DOORSI was visiting my comic store a few weeks ago and was pleasantly surprised to hear the DOORS’ “Light My Fire” playing over the store’s music system.

For the uninitiated, the DOORS were a rock group popular in the 60’s and the 70’s. They were fronted by a guy named Jim Morrison, a cult hero of the time. Like many saviours of that period, he died (drug overdose?) but didn’t rise again (e.g. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin etc.).

I was surprised because the guy manning the shop that day was a teenager. He had not yet been born when the DOORS had their day. I was curious and asked if his boss had told him to play that CD. To my surprise he said no. If his boss had his way, he would be playing top 20 stuff to push the CDs the shop was selling. He was playing the DOORS because Jim Morrison was one of his heroes. He had read about him, how Morrison was a poet and a visionary who had pushed for meaning and purpose, in an era where the youth did important things and fought for important causes.

I was pleasantly surprised but not too surprised. For a long time now I had come to the conclusion that young people – teenagers and young adults – are crying out for meaning and purpose. I had also come to the conclusion that young people are often viewed by those in positions of authority, as shallow, switched off, easily distracted, and with no real interest in anything spiritual. Therefore they are often not taken seriously, especially by the church.

However, there are other elements in society fully aware of this spiritual angst in our young. Some are experts at selling the young all sorts of ”stuff”, since ”stuff” is convenient fast food for hungry souls. Others are leading the young into the streets. From Seattle to Kuala Lumpur, they are tapping into the youths’ deep desire to give themselves to something meaningful.

I am deeply concerned because if our churches and our para church ministries do not take the young seriously, but these other elements do, who do you think our young will follow? Whose cause will they give their lives to? Which revolution will they support?

We need to seriously grapple with these questions because a commitment to reach our young is only the beginning.

To really reach the young requires that we pay the price to reach them effectively.

Paul Borthwick gives us a few principles of effective youth ministry in the 21st Century.

It must be relationally driven.
It must be incarnational.
It must be wholisitic.
It must be led by leaders who ”serve as agents of hope”.
Borthwick goes on to say that if we approach the youth, relying mainly on programmes, but keep our emotional distance, we will fail.

Needless to say such an approach to ministry is highly demanding, and very threatening to those who fear transparency.

Yet what is called for is really nothing new. Paul articulated this principle of ministry in 1 Thess. 2:8 where he wrote:”We loved you so much that we gave you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.” (NLT)

I am truly concerned that the way we do ministry is more an expression of the comfort zone of the ”powers that be” in the church, rather than a genuine attempt to reach the young in ways that are meaningful to them.

I am afraid that if we do not pay the price of retooling our way of ministry so that it will touch the lives of the young we will have wasted a very unique moment in history.

For the times, they are a-changin’ again, and the young are calling out to us to light their fires.