The theme for the upcoming 2012 Rooted Conference has been unveiled! “Adopted: The Beauty of Grace” taps into the mission of Rooted, which is to transform student ministry by fostering grace-driven and cross-centered student ministers through rich and contextual theological reflection. Consideration of the Gospel in the context of student ministry and youth culture comprises a large part of the Rooted vision.
Chap Clark, a psychologist and theologian who studies youth culture, aptly summarizes the emotional state of postmodern teens as the abandoned child. In his book, Hurt, Clark looks at research on concepts of parenting and child development from the past thirty years. Each of these models of child formation centers around the idea of “child competence,” a term which David Elkund of Tufts University popularized in his 1980’s book, The Hurried Child. Clark, however, writes that the situation has worsened and that the emotional and psychological damage inflicted on kids has intensified. Clark writes:
I agree with Elkind’s findings in the Hurried Child. However, I prefer to use the label abandoned rather than hurried. As Ron Powers and many other note, adolescents have a longing that parents, teacher, and other adults have ceased as a community to fulfill. The reasons are many and varied, but this concept of the systemic abandonment of adolescents as a people group seems to capture the widest range of descriptors used by careful observers of adolescents and adolescents themselves.
At the root of this generation of hurting, isolated teens is a culture which demands competence, autonomy, and production. Teenagers live in a world of intense performance. The only thing that truly heals teens—and all people—is a message that frees them from this performance. The salve for wounded hearts is the Gospel, whereby we gain a new identity in the performance of Jesus in his life and on the Cross. Through the Cross, God calls us all to rest and surrender from striving.
Ministries proclaiming the Gospel of grace offer real medicine for the abandoned teenage generation. They present a God who loves and accepts them independent of their performance. Sadly, student ministries pushing performance-based Christianity, driven by guilt and fear, only exacerbate the problem and further alienate students.
The 2012 Rooted Conference will focus on speaking the message of the grace to hurting youth and doing ministry in a manner that embodies the freedom of the Gospel.