives reminded me of an experience I had with my own family. We piled our clan into the family minivan and made the trek across the country to Yellowstone National Park. Upon entry every vehicle is warned, “Do not feed the bears.” At first I thought this word of caution was only to protect people. Later I learned park rangers need to dispose of numerous dead bears every year. The reason bears die is that they begin to rely upon food from humans and lose the capacity to find food for themselves.
Youth Workers, Parents/Caregivers, Pastors and anyone else with the responsibility of impacting the spiritual lives of young people . . . STOP FEEDING THE BEARS!! I am not saying you should cease providing spiritual nourishment or an atmosphere where positive godly growth can take place. What I am saying is that you need to stop doing everything FOR the young people. If you want to stunt the growth or enable any creature, just take away all their responsibility and do everything for them. Most churches beg young people to show up at church, youth group, or special events. They began to lose the battle years ago when children arrived for Sunday school to find the room set up, the papers and worksheets and crafts all neatly placed on the tables, and the teacher prepared to open in prayer before teaching the lesson. All the children do is show up and then everything is done for them.
A wise man named Francis Clark (founder of Christian Endeavor) said, “Never do anything for a young person that he can do for himself.” A young person, boy or girl, young man or young woman, needs to be given permission and opportunity to use the gifts and abilities God has provided. Reflect on the philosophy used in your church to equip young people to grow closer to God while impacting their world for Christ. Is your church “feeding the bears” only to see them walk away to die in boredom, disinterest or frustration?
Christian Endeavor guides church leaders toward intentional NextGen discipleship that treats young people like creators instead of consumers. Go to CEworks to start today!
To hear more on this topic, check out Unleash the Hive Podcast Episode 29, "Don't Feed the Bears!"