Who am I? This is a question that young people (we can only assume) have been asking themselves since the Fall. Teens are asking fundamental questions about identity. What is my role in this world? What do I want to do with my life and what kind of people do I want alongside me? Where will I find success?
These questions can lead to some more self-doubting questions. Why is she so much prettier than me? Why can’t I get as many likes as him? Why is everybody so much better at this that I am? Will anyone ever want to be around me?
As much as we like to think we have the answers to these questions as adults, the fact is that we still ask ourselves and God these questions. Many of us are married, have families, and are generally happy with our lives. So, why does this self-doubt still plague us? Well, the answer is rather simple: Sin distorts our priorities in life. Let’s look at Cain for example:
“And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering,” Genesis 4:2-4
God created people to be close with him, a part of his perfect family. They were secure in their identity because they knew who God said they were. After the first sin, priorities changed, and our clear identity was broken. Cain, instead of giving his first fruits to God, chose only to give a portion and this led to jealousy. How often do we commit this same sin? We are Baptized into God’s family. Yet we fail to live up to God’s commands becoming selfish and comparing ourselves with others. We doubt who God tells us we are, especially when we find worldly things more important.
So, how do we, as imperfect human beings, provide answers and comfort to the young people that we care for? The answer is that we can’t do it alone. The Holy Spirit works in us reminding us of our identity in Christ given in our Baptism. In Baptism, as we know, God gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit who helps us remind our youth of their Baptismal identity.
For teens who are searching for identity and asking difficult questions, we want to focus them often on their Baptism. This helps to center them in Christ, rather than in the things of this world and in jealous comparisons. Here are three ways that we can remember and talk about the importance of Baptism in youth ministry.
Remembering our Baptism
Below are some strategies to remind youth, and ourselves, of some of the gifts God gives us in Baptism.
Paper and Water
This activity requires little preparation. First, fill a tub with water. Give each student a small piece of paper and have them write anything they want on it: sins that have been bothering them, doubts about themselves, or anything negative that has been on their minds.
Read Isaiah 1:18 out loud to the students. Afterwards. one by one, they can come up to the tub of water, hold their paper on the bottom of it, and “Rub” the words off the paper. Remind them that Jesus washed away our sins and carries our doubts and burdens. These gifts are given to us through Baptism. Every time we are reminded of our Baptism, we are reminded that the Holy Spirit is with us. The Spirit gives us the faith in Jesus that is essential to our Salvation.
Get some white rags, shirts, or something else, and have your youth take them outside. Let them rub them on the grass and dirt outside. Afterwards, wash them (With bleach is necessary). Remind the youth that we are sinful, imperfect, and dirty. However, in our Baptism, we are washed just as white as we were created to be.
This activity would be ideal for an in-home setting, at a retreat center, or anywhere else you have access to a washing machine. You could also pair this with a different activity or Bible Study for while the washer is running.
Making the Sign of the Cross
This may seem like a given to some people, but many youth have not been taught to make the sign of the cross. Teach them to put their thumb and their forefinger together, and touch their head, their chest, both shoulders, and their chest again. This sign can be made during the Invocation, the Benediction, and any other time the pastor makes the sign of the cross. This is often indicated in the hymnal or bulletin as well.
Remind your youth that they were baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Every time they make that sign, they are making the same sign that was made at the time of their Baptism. This is a reminder that they were adopted into God’s family and justified by Jesus’ death on the cross!