Greetings in the name of the Lord,
Ahhhh….Summertime! Sunshine, vacations, leisure. Cookouts with friends….I can smell the burgers on the grill. Awesome kids home from school for the WHOLE summer, Mom!
I want to take this opportunity to again recognize and congratulate our graduates. But I want to especially focus on those who have been charged with shepherding the spiritual development of our youth over the years. In seminary, I witnessed a phenomenon that I found to be extremely common, yet unfortunately, is generally given little attention by Church leaders and decision makers. When Youth Specialist Professors came to talk about cultural engagement regarding kids in the Church, the level of classroom engagement was always unbelievably elevated. Especially when they offered practical tools to meet those ends Those professors who presented material on ‘how to engage young people in a post Christian era’ were peppered with questions faster than they could answer them and their session were ALWAYS the most crowded. Why? I believe the contemporary Church often fails when it comes to serving their youth because of fear…. AND….it is also VERY hard work! “How can we relate to them?” “All they want to do is goof off” … “Put down that cell phone while I teach the Bible, young man!”
Yet the same church struggles to understand why it often sends its graduates out into a world where they abandon their commitment to the church. We often excuse it by calling it a ‘normal’ phase. But it is also normal to get lost at sea in a thunderstorm if the instrument panel is purposely shut off. And rehabilitating the damage (that perhaps didn’t have to happen in the first place) exacts a spiritual, emotional and sometimes even physical toll to repair and restore.
Each Sunday, Pastors preach to a relatively willing flock, who, for the most part, at least sits patiently and respectfully because they are willing and they chose to be there. But usually for NO money and a tenth of the respect the youth leader gets to study for, and prepare a message as well…. Except he/she is expected to chase down the part of the flock that is; continuously running away, is clothed in emotional camouflage, is ADHD, and can’t or won’t sit still, and generally either; doesn’t want to be inside the sheep pen, doesn’t see a point in sheep pens, or doesn’t believe that sheep pens exist. The Church of Christ knows this of course, but often sidesteps it for more ‘important’ things.
Truth be told, NOTHING is a higher privilege than persistently working to see a kid transformed by the gospel. Kids will never see the gospel more clearly or unambiguously than through the way their parents, mentors and youth leaders navigate the gospel in the real world in front of them. “Follow our leader” says the apostle Paul. Kids are watching very closely. How do we treat each other at home? In the church? At the ball field? What are our habits? Do we give of our time, talents and treasures? And what are attitudes when no one is watching? What is the melody of our home and church? Harmony or dissonance? This is WORK that requires a heart tendered with humility that has heard the Master’s voice of mercy in our own lives. It is the work of a youth leader. Parents are obligated to do it, teachers get paid to do it, but youth leaders are PRIVILEGED to do it out of obedience to Christ and love for Kids!
To all of you who have ever served in the capacity of loving young people in the church with a servant’s heart, THANK YOU!!!! We Love you! We appreciate you! May your fold increase and may the Lord bless you and your family beyond measure for your love and diligence in raising the next generation of humble servants in Christ’s Church…to Him be the Glory!