Have you heard? This year many retail mega-stores opened their Black Friday sales Thanksgiving morning. This move encourages the narrative of: skip the work of shopping for a big meal, having conversations with family members, and playing the annual family football game. Come spend Black Friday weekend (Thursday-Sunday) with “us” (megalomaniac retailers). Last year the weekend garnered over $50 billion worth of retail purchases by 245+ million shoppers.
It’s amazing to me that we live in a world where that is a reality.
The narrative of a retail event like Black Friday weekend is broken. What if we could embrace a new narrative? What if that new narrative is really an old narrative just seen with new eyes?
The global church recently entered the season of Advent, which is a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus. However, we live in a world where Jesus has already entered. How should our youth ministries look different in response to that and as a church be part of bringing the Kingdom of God to earth in this season? How can we equip teens to embrace advent in ways that shape them holistically?
Let me explain.
I love Apple products. When I was in high school I got the iPod Mini in silver and was ecstatic with my 4 GB of storage. Green Day and Nirvana instantly filled my hard drive. My angsty teen punk-rock phase was given the mobility of Apple’s slick interface and I was hooked. Some of you may be able to relate to this phase – in your own life or in the teens in your ministries. A couple years later, the iPod video came out and I “HAD” to buy it. You know, to watch all those videos that 16-year-olds had before social media became a thing.
I love Apple products. Having said that, every product release they do and every time I see crews of people lining up to be the “first owners of the new product” — or even every Black Friday — I am reminded of something.
We feel inadequate. So we buy. All in a desire to feel full. All in a desire to feel complete. All in a desire to feel whole.
Black Friday is just a microcosm, a small window in an ocean of glass, of a larger societal practice of missing the mark. What if we used this Advent season to redeem some of those broken narratives and invest in the Kingdom of God on earth?
A few years ago the church where I am employed as a youth pastor put out a re-adventing Christmas guide. I’ve included some of our ideas in the following and hope they spur you on to encourage your teens to embrace these practices.
LIVE AS ACTIVE RESISTANCE
Use this advent season to teach your teens to love extravagantly, give radically, and serve freely. This may sound easier said than done. Living as active resistance is a way to intentionally and purposefully resist consumeristic cycles.
As a call to choose compassion over consumption, I encourage you in this season to:
- Worship Fully: Christmas is entirely about our celebration of Christ’s birth. He deserves celebration – one that is creative, compassionate, and directs every heart towards him.
- Spend Less: This isn’t a call to stop giving gifts; it’s a call to stop spending money on gifts we won’t remember, that harm our neighbor in production, and that build up waste.
- Give More: We follow the model of Jesus who gave his life for us, celebrating Christmas by giving gifts with intention and integrity.
- Love All: By spending just a little less on gifts, we free up our resources to love as Jesus loves by giving to those who really need help.
I love gifts. Encouraging your teens to live as active resistance is not telling them not to give. But give with intention and invest in individuals and companies that are doing good.
Instead of buying a tangible present, what about buying a gift for another in need in the name of someone you love? You could even align your gift with a need your recipient is passionate about!
Our purchasing power doesn’t end after Christmas. We are called to use our God-given resources wisely — but also with grace (not every purchase can be perfection!).
This one is my favorite! Host a mid-week event for your youth ministry. If your church has an adult choir and a children’s program invite them to participate in this night as well. Seek out the artists, craftsmen, and DIY enthusiasts in your church. Invite these individuals to make and sell gifts at your event as a locally made gift fair. Have tables set up to make handmade cards or simple crafts. With the right planning get members of other generations in your church to help with these craft tables.
My prayer for you this Advent is that your pursuit of Jesus leads you to shop, give, eat, and serve more worshipfully. Love extravagantly. Give radically. Serve freely. May the peace of Christ rule in your heart during this season of fullness.