Jon Acuff’s talk at the first general session of the Simply Youth Ministry Conference was brilliant and inspiring, but there was one sentence that stuck with me. He said this:

The world is very OK with teens living average lives, but we shouldn’t be.

He’s right of course. There’s very little in the world of teenagers that inspires and encourages them to live special lives, to rise above the average. Maybe academically or in sports, there’s still some pressure and an effort to raise the bar, but outside of that people are content if teens ‘just behave’. If teens don’t do drugs and their drinking doesn’t get too out of control, people consider them pretty much a success.

Do we do the same? Or dare we raise the bar for teens?

Are we content with our teens living average lives or do we dare to raise the bar for them? (Photo" Flickr, jrsquee, Creative Commons) 

When I was in the US for the SYM Conference, I kept seeing this commercial for the ‘Insanity’ workout DVDs. It was basically a bunch of people showing off their amazing bodies, the result of a workout that from the looks of it is very aptly named Insanity.

Again, there was one sentence in this commercial that grabbed me. The guy who came up with this idea said something like this:

Insanity is not for the lazy or people who make excuses, it’s for those who are mentally ready to take their body to peak physical condition.

I like his honesty, even though you’d have to basically be insane to try this workout. In another segment, he elaborates a little on this, explaining how many fitness programs assume people are lazy and unwilling to put in hard work. They promise a six pack without any effort, but it doesn’t work like that. If you want a perfect body, you have to put in a lot of hard work. His analysis is spot on and not just for fitness.

How often do we tell teens the hard truth about life, about faith, about following Jesus? Do we really encourage and inspire them to lead extraordinary lives, to put in ‘insane’ efforts to get maximum results? Or are we satisfied with them leading average lives and do we promise them results without ever mentioning the hard work that’s required?

How high dare we raise the bar for teens?

I’ve seen teens step up to a challenge we gave them with amazing results. But we have to raise that bar and set the challenge, If not, they’ll be stuck leading ordinary, average lives when they could be doing, living and experiencing so much more.

Look at the teens in your youth ministry. What can you do to raise the bar, to set higher expectations and to encourage and inspire them to lead extraordinary lives?