One of the most nail-biting and thrilling scenes in Animal Planet is the cheetah chase, especially when the prey is a young lamb, deer or a baby iguana. The chase begins, and the scene leaves you on the edge of your seat the whole time. We take the side of the young deer; we look attentively at the screen; we hold our breath and put down the popcorn; we pray that it will make it and begin to whisper directions as if the deer can hear our instructions through its own headphones. If the cheetah gets too close, we scream, run!
Finally, in the tension-filled final scene, the young deer outruns the cheetah! Now we are screaming to the top of our lungs, keep going! And the deer gets away – much to our relief!
Studies have shown that the predators do not choose their victims arbitrarily. Their primary targets include solitary animals, the young, the sick and the vulnerable.
Whether the predators are technological, psychological, human or emotional, their primary targets are our young people – the sick, vulnerable, the forgotten and the isolated. That’s the nature of the savannah that we live in. But it’s also the catalyst that pushes us to create a space where our young lambs can learn how to outrun the modern cheetahs, have a more fulfilling life and make it to Heaven. Here, in the South England Conference, we call that space Teens Ministries.
Recently, a well-intentioned person expressed why he felt that Teens Ministries is a waste of time and money. He said, ‘We all go through the same thing, therefore put them all together and save a few quid’. I agreed one hundred per cent with the first part, that regardless of age, gender, race or socio-cultural background, in this savannah, we all go through similar things, in one way or another. However, I kindly reminded him that, while it is true that we all go through similar things, it is also true that we, and especially teenagers, do not process these things in the same way.
Seeing the world through the eyes of a teen is one of the topics we discuss in our monthly webinars. We have seen that, although a teen’s brain is the same size as an adult brain, a teen’s brain works differently. This is because the rational part is not fully developed, and it won’t be until their mid-twenties. Hence the need for guidance, support, supervision, love, and a structure designed to cater to their specific needs and major challenges.
Jesus understood these vulnerabilities and the nature of the savannah. So, when he was about to entrust his flock to the disciples, he wanted to remind them how dear and important the young lambs are to him. So, he gave Peter a three-fold command to feed his sheep, and the first of these three commands is ‘feed my lambs’ (John 21:15-17). In this verse, the Greek word for lamb is ‘arnía’ and refers to a young lamb. It denotes the vulnerable and the weak of the flock. They are not as strong as the sheep and consequently become one of the main targets of the predators. Knowing this, Jesus said, ‘Peter, feed my young lambs.’ Jesus’ words are for us too, so let us join hands and create spaces in our homes and churches where we can teach our young lambs how to outrun the cheetahs of the savannah, and at the same time provide healing, love and support for them and one another.