WHAT'S THE YOUTH?
October 26, 2019
If you're an adult reading this article I want to ask you a question: "When you see a child or teen, yours or someone else's, WHAT DO YOU SEE? If you're listening to a child or teen talk, what do you hear? "Lord, give me your ears to hear: (to hear between the words; maybe like reading between the lines). I think about the questions I've just asked when I'm at a school event like a band or choir concert, and yes, a kindergarten graduation. Did you ever think about the fact that no one ever popped out of the womb with the language that now makes up their vocabulary? They got it from others; maybe especially parents and peers (even day care peers).
I was standing in one of the halls over at Roseau High School one time, when two teens passed each other near where I was standing. One teen said something to the other with a critical sounding voice. The other teen responded, "Go to hell!" Where did he get those words? Had he heard those words pronounced over him before?
Let's think about youth: What's there? What could be and what will be? As adults we need to keep these questions in mind when we see young people. How about at church? Maybe especially at church" If you attend church does your church have a place to "hang around" before and after the service? A good time to take in what's going on around you and lift someone up a little higher than they were before you stepped into the circle of their world. When I think of stepping into the circle of someone's world I am humbly reminded of my dear friend, Rhena Storo, who passed away recently at the age of 51. She knew how to celebrate the God-value of another person's life and it was always an expression of her heart. Dean Housker got it right as quoted in Jeff Olsen's superb article on her life: "Anybody she ran into, she made them feel better. She made them feel special. She was good people." (Roseau Times-Region, October 19, P.4)
In relationship to children and teens did any of you attend the special youth event in the Roseau High School gym on Wednesday evening, October 9th? I was deeply touched by it. It was sponsored in part by the Roseau Ministerial. During the day the main speaker was in classes of all ages helping children and teens to understand that they all have value; that every person counts. They could see this in the mirror of the speaker's life. He would ask them if they've ever had or would like a "father's hug." He said he hugs his three children every night. He asked the same question to a packed house Wednesday night and the response was overwhelming. Have you ever had a father's hug, or if you're a father have you given your children father hugs?"
Wednesday night he shared his personal testimony of faith in Christ (religion was not brought into the classroom presentations) and then gave an invitation to young people (of any age) to come forward if they would like to give their life to Christ. Twenty-five teens came forward and he prayed with them to receive Jesus. After his prayer he encouraged them to go over to one of the tables at the side of the gym where they could talk with someone from the various local churches about their decision and participate in some "followup" on their decision.
Twenty-five teenagers. Will they all follow through on the prayer they prayed? I don't know, but for those who do their commitment to Christ will be the most important decision they will ever make. They received the "Father's hug" that night when he received them as His children. Our Heavenly Father (see the Lord's Prayer) extended his arms to us when his Son stretched out his arms on the Cross and died for our sins. That's how much he loves us and it's important that we bring the Father's love to the children and teens whom God calls our attention to. This can happen any place but in this article I'm interested in the children in our churches who are in the formative years of their faith development. We need to help them grasp the importance of the church in their lives; that the church has "arms" not just pews and stained glass windows. Now you may not be a Sunday School teacher or helping with the youth group, but you can have "hang out" time in the church foyer after the morning service. By the way Sunday School teachers and youth workers, the most important thing you bring to the young people you're working with IS YOUR LIFE! In the edgy society we're living in you may not be able to hug them with your arms, but you can hug them with your heart.
Years ago our denomination (Evangelical Covenant) had a "Christian Education Department" and on the local level we had, "Christian Education" boards. Eventually this was changed to "Christian Formation" both nationally and on the local level. That was an important change (beginning with our children). Would you agree? The late D.L. Moody has been attributed with the statement: "The Bible was not given for our information but for our transformation" (See 11 Timothy 3:16, 17).
Now I'm not knocking Sunday School material, but like God's Word it needs to be lifted from the page and brought to life through the teacher. But you don't have to be a Sunday School teacher or youth worker to bring Jesus' life to the children and teens in your circle of influence. This is of even greater importance for Christian parents. The church is not to be seen as a replacement for Christian formation in the home. Now I say this cautiously because in many cases today the church is the only source of spiritual life for the child.
It has been suggested that, "The church is only one generation from extinction." Now this may be an overstatement, but do you hear the message? Our children today are the hope for the church of tomorrow! I see this sad reality in some small churches made up primarily of a diminishing number of senior people. We need to help our children and teens to begin to see themselves as the next generation church which we need to love them toward.
My heart has been stirred by Mark and Luke's recording of Jesus' way with children (Mark 10: 13 16, and Luke 18: 15-17). Let's examine Mark's account, Mark says that, "One day some parents brought their children to Jesus (reflect on this, parents) so he could touch them and bless them, but the disciples told them not to bother him." Hmmm. Jesus is going to have to broaden their vision; prepare them for "hang around" time after church when he's gone. Mark continues: but when Jesus saw this happening, he was very displeased with his disciples, He said to them, "Let the children (in this case, small children) come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of God (may I cautiously suggest that this is the church, God's people in Christ) belongs to such as these. I assure you, anyone who doesn't have their kind of faith will never get into the kingdom of God." Faith that lasts is easier to nurture when a child is young. This is the faith that can nurture the next generation church (See 11 Timothy 3:14 -17). But Jesus isn't done yet.
Verse 16: "Then he took the children into his arms (arms have ministry; like a "Father's hug") and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them." In the presence of the first disciples and everyone else Jesus lifted up the next generation church. So must we. We need to see the next generation church in the lives of our children, pray for them, worship with them! Turn your prayers into presence with them and among them. Maybe after church on Sunday morning! What's the Youth? The church of tomorrow!
Until next time,