The Aspiration Gap
I read a news paper article last week. It was a thought provoking piece about children who have no aspirations, looking at the various reasons why and how we can introduce and model good aspirations - aside from that of just being ‘famous’.
I wish I could give you a link to it, but in the busyness of volunteering at Spring Harvest…. I forgot to save it to my note taking app!
But reading it has started a flow of thinking about the aspirations of our children and young people in church communities.
What DO our youngsters aspire to?
Do they have any aspirations?
One thing the article pointed out was the need for example - what do those around us aspire too? If those around us aspire to nothing, then it is likely we too will aspire to nothing.
If all we aspire to is getting rich quickly or fame - without the hard work, then it is likely that this is what the younger people around us will also aspire to.
If we as Christians have no discernible aspirations in our faith, then we will have young Christians around us who also have no aspirations.
But!! We think to ourselves - we’re not like that, we have aspirations and they’re good - we’re Christians after all….
We do have the same aspiration issues - but we dress them up differently. I’ll give just two examples…
Think of the ‘get rich quick’ aspiration, put it in a spiritual context and change it to ‘get blessed quick’. Wanting all the blessing of a close and deep relationship with God without the hard work. We chase after the ‘blessing’ or spiritual to encounter where ever it takes us, and like a petulant child we want it now. Well, here’s the truth (roughly quoting a speaker at Spring Harvest this year) “If you follow Jesus, you’ve already encountered Him, you don't need another encounter with Him, you need Him deeper in your life”
How are we encouraging our children and young people to aspire to a deeper faith?
I’ve already alluded to the common aspiration to be ‘famous’. Often not for a particular skill, but for fame at any cost.
This is an aspiration that is becoming more apparent within the church - for many reasons that would make up a blog post on their own.
Ask many teenagers what they aspire to be in the church, and a good portion will be aspiring to be a worship leader. Some will aspire to be a national youth leader. I rarely find any aspiring to be a pastor, children’s worker or church administrator
Why is that?
Well let’s ask what our children see in us and the world that subtly slides in and mixes within our church communities.
We tend to laud the role rather than the character. With many of us it’s all about what people do and how well (by our own personal measure) they perform in that role.
We then complain - in front of our kids - if people don't measure up.
We praise the famous worship leader and verbally bash the church administrator for a spelling mistake in the news sheet. Ok, so this could be an extreme example, but let me put this a different way…. when did you last say thank you to those making the coffee, and say it in front of children? In today’s consumer driven world, you need an exceptional servant heart to serve coffee in church. Now that’s something to aspire to - the exceptional servant heart that is.
We make ‘aspiration’ just about the role we do and not about the character we have.
It’s good for our children to aspire to jobs and roles that are in line with their gifting, but I believe we should be encouraging our children to aspire to something much greater:
The Lord has shown you what is good.
He has told you what he requires of you.
You must act with justice.
You must love to show mercy.
And you must be humble as you live in the sight of your God.
Micah 6:8 (NIRV)
Now there’s an aspiration to have!
Many of the aspirations we have built over the years are rolled up in those we have followed and wanted to emulate - we have had lots heroes.
Children are no different.
The aspirations they see in us will affect the aspirations they take on and follow. They love us and they want to copy us.
In the same way, our actions and examples will also affect the aspirations they have. We need to be authentic, matching up the “what I say” and “what I do” and owning up when we get that wrong.
We have a responsibility - a big one.
Yes, the biggest part of this responsibility lies within families, but a very large part of it lies within the church community too.
It takes a whole church to raise a child…. it also takes a whole church to shape Godly aspirations.
Let’s model Micah 6:8 as one of those aspirations.