Youth Focused Church
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
Perhaps it’s an over-simplification to say that to be saved “through” Jesus that a person must hear about His story – who He was, what He did, and what He did – from another person. Maybe that isn’t the only way. But it is the usual way, the most direct way, because the connection that a believer has with God can be seen by the other person. We have to be involved in the process.
Now, as most everyone here knows, our little church has a big problem to solve. With Clint leaving us, we are going to have to find someone who is willing to get involved with the youth who come here, mostly on Wednesday night, someone who will show them the light of God shining in their life, over and over again. He – or she – has to be willing to work 10-15 hours per week, for not much, if any, financial compensation, preparing for and dealing with a tough audience.
In Romans 12:10-13 it reads:
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”
So as the church again starts to look for a special person to minister to the youth in our community, be prayerful that we are able to find someone who meets Paul’s description, someone who has brotherly love to give, who has the energy to give of himself – or herself, someone who is patient, constant, and fervent.
Of course, Paul wasn’t talking just about youth ministers in that passage. He probably wasn’t thinking about them at all, in fact, or even about full-fledged pastors. He was talking to all of us, the lay members of the church and the characteristics we should exhibit in the life we share. Of course we all know this, but it’s good to be reminded again: It’s easier to say than to do.
As I was making these notes, it occurred to me for perhaps the 1000th time that there are two different churches that meet under this roof, every week, and that they are often at odds with each other. With the bit of foreshadowing I’ve given you, you probably can guess that I’m talking about youth and adults.
Outside the church, there’s often a barrier between teenagers and adults. It’s all but an unwritten rule that teenagers will not tell adults about things that their peers are doing wrong. We’ve all seen the “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” commercials – it’s the same thing, but more along the lines of “What happens in Jr. High and High School stays in the youth crowd.” It’s certainly been that way as long as I can remember and undoubtedly longer.
Personally I think this paradigm began when we decided to mass educate young people in a factory-like setting. With the ration of faculty to students being what it is, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the students create their own social structure, mostly exclusive of adults. I think Iola ISD is less prone to this state of affairs than larger districts, so we are fortunate people. But that doesn’t make the generalization invalid.
We shouldn’t be surprised to see the same behavior show up in our churches. The society that we live in 165 hours per week rubs off on our 3 hours of church time. That’s only natural. However, I’d like to encourage you to resist that type of social inertia and make an effort to engage with the youth of our church, what few there are – patiently, fervently, and genuinely.
In church and in life, the adults give and the young people take. And take, and take, and take. That is, quite simply, the way it is (and I’m sorry if that offends any young people in the audience). This wears on adults like you and me because many of us truly want to give of ourselves and see something bloom in the life of a younger person. We want to make that sacrifice, but we also want to see some results, which doesn’t always happen in a way that we can be aware of what has happens. And this lack of visible results wears on us. It wears us out in some cases.
As some of you know, a few years ago I was the pre-teen guy here at Iola Missionary, along with Skip and Sam and Monica, and there was a group of girls in my class who I taught and watched grow up from 3rd to 4th to 5th grade. That’s hundreds of lessons here at IMBC, movies, skits, arms slammed in doors, etc. We went to Highland Lakes to camp 3 times and Matt Carey said to me once, “If I could live at church camp all year, I would” and I agree – those we some good times.
But by the time these girls got to 6th grade, the boys in the group had graduated to youth or moved our of town and they knew all my tricks for getting them to be quiet and listen and it just wasn’t working anymore. Eventually I felt like I had to fire myself as their teacher because I couldn’t do the job anymore.
Some of you may feel the same way. Raising children and in some cases grandchildren is hard work and we deserve a break! We don’t want to have to work even harder with the kids at church than we do in our own homes! And it is harder, because working with the youth you have less explicit authority than at home. We want to relax and meet with our own age group or listen to the pastor.
And yet, what is the future mission of the church? It’s well to meet and associate with our peers here, don’t says that I said otherwise. However… The legacy of this and all churches is our youth and their genuine, heartfelt belief in God and faith in the salvation of Jesus Christ.
Psalm 51:10 reads:
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
David knew enough to ask for what he needed, but do our young people? I didn’t – did you?
Psalm 144:12 reads:
“May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace”
This is what we want for our own children, grandchildren, and for every young person who comes through these doors. But we can’t expect for this outcome to just happen. Great work must be done to create the desired result.
Consider Lamentations 3:27:
“It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.”
Few people of any age want to bear the burden of instruction and discipline, let alone a young man. So to foist it upon them in the form of a law or commandment will not work. We need to diligently and deliberately establish relationships with the young people. Don’t put this entire burden on the youth minister, whoever it end up being. Your efforts may not work. You may fail miserably, like I did.
Nevertheless, our work here should be focused more on our hopes for the future of the youth in our community and less on ourselves as adults. Yes, by all means, save yourself first. If you don’t, you can’t save anyone else. But move beyond that. Do more. The youth are the life blood of the church. Without a new generation of believers, there is no future for our church.
Let us pray together.