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    Entries in Wisdom (6)

    Wednesday
    Jan062010

    Get Some New Friends

    Become wise by walking with the wise; 
       hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.
    -Proverbs 13:20, The Message

    Joey Wilson and I were having a tough discussion last week over lunch.  Joey is the youth minister at Resurrection West, and I'm one of his volunteers.  He and I were talking about the difficulties faced by some of our students within their peer networks, and the fine balance which exists between equipping young people with the skills to be Jesus' followers among those who see the world differently, and between counseling young people that they might need to spend time with some people of higher character.

    Joey and I both agreed that the latter dominated our experience of youth ministry growing up more so than the former.  The message we remember hearing is that if your friends are leading lives contrary to the teachings of Jesus, you need to establish new friendships that can keep you accountable.  Oftentimes this sounded like a call to sacrifice one's current set of friendships for another, holier huddle.

    As we discussed this, our conversation led us to conclude that there is a very fine balance here--one that is difficult to strike.  We determined that we wanted to avoid extreme forms separatism--the error of the Essenes of old.  But we also do not want, as the Proverb above teaches us, to encourage our people to hang out with fools and be dragged down into a quagmire.  We want our students to continue to engage their friends, love them as Jesus' would, and model another way of living.  This will bring about challenges, we know, and perhaps even hardship or rejection.  But how do you equip people to do this?

    Do you know of any resources or ministries that are doing an excellent job instructing people how to engage their world in transformative, missional ways?  How do you teach people to remain true to their Christian commitments without turning their back on the world?  What kind of theology is required?  What biblical stories do you emphasize?

    I think one of the biggest keys to helping people (particularly teenagers) engage their existing friendship networks while remaining true to their Christian commitments is the creation of a vibrant, alternative community that models responsible, loving engagement in preaching, teaching, worship, discussion, conversation, and common life.

    I'm looking for help.  One of the central themes of my thought and reflection over the past four years has been the formation of Christian community.  I'd love to hear what others think.

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