Monday, April 5, 2010

Potential Fruit

Seth Godin on expectations and limits:

It's absurd to look at a three year old toddler and say, "this kid can't read or do math or even string together a coherent paragraph. He's a dolt and he's never going to amount to anything." No, we don't say that because we know we can teach and motivate and cajole the typical kid to be able to do all of these things.

Why is it okay, then, to look at a teenager and say, "this kid will never be a leader, never run a significant organization, never save a life, never inspire or create..."

Just because it's difficult to grade doesn't mean it shouldn't be taught.

There is a phenomenon called the Pygmalion Effect, usually attributed to educator and psychologist Robert Rosenthal. It goes like this: the greater the expectation placed on a person, the better they tend to perform and grow.

The implications for both youth ministry and parenting are enormous. This doesn't mean placing unobtainable expectations on young people and adding pressure to their lives. It simply means being realistic about where they are at developmentally in all arenas--physically, emotionally, cognitively, socially, and spiritually--and believing that great things are possible for them.

When I look at the junior highers in my ministry, I can't evaluate based on what I see in the immediate present. I evaluate based on their potential fruit, the possibilities that lay in store for them, and how God is shaping their present to meet that hope-filled future. Yes, the present matters; being present with them really matters. Yet evaluating a junior higher's spiritual life is incredibly difficult because their identity is so malleable. But I continue to have high expectations for the students because I know that God is a powerful God, capable of doing radical things in unlikely people. Like Godin says above, "just because it's difficult to grade doesn't mean it shouldn't be taught."

1 comment:

  1. The students @ RMCC are blessed to have an awesome pastor who is there in the present, but sees much more in light of their potential. Thanks for sharing this insight w/us Joel.