Writing became one of the most precious gifts to me at 8 years-old. To this day, it is my chosen mode of communicating.
I will never stop talking (or writing) about identity. It is by far one of the topics I am most passionate about because it's my heart's desire for every human to be secure in his/her identity, to know that they are loved, that they matter, that they belong.
It's a cruel world that we live in where we have to battle for our identity each day. It makes me wonder if the battle of knowing who you are and Whose you are was an easier one to fight years ago. When I was in Middle School and someone attacked my identity and my worth, I could at least go home to the safety and security of my family, protected from the harsh words and slinging mud of peers for at least 16 hours. This isn't new news but today's Middle Schoolers who have access to social media and/or devices of any kind do not have that protective covering at home. The negative, hurtful words of their peers continue to fly through the waves of cell phone towers and wifi. The task of adolescence of knowing who they are has not changed, but dare I say that the task has become more arduous.
At Century Baptist Church, we have been on a journey to clarify our discipleship process and define what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. We define a disciple of Jesus as someone who actively follows Jesus and loves people. Just like we have personality characteristics that describe us, we believe there are characteristics that describe and define a disciple:
Identity: A disciple of Jesus finds their identity in Jesus alone.
Imitation: A disciple of Jesus focuses on becoming more and more like Jesus each day.
Word: A disciple of Jesus holds high the Word of God and applies it to their lives.
Worship: A disciple of Jesus worships God above everything else.
Gifts: A disciple of Jesus is given spiritual gives to give spiritual gifts.
Gospel: A disciple of Jesus knows, applies, and speaks the Gospel at all times.
Community: A disciple of Jesus lives in community.
City: A disciple of Jesus is for their city and loves people wherever they are.
As a Middle School Ministry, we spend three years with students and families helping them begin to understand the three tasks of adolescence:
1) Who am I? - Identity
2) Do I matter? - Purpose
3) Do I Belong? - Community
In the Middle School Ministry, we have determined that the three characteristics of a disciple that need to be talked about the most, discussed the most, and taught on the most are Identity, Community, and City. Everything that we do revolved around these "Big 3." It gives us a filter to know what we will teach and when we will teach it. Not only does it help us filter out what we will teach or won't teach; it also helps us filter out what activities or events are put on the calendar and what activities or events need to be buried.
We have to pay attention to the spiritual and emotional needs of the teenagers in our lives or else we're doing our teens an incredible disservice. I believe one of the greatest needs for our students is to help them see and understand the incredible identity they have been given through Jesus Christ, to help them see themselves the way the Creator of the world sees them. Imagine a generation of students believing these incredible truths for themselves. I believe the day we start to get 'tired' of talking about identity with teenagers is when we have finally begun to take back the ground that the world, culture, peers, and anything other that the precious, confident words of Christ have stolen from them. When we get weary, maybe we need to lean into our students to let them remind us of how important it is to never stop talking about the worth and value that can never be taken from us.