. . . posts on faith and life
The epidemic of adolescent obesity in the USA has been increasingly documented in recent years. Recent statistics indicate that 32 percent, or nearly 1 out of every 3 children in the USA is overweight. Alongside the rise of the average weight has been a surge of Type 2 diabetes in adolescents and pre-adolescents. Overeating causes the pancreas to produce extra insulin, which helps break down sugar from foods. Over time this overexposure to insulin causes the body to become less responsive to insulin, resulting in diabetes. While overeating in general can cause this to happen, the intake of food with high sugar content certainly exacerbates the process.
Against the backdrop of this crisis of the teenager’s physical health I wish to raise questions about the possibility of a crisis of the teenager’s spiritual health. Have we as youth ministers been feeding our students the wrong types of food in the wrong quantities? Have we exacerbated the problem by topping off large portions with sugary treats? If so, what might be the proper treatment for spiritual diabetes of the teenage soul?
Young Americans today come to our churches in the midst of fast-paced lives. Even if those young persons are not busy with sports, academics, clubs, and programs they are still surrounded by flashing images on TV, instant communication with friends, immediate access to information from the Internet, and food that can be prepared in 2-3 minutes. The variety of things to choose from for an American teenager seems infinite, and so the tastes from one teen to another might vary greatly. Nonetheless, there is a good chance that whatever it is that a teen prefers to do, or to have, or to be, s/he likes it in large portions. This has led many youth ministers to serve up an eclectic mix of offerings in their youth programs, and to do so in big amounts. Often a youth ministry will brand itself with a name that reflects its attempt to super-size the service. Identities like Extreme, High-Impact, Energy, Radical, and Explosion are common (though I see no problem with such names in-and-of themselves). Whatever strategies beyond entertainment and fun that might be intended are not always clear. It is even less clear whether or not these approaches are shaping the teenage soul in a healthy way.
What constitutes healthy spiritual food for the teenage soul?