|Understand the Misunderstood Youth|
YOUTH! The most memorable and beautiful time in each one of our lives! During those carefree and fun-loving years, the youth are also the most vulnerable & misunderstood group. But they still remain the 'future' soldiers of God who carry 'Jesus' to the next generation when you and I may leave to be with the Lord.
What the world needs today, are stable young people with a clearly defined purpose in their lives with commitment and knowledge to impact the society for God. This cannot be achieved without sowing the seed of the real purpose deep in their hearts and lives. Young people are in the Church. Not as many as there might be or could be. Thousands of children who come through Church schools are lost to the Church each year as they approach adolescence. The Church leaders need to re-look at their youth, instead of it just being another ministry appended to the main Church. Planned efforts supported by prayer are needed to attract and nurture the Christian youth today.
In every community there are hundreds of teenagers never reached by the Church at all. Among these is a hard core which constitutes a grave social problem. Currently known as "bodgies" and "wedgies," they have a notoriety which often leaves the impression that all modern youth are a hopeless lot. That, of course, is far from the truth. Yet the situation is disquieting enough and the Church has to do a lot of serious thinking and take adventurous action if it is to bring young people into a full understanding of life, and to equip them with the faith, the love, and the loyalty to live life at its best.
The pre-requisite to this is to introduce the youth the real, exciting relationship with Jesus in a practical way. That's what Christianity is about. Rather than limiting it to being a volunteer in the Church every Sunday morning to take the offering or serve the emblems on a Communion Sunday. The life that Jesus gives to young people is not safe & boring, but is risk taking, creative, and world changing. If this dynamic life is exposed to what is often a "boring Church", it will create frustration, disillusionment and loss. The Church should be exciting, trend-setter, not a follower. Young people will want to be in a Church which is alive, creative, vibrant, one that challenges, moves constantly, and is willing to live in constant change.
The thing that turns teenagers and young people off quicker than anything is deception and pretensions. They as it is, live in a world of much confusion and want tangible principles to live by and philosophies that work. At school, at play, in our family life, even in the Church, there is a continuous pressure from the world to conform oneself. A small lie, a small theft, pretence in the Church that would not hold water at home where the kids really know us. Jesus was so embarrassingly open. He wept, was angry, tired, ate with unclean hands. He called Pharisees hypocrites, talked to prostitutes, broke social customs whenever they got in the way of the Father's business. He was a self-reveller and completely transparent, especially in relationships where trust was involved.
The art of attracting and training the youth begins with offering them the assurance of acceptance. So often we see adults who don't listen to their children, teachers who don't listen to their students, leaders who don't listen to those who are following. We tend to notice what is wrong with them, paying little attention to what is right. We are better on correction than on congratulation. It is impossible for anyone to live under constant disapproval. We need to believe in our young people. We need to stretch the youth for our benefit, their benefit and benefit of the Kingdom of God. Stretching leads to growth and maturity. To stretch someone, you have to trust them beyond the point where they are performing at the moment. Consider entrusting some young people who are not so mature or strong spiritually or not very old with responsibilities under the guidance of Church leader. Give them to God, for broken in His hands they will be sufficient to do the task that is a head. God chose people young whether it was Samuel, David, Joseph, Jeremiah or for that matter even our Lord Jesus started quite young. Did God ask them their 'experience in ministry' before calling them?
Secondly, the Church leaders and Pastors will have to discover how they can give real responsibility to the youth, not pretence of what all young people need is a challenge. Responsibility like giving out books or something, but the type of responsibility the leaders themselves would expect to have. They could be trained in teaching, to prophesy, pray for the sick, minister in words of knowledge and wisdom. Alongside the training, they need to be given opportunity to work in these areas, and this will increase their visibility. Training without work related experience is not only a waste of time, energy and resources, but is positively dangerous. If their power and ability is not utilized, it will lead to frustration and a total explosion, a wrecking of lives.
Thirdly, the parents also playa very important role in the training and release of the youth to do the Kingdom work. Most parents push their children to concentrate on worldly pursuits like education and career building. It is easy to pay lip service to the fact that we ought to lay up treasures in Heaven where neither moth nor rust corrupts. In practice, we want tangible things now. The Kingdom of God is made to take last priority in a child's life by his parents. If there was a straight choice between knowing God and going to a foreign university for an expensive degree, university would win every time. These are Church going, Spirit filled, Bible believing parents. Underneath most of us all is 'a strong materialism ' directs our whole life, which we pass on to our children. It's not wrong to have a nice car, live in a decent home and not to have to scrape for every penny. But how do we hold these things? Often we come to know when God puts His finger on it and says, "Abraham, give me your son!"
Finally, let's allow the youth to 'Experiment'! If the doctrine is sound, the application can always change. What all young people need is a challenge. A challenge of something to live, work and die for. We need to present to young people the challenge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is a whole needy world out there to speak to, to help bring into the greatest kingdom that ever was or will be. But before giving the young people this challenge we need to accept the challenge to understand this misunderstood age group.