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Mission Possible

Greg Stier

The green-and-white circular sign beckoned, a refuge in a hectic world. It wasn't a church sign, but the logo for Starbucks, the church of the Frappuccino generation. A twentysomething youth pastor named Ty arrived first and waited for his newfound mentor and friend, Tony, a veteran leader with 20 years of youth ministry service under his belt, mostly at the same church.

Tony had learned the hard way that traditional youth ministry practices don't lead to transformed students, so he'd developed a set of "ministry mutiny" principles that had impacted his life and ministry. This morning Ty was anticipating another dive into the ministry mutiny deep end.

At 7:30 sharp Ty spotted Tony through the front window as he pulled into the parking lot and came run-walking toward the door.

"Am I late?" Tony asked, as he joined a short line of mostly high school kids waiting for a java jolt before chemistry class.

"No. You're right on time," Ty assured him.

"May I take your order please?" A dark-haired, pert-faced barista gave them a Starbucks smile.

Ty didn't need to look at the huge menu riveted to the wall. "I'll have a triple venti, sugar-free, vanilla nonfat latte."

"Sounds like you've done this before, Ty."

"Every single day."

The barista's fingers flew across the register's computer screen keyboard, entering all of the nuances of Ty's latte order. Now it was Tony's turn. "And what would you like, sir?"

"I'll just have a coffee."

"What kind of coffee, sir?" the barista asked politely. "Would you like Columbian, Sumatran, mild, decaf, or the coffee of the day?"

"Just regular coffee is fine with me," he answered with a shrug.

By now Ty was getting a little embarrassed at Tony's lack of Starbucks ordering finesse. He was an obvious novice and needed a little schooling. "He'll have the coffee of the day," Ty volunteered.

"Okay," Tony echoed. "I guess I'm having a coffee of the day." Tony turned to Ty and asked, "Why do you think it's so difficult for guys like me to order coffee here?"

"I guess there are so many choices that, for the nondecisive or the traditional 'just coffee' drinkers, it can be a traumatic first-time experience," Ty observed.

"Then why do you think so many normally nondecisive teens get their coffee at Starbucks?"

Starbucks Spirituality

By now Ty had been meeting with Tony for ongoing mentoring long enough to catch the undercurrent in his question. He suspected that this little coffee-ordering incident was not an accident, so Ty reflected briefly before he offered his response. "I guess kids want their coffee, like their lives, to their exact specifications. They don't want just plain black coffee like you 'old' guys. They want their own customized version."

"Kind of like their spirituality, right?" came Tony's transitional zinger.

"Ahhh. I knew you were driving to some­thing, Tony!"

Tony handed the barista some money and got his change. Tony and Ty grabbed their drinks and made their way around the corner of the counter and headed for the two stuffed chairs nestled back in the far corner of the coffee shop.

"Okay, Tony. I know there's some big illustration that just unfolded, beyond the fact that teens like their spirituality like they like their lattes."

"Nope. That was it, Ty. I call it Starbucks Spirituality -- our kids are mixing their beliefs like that barista mixes her lattes. Actually, I'm no Starbucks novice. I study at the Starbucks at 80th and Wadsworth every single day! There are a whole lot of choices that our teens are facing when it comes to spirituality -- the only spiritual order that is looked down upon is a straight-up Jesus, add-nothing-else order."

"Well, you made your point!" Ty answered.

Tony shifted the conversation. "Anyway, let me make an awkward segue to today's 'ministry mutiny' principle. I call this one Grow Deep: If we don't equip our teens to grow deep in their faith, they'll fall victim to this Starbucks spirituality syndrome."

Ty agreed, "So how exactly do we help them grow deep?"

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