e sometimes speak of the young as the “next generation” of disciples. This is certainly an accurate statement. As one generation ages and then passes on, the next must take up their work and continue the struggle. If the Lord does not return, there will come a time when we will all die and another generation of workers will be needed to fill pulpits, teach Bible classes and reach out to the lost in our communities. Our children are the next generation.
However, I am concerned that this language may sometimes leave the wrong impression with our youth. I fear that many young people believe their work for the Lord is still largely in their future. While they may do a few token tasks we assign to our youth, they are not responsible to be active in the Lord’s work until they are adults. I remember preaching a sermon several years ago and emphasizing the importance of welcoming guests at our services. I specifically urged our members not to run out the door, but stick around and greet a visitor. However, as soon as the service was over, I noticed a group of our teens headed out the side door. In Bible class the next Wednesday I asked them why they had failed to apply the lesson to themselves. They replied, “We didn’t know you were talking to us!”
I get calls periodically from people who have moved to our city and are searching for a church. At some point in that conversation they will usually ask what kinds of programs do you have for kids. I explain that we offer Bible classes on Sunday and Wednesday with a curriculum designed to help kids learn the Bible and understand God’s will for their lives. I add that we have families who host devotions to give the kids an opportunity to talk about God’s word in a more informal setting. I sometimes add that our kids enjoy getting together to do all kinds of things (movie night; basketball), but these activities are planned and organized by families and not part of our work as a church. It’s at this point that I usually begin to sense impatience on the other end of the line. Sometimes they will ask, “Is that all?”
I understand their frustration. Coming from other places, sometimes people have much higher expectations. Most churches offer a much larger menu of activities for young people. I went to the internet, checked out some church websites and made a list. Most churches have an entire section of the website devoted to youth and the activities they offer. These included…
With so many activities to coordinate, churches must have a paid staff member (in larger churches more than one) whose job it is to coordinate it all. His job title is, youth minister, because it’s his job to “minister” to the youth. This is the arrangement that you will find in most churches.
If we are not careful, we can start looking at all the options other groups offer to their youth and begin to believe that we aren’t doing enough for ours. I’ve had parents complain that we simply did not provide enough activities for the kids. When I pressed them to identify what else we should be doing, the answer was to schedule more movie nights, laser tag outings and activities like this. Now where did these ideas come from? It’s certainly not from scripture. These were things they saw other churches doing. Ultimately they were suggesting that we look to the denominations that are caught up in the youth group movement and take our cue from them. Let me state plainly that, if we cave to this pressure, we will be taking the wrong cue. The last thing we want to do is look to the youth group movement to figure out how to help our kids. I say this for three reasons.
To her parents, Katie was the perfect child. She was doing well in school, planning a career in law and dating a boy they liked. She was the least likely person to get into trouble. Just before her 16th birthday, Katie attended a party with friends. During the evening, she was passed a bottle of liquor. To her parent’s knowledge, she had never taken a drink before this moment. Katie had a choice to make. Would she take the first drink?
Most teenagers face a similar choice. When your moment comes, there are some important reasons to refuse that first drink. (1) Drinking messes with your mind (Proverbs 23:29-35). From the very first drink, alcohol begins to break down your judgment. This is why people frequently get into trouble when they drink. Remember that we are fighting an intense battle with Satan (I Peter 5:8). We cannot afford to sacrifice any of our self-discipline. (2) Drinking shrinks your influence. If you saw one of your elders sitting at a bar drinking beer, would you be surprised? Upset? Angry? Of course you would! This conduct does not fit with a person striving to live a holy life (I Peter 1:13-16). (3) Drinking puts you on a slippery slope. Once you take the first drink, you open the door for all kinds of potential problems (drunk driving, alcoholism, disease, death). While these things do not happen to every person who drinks, it will certainly happen to a percentage of those who start.
What about Katie? She chose to take that first drink. In fact, she drank a lot that night. When she got home, she was barely conscious. When her dad tried to wake her up a few hours later, her body was cold. He tried to resuscitate her, but it was too late. Katie died. She made the wrong choice.
When your moment comes, make the right choice.
Working with young people can be an exciting and rewarding kingdom endeavor. But for some it is the source of tremendous frustration. Finding the positive side of this work requires that we remember some things about working with this special group.
I. Remember that they are young.
II. Remember to have high expectations.
We understand that teenagers fight a battle with Satan every time they leave the house (I Peter 5:8). However, we do not always appreciate that this battle continues to be waged after they come home. We would like to think that home is a refuge, a place were teenagers can escape from Satan. But, the truth is, his efforts do not end at our front door. With increasing frequency the devil is finding his way into our homes and continuing his war against our kids. God has great purposes for the home, but Satan has an agenda too.
God wants the home to be a place where children learn about His will for their lives (Ephesians 6:4; Deuteronomy 6:1-9). However, using the television, radio and internet Satan is busy flooding the minds of our teenagers with corrupt images and messages. He wants parents to leave their children unattended with these dangerous weapons so that he can do his work.
God wants the home to be a place where children listen to their parent’s instruction. It is His desire to help teenagers avoid life’s pitfalls by providing wise counsel from those who are further down life’s road (Proverbs 1:8-9). But using media messages and the influence of peers, Satan seeks to undermine the influence of parents with their children. He wants kids to dismiss their guidance. He wants to create conflict between kids and parents so he can turn our homes into war zones.
God wants the home to be a place where families spend time together. He wants us to be close, to be involved in each other’s lives, to spend time talking about the things that really matter (Deuteronomy 6:7). But Satan wants to keep us so busy that we have no time for each other, even when we are all at home. He wants to keep teenagers off in their own little world, back in the bedroom with the door shut, listening to music, watching television or surfing the net. He wants families to watch television while they eat their meals so that they will be robbed of one more opportunity to communicate. The devil is content to let families share the same address; he just does not want them to share their lives.
An honest assessment of many homes will reveal that the devil enjoys the upper hand in this battle. However, families do not have to let him win. Home can be a refuge, but this requires parents and teenagers to join together to run the devil out of the house.