Helping teenagers to pray [book]

This is a Mark Yaconelli book. His books were introduced to me by David Runcorn, and I’m loving them.
The general gist of his work tends to be helping teenagers to grow in Christ, and he doesn’t have a lot of time for youth programmes that are aimed solely or primarily at exciting and entertaining young people. He draws heavily on ‘spirituality’ themes and encourages teaching some very well-established (but currently largely ignored, at least in youthwork) practices. He’s a great author to read as I’m currently working on my chapter on silence and solitude :). He says this: “In my experience, young people crave the peace of Christ that waits beneath the frantic hamster wheel of modern society.” Great way of putting it, and probably right, to boot! How often do we worry more about keeping the kids ‘interested’ than teaching them more of God?

Anyways, he also said this, which kinda hit me: “Youth learn through observation and experience [i.e. by watching and living with us lot!] that the real work of becoming an adult is to construct a hard, but attractive, shell – a barricade that keeps the soft and wild interior of a person hidden and protected. The culture teaches our young people to create hearts of stone rather than hearts of flesh.” Made me wonder how much I contribute to this sort of teaching. How often is my life and my faith not just failing to teach young people the right stuff, but actually teaching them complete rubbish? Bit of a challenge 🙂

It’s a fabulous book, with loads of great stuff in it. I’ll no doubt read it again, because it’s got a lot for me to learn! I’d highly recommend it to anyone involved in youthwork who’s looking to get beyond the pizza-and-games nights. I’d also recommend it to those who need to discover or rediscover something of the breadth and magnitude of prayer. It’s a great resource and a great challenge.

Here’s a bit from the last paragraph:
The truth is, we can’t give young people happiness. We can’t take away their pain and suffering; we can’t shield them from the temptations that play upon their weaknesses and yearnings 24 hours a day. In the midst of a suffering world, it sometimes feels as though we have so little to offer young people – some fleeting friendships, a few nights of fun and understanding … Our real gift is to give them God – a God who will be sweet and nourishing food for them. What we can offer even the most troubled teenager is prayer. We can teach young people that, in the midst of pain, confusion and brokennness, they can turn towards love. They can stop … among the words of Scripture, and hear the One who whispers to each of us, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

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