Community, Touch

Pace and then lead

RICHARD DUNN in his book Shaping the Spiritual Life of Students wrote: “ There can be quite a gap between knowing a truth is meaningful and learning that truth meaningfully in one’s life.”

What Dunn wrote provoked me to reflect and evaluate the way I do discipleship. Does our Youth Ministry provide a conducive context for our young people to engage God’s truth in their lives or does our discipleship curriculum focus only on imparting knowledge from the Bible?

Being raised in a non-Christian background, I was completely clueless about anything that was written in the Bible when I first became a Christian. My ignorance created a deep hunger for the Word of God, resulting in my enthusiastic participation in various Bible study classes.

At one point in time, I was actually quite pleased with my progress in the knowledge of God’s Word. However, later on, I was convicted of my lack of spiritual transformation despite my growth in Bible knowledge. God’s truth was growing in my mind but not manifesting in my life.

As I looked back at my own spiritual journey, I wondered whether I am doing the same to the youths, puffing their heads with knowledge but not shaping their lives to be more Christ-like. In my interaction with teenagers, one feedback from them is that adult leaders are always telling them how they are to conduct themselves in holiness, but they are never involved in their lives or model to them what they taught. Worse still, these adolescents could not see how the adults are living out God’s truth in their lives.

How then can we disciple our youths so that they may be transformed and not merely informed?

Dunn provided a helpful framework which is to pace with the young people and then lead. He wrote: “To pace is to listen to and genuinely learn the thoughts, feelings and experiences of an adolescent. To lead is to speak truth meaningfully into that real-life context. To have paced and then led is to have loved well the adolescents to whom we give spiritual care.” Very often, we try to lead the youths without knowing what is going on in their world. As a result, there is a disconnection between what was taught and how it could be applied in their lives. In last month’s issue of Methodist Message (February 2011), the Rev Jasper Sim rightly pointed out that for youths to learn discernment, we need to be involved in their lives and discern the message of the media together with them. True enough, let us not teach from a distance but seek to journey alongside these young lives.

Personally, I am blessed to have mentors who not only taught me the truth of God but also paced with me in my faith journey. One of them made a big difference in my life when I was in university. I could not remember everything he had taught me during our Bible study sessions but I certainly learned much about humility and obedience through his life example. It was not his intelligence or charisma that opened my heart to learn from him, but his commitment to pace with me and understand what I was going through in my life.

Many young people are looking for adult role models who will pace and the lead them in their faith journey. Will you be one of them?

By Chan Siew Chye