“When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son. And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her.
When the baby was eight days old, they all came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John!”
“What?” they exclaimed. “There is no one in all your family by that name.” So they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him. He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.” Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God.
Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way. (Luke 1:57-66, NLT)
Peer pressure is nothing new. Our young people experience it daily and Elizabeth and Zeachariah faced it too. They were confronted with the expectations of others when faced with a decision as to what to name their child. It was not an insignificant decision. In Biblical times names had meanings and these meanings were important in the naming of a child. God had decreed the baby be named “John” meaning “the Lord is gracious” and Elizabeth and Zechariah obeyed God’s instruction.
We youth leaders face peer pressure too. We face the challenge of remaining true to God’s instructions in the face of others’ expectations. Church leaders have expectations, parents have expectations, and young people themselves have expectations. What is more, self centred pressures from within make us more susceptible to these external pressures from without. There is the pressure to seek quick results, the pressure to pay more attention to numbers than to spiritual depth, the pressure to copy what has been successful for others, and the pressure to make our own comfort and ambition the focus rather than obedience.
It is important to listen to the opinions of others because God will often reveal His will through these voices. But frequently these expectations will clash and we are left to determine what God’s will is in the midst of conflicting voices. Ensuring that our own inner motivations are kept pure and our heart and mind are centred on a desire to do only what God wants puts us in a position to best stand against the pressure.
Reflection: What external pressures do you face in youth ministry? What voices insist that you listen to them and how do you discern between what others want and what God wants? What inner pressures do you need to resist?