I got a crown on one of my back molars today!

My dentist is a nice guy, but I’d rather see him at the gym or meet for coffee than sit in a chair with his fingers in my mouth (I don’t know, maybe it’s just me).

As I was waiting for the Novocain to take effect, I reflected on the “how” I got to this place. Obviously, I didn’t give into the scary warnings that I’ve seen since I was a child—“just floss the teeth you want to keep.” Sure, I could have been better at my preventative care.

How I really came to get today’s came from recent “cleaning appointment.” Two times a year my insurance pays for a cleaning. I don’t mind these appointments. For roughly 45 minutes I lay back and several things happen:

  • I get some superficial work done on my teeth.
  • I get some helpful coaching (“here’s a more effective way to floss”, “keep this [pick] in your car and use it when you’re at stop lights”, etc…).
  • I get X-rays of my mouth.
  • I get a specific diagnosis of my current condition.
  • I’m give some gifts/tools to help me be more effective (i.e. floss, a new toothbrush, any other gadget that they’ve discovered since my last visit).

You may be thinking, “Uh yeah Doug… thanks… but, I’ve been to the dentist… where you going with this?”

What if part of our discipleship strategy of teenagers expressed similar check-up features? I’m referring to specific appointments beyond (a) attendance at our programs, and (b) the normal relational times outside of programs.

  • What if a very similar procedure was followed as I listed above? Less about their teeth and more about their heart.

  • What if teenagers knew that being part of your youth ministry meant a more formal conversation, twice a year, to talk specifically about their spiritual health?

  • What if kids knew that check-up (performed with love and grace) was coming as part of being a young follower of Jesus?

  • What if they left this meeting with a new book, a prayer journal, a Bible reading plan and any other tools that might be helpful for their continued spiritual growth?

Like me and flossing… they could walk away from that time and decide that what you lovingly told them wasn’t as important as you think it was. Sure, that could happen. They make their own decisions. But, I wonder if this type of one-on-one faith check-up might not be just what some of your teenagers need to stay spiritually healthy.

I realize there’s a lot of “what if’s” in this post. I don’t have the answers. I was never that formal in 30 years of being a youth pastor… maybe I should have been. Who knows… maybe one of you will start something like this that will not only help your students but it will become something youth workers copy and use in their setting too.

Who knows? Maybe it was just the Novocain and it’s a dumb idea.

You tell me.