Noun: A feeling of disappointment resulting from the discovery that something is not as good as one believed it to be.
-Oxford Dictionaries (oxforddictionaries.com)
I didn’t discover the saving grace of Christ until late in high school. Though I’d been to church, I wasn’t a church goer and certainly didn’t grow up in the Christian faith. For me, coming to Christ was exciting. I loved church and was almost recklessly drawn to all things Christian. If there was a Bible study or youth meeting, I was there.
In my new faith, I was actually surprised to find out that so many “church kids” were bored, if not altogether disillusioned with the Church. In some cases this sense of disappointment went beyond the particular faith community and was applied to either the larger church universal, or even the whole Christian faith. While this was once news to me, it isn’t news to us now, especially for those of you that have fought this battle in your own life. Though I was once easily frustrated by Church kids who seemed to so easily overlook the good things of their Christian faith, I have now become much more sensitive to their journey.
One of the callings of college/young adult ministry is dealing with disillusioned youth. If you’re going love these kids, this is an inevitable factor in the stages of late adolescence. Some are still reeling from the consequences of their parents’ divorce. Some have seen moral failures of Christian leadership. Some have sat under the leadership of an older generation that makes no effort to cross the generational-culture gap.
Obviously this list could be longer, and is made up of things which are unfortunate realities in our churches. We could talk about how to solve those things, which would be a worth while conversation. However, I’d like to just remind us that the church will always be made up of people, and though we must strive to deal with our issues, there will never be perfection. We simply can’t solve all of the causes of disillusionment in young people.
A better strategy is to simply not give up on them. Our job is to remain available for relationship and conversation. Though their disillusionment will at times be growing into bitterness, we need to remain patient and loving. It seems that for many students the anger must run its course. This is especially true when their criticisms are legitimate and well founded (admittedly, some are not). Yet these criticisms are often unable to cast out all sensitivity to Christ and the Good News. Thus we need to help them process their disillusionment and once again reveal to them the love of Christ in the midst of human brokenness. In fact, maturity will hopefully reveal that the reality of Christ’s redeeming Grace amidst the foolishness of human institutions becomes is not only viable, but necessary.
Suddenly, disillusionment may become a path to maturity. It may just be that for many students the inherent processing of disappointment and anger are a necessary byproduct of the world we live in. Furthermore, if they must go through it, we can trust that the Holy Spirit can use it for long term transformation and maturity. However, if that is the faith that we proclaim, we must accept our (the Church’s) role in sanctification. Trusting that they’ll be better on the other side doesn’t mean waiting passively for it to happen; in fact, it may just prove to be the impetus for our diligent involvement in their lives.