Curing Teen Apathy or Whatever

This article originally appeared on YouthWorker Movement

You give it your all; you preach/teach your heart out. Then, you look out at a room full of teenagers with the blank stares that communicate the same thing as last week: we don’t really care. Why?

I believe that part of the reason is we often are trying to sell them on concepts they have no interest in: self sacrifice, suffering for Jesus, and serious study to name a few. In a world of over-indulgence and instant stimulation, these are not very attractive offers. Yet, we do our best to make them attractive dressing them up with movie clips, doing all we can to make them look cool and relevant, but it’s just a show. They aren’t attractive. They aren’t cool. They aren’t what students want.

I’m not suggesting that we stop calling teens to this high level of living. I’m not suggesting we water down the message, but we may be more successful if we take a step back. You and I know that students can smell a fake from a mile away, and if all we are doing is dressing up unattractive concepts in attractive clothing, we are doing just that: faking.

What I’m suggesting is that we do our best to show the spiritual and moral benefits of these concepts and then recognize, even verbalize, how unappealing they are. St. Teresa of Avila put it most honestly when she cried out, “Oh God, I don’t love you, I don’t even want to love you, but I want to want to love you.”
Let’s be honest. Americans live an easy life; most want for nothing. We get popcorn in 3.5 minutes, we don’t have to move from the couch to peruse hundreds of channels of television that are created to merely entertain and occupy our time, and we live most of our lives in whatever temperature we find most comfortable. When that bleeds into our faith, we can approach the things of God with the same mindless apathy we have when we channel surf.

Maybe the cure for apathy is not to figure a way to dress up unappealing, non-easy concepts. Maybe the cure is to show them for what they are, both beneficial and difficult, and recognize that, more than not sacrificing, we do not want to sacrifice. I believe that if we are honest at this level, we have the hope that our students can, like St. Teresa, want to want to sacrifice (and a whole host of other unappealing-yet-vital practices). And that is not only a start, but the beginning of the end of apathy.