After reading the article by Jan Paulsen in the Adventist World, it got me thinking about ministry to young people. It reminded me how helpless, angry, and frustrated I felt in my teens to look around and see many of my friends no longer attending church. If you had told me that I could have ministered to my friends probably more affectively then my church pastor I would have scoffed and told you you were crazy.
Today’s generation is all about keeping it real. They know plastic people when they see them. Sad to say, many of them view the church as being just that – full of plastic people hiding behind a plastic steeple. When they enter the doors a church, they aren’t looking to be told that God is love, they want to see it. They want to experience it. They know that the church is not made up of four walls, but of the members within. If you ask why they don’t attend one church or the other, a common response is, “that church isn’t that friendly” or “I don’t feel like I belong there.” What they are looking for is a place to belong, where they are part of a community and family.
If I’m anything like the youth in our church today, then they feel just as helpless, angry and frustrated about the number of youth leaving the church. But its the youth of today, currently in church, that are probably the best underused resource and channel to reach their fellow peers. Yes, you have those up and coming leaders who are doing their part, often over worked and overwhelmed, but the the vast majority are untapped. A lot of has to do with perspective, trust, training, and empowerment, but its more.
Its physically impossible to minister to every individual young person, but that doesn’t mean they can not be reached or that they are not capable of ministering to one another. I recently met with our youth director and the young leaders he has chosen to reach the youth of today. I learned that a lot of it is getting back to basics. Regardless of when many may think, the methods and means for which Ellen White ministered in the days of her youth, are and still can be affective. The times have changes but biblical principles still apply.
It is said that it takes a minimum of 15 hours per week to establish a good friendship with someone. Think about how much time the church spends together through out the week. If its no more than the hour or so during the main service on sabbath morning, prayer meeting, and vespers, then not only have we failed our youth, but the church as a whole – and we wonder why so many youth are leaving and many churches are dying. Sometimes we try so hard to attract people and compete for the attention of the people we try to minister to, that we fail to retain them. We get them through the door, into the baptismal tank, but fail to connect and build the relationships needed for their growth.
Jesus ministry was personal, that hasn’t changed. Its personal, always has been and always will be.