Are We Training Fleas (aka Teenagers) Not to Jump Too High?
I have loved getting to know Kenda Creasy Dean, a member of the Practical Theology/Youth Ministry faculty at Princeton Seminary this last decade or so. She is smart, wise, authentic, deeply committed to teenagers and seminary students, and she laughs and smiles a lot.
Kenda presented some fantastic material at a Big Room session at the Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Convention this past weekend in San Diego. One of her themes was that mission is “translation” - we are translators of God’s love and grace to others.
For me, one of the most memorable parts of her talk was this video about training fleas. I had seen it before, but it’s a great reminder of how we condition ourselves and others (including teenagers), and how even when boundaries are removed, our conditioning keeps us from exploring and venturing forth.
What was most interesting to me about this video is how even the fleas’ offspring will not venture beyond the spot where the lid once was. So the conditioning lasts for generations.
All sorts of ways that we condition teenagers come to mind, but let me just focus on one: how we invite them to use their spiritual gifts. Or rather, how we don’t invite them to use their gifts and abilities.
We all know teenagers who have deep passions, skills, and abilities - ranging from computer-savvy students to brilliant musicians to teenagers who are masters at connecting with 6 year-olds. What would it look like for us to encourage those teenagers to jump? To not let the invisible lids that have prevented them from stretching their wings continue to do so?
What would it look like it every teenager in the U.S. somehow used their abilities in a new, helpful way this year? What would that mean for our country?
I’m no flea, but that makes me feel like jumping.
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