How can we teach teenagers to turn to God for help? The first step in doing so is recognizing what teenagers are seeking so we can show them how God meets their needs. All people, including teenagers, need forgiveness, acceptance, community, and endurance. We can use the acronym F.A.C.E. to remember these four things. Let’s take a look at the F.A.C.E. of Jesus and see how these gifts He brings through the Lord’s Supper apply to youth ministry today. This post is adapted from Connected for Life: Essential Guide to Youth Ministry, edited by Mark Kiessling.
Forgiveness: A Shocking Word
An athlete partakes in locker room pranks and smack talk; a varsity cheerleader gossips about those on the drill team; the kid in history uses his smartphone to cheat on a test; a big sister leaves the bathroom a mess in such a way that it looks like her little sister did it; a big brother gets on the computer and checks out pornographic websites. Countless scenarios of brokenness exist in the life of teens today. Whether it’s sex before marriage, using drugs, disrespecting parents, and so forth, everyone has the need for forgiveness.
To see forgiveness in the F.A.C.E. of Jesus is crucial. It is vital for a teenager to see the importance of the Lord’s Supper and the gift of forgiveness offered through this meal. Forgiveness meets a most basic need for us all, and our teenagers are in desperate need of it. If they never really experience forgiveness, they live in unnecessary guilt—or the other extreme, they live with a “who gives a flip” attitude as if nothing really matters anyway. By helping teens see the amazing forgiveness of God in the F.A.C.E. of Jesus found in Holy Communion, teens experience a crucial, foundational strength for their Christian walk. In the gift of Holy Communion, Jesus’ body and blood are truly present along with the bread and wine. Body and blood youth ministry offers real presence for real forgiveness.
Acceptance: Welcome to the Lord’s Table
Teens find acceptance in their peer groups, whether it be in the FFA, marching band, athletics, dance, or various clubs. Many teens find acceptance in their families at home. Social media has become the place where many teens seek acceptance. But do they find it there? Well, that depends on the individual. But one thing is for sure: many teens seek acceptance from the online world. However, there is one much more powerful and important place of acceptance—the altar of the Lord.
At Holy Communion, teenagers who receive the Sacrament find themselves at a place of acceptance. The altar of God is an accepting place of love and forgiveness.
Imagine a teenager who has trouble approaching God, thinking He is a God of wrath that burns against sinners. When teens realize the powerful gift of Jesus’ sacrifice, they see the altar as a place of invitation and acceptance. To kneel at the foot of the cross, at the altar of our Lord, and experience acceptance in the F.A.C.E. of Jesus is powerful for people at any age. The prodigal son in Luke 15 not only experienced forgiveness; he also experienced acceptance from his father. He was accepted back into the family with all the benefits of sonship! Body and blood youth ministry offers real benefits for real acceptance.
Community: Connected to Christ and One Another
As you look at the cross, it’s obvious that the two directions of the beams, vertical and horizontal, serve as a symbol of connection.
The vertical beam reminds us of God’s love and connection to each of us individually. His love comes straight from heaven (top of the cross) to our lives here on earth (bottom of the cross). Holy Communion is for us personally. Remember Jesus’ words when He gave the disciples the first Lord’s Supper. Martin Luther emphasized the words “for you.” These two important words connect sinners in community with the Savior of the world Himself.
The horizontal beam of the cross shows us another community relationship established in Holy Communion between brothers and sisters in Christ. This community is seen as people—shoulder to shoulder, kneeling at the altar rail, or lining up one after another—receive the gifts of God. In this horizontal relationship of blessing and community, we experience forgiveness and acceptance, not just for us individually, but as a community of believers called the Church.
Have you ever communed at an altar in the round, where the people gather in a circle around a freestanding altar? As people stand or kneel, everyone focuses on the altar, but just past the altar, you can see the people on the other side. In that moment, God reminds us how we can see one another through the body and blood of Christ. Body and blood youth ministry offers real community for real relationships.
Endurance: Proclaim the Lord’s Death until He Returns
Life in this world is tough! Tough for adults, and tough for teenagers. School pressures and temptations abound. Outside of school, the concerns take their toll as broadcasts from across the globe include terrorism, environmental issues, protests, police shootings, and government squabbles, not to mention a bleak outlook on the future status of employment for those graduating from high school and college. Jesus never tells us life this side of heaven would be easy. Instead Jesus states in very realistic terms, “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
St. Paul instructs his readers in Corinth by saying, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). Do you feel the sense of waiting in this verse? Do you notice how the reception of the Lord’s Supper proclaims the death of Jesus until the Last Day? We need strength until that day. We need endurance to make it through until then.
One of the unfortunate states of teenage life is a sense of hopelessness. The world seems so messed up that they just lose hope in things, lose faith in God—even doubting that God exists at all. We can help teenagers realize that at the altar, strength and endurance are given so the faithful continue living for Christ even in these troubling times. Encountering the F.A.C.E. of Jesus in Holy Communion brings endurance to teens and adults alike. Body and blood youth ministry offers real strength for real endurance.
Forgiveness, Acceptance, Community, and Endurance are all parts of the wonderful gift of Holy Communion. Imagine youth being directed to Holy Communion for help in troubled times. Imagine youth leaders encouraging teens to encounter the F.A.C.E. of Jesus after they’ve been convicted of drug use, lost their virginity, had their reputation ruined on social media, been caught cheating on exams, been fighting with their parents, or been feeling guilty about other sin in their lives. As youth and adults work together developing ministry to and with teenagers, the F.A.C.E. of Jesus found in Holy Communion becomes a foundation of faith, hope, and love on which to build life today—and life everlasting.
Blog post is adapted from Connected for Life: Essential Guide to Youth Ministry, pages 8–11 © 2019 The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Published by Concordia Publishing House.