March 17, 2009
During the summer of 2008, in the absence of a Minister of Children/Youth, I attempted to assist with the youth of our church. It had been twenty years since I had worked closely with children and young people. This brief journey into youth ministry was a good experience because it showed me how out of touch I am. A case and point is the night we went bowling.
Listen to the conversation that ensued after a young man nearly rolled a strike: He said, “That was close.” I responded, “Close doesn’t count in anything but horse shoes and hand grenades.” He replied, “What are hand grenades?”I suppose if I had said horse shoes and hand propelled explosive devices he may have understood.
This illustrates a problem that is prevalent in our churches today. We are failing to connect with our young people. As a result, they are dropping out at a rapid pace. If we are going to correct this problem, we must learn how to communicate the truth of the gospel in ways that they can comprehend. The first step is to understand what it means to communicate. There are many components to communication but there are three things that are essential. One, we must learn to speak boldly and clearly. Two, we must realize that listening is as important as speaking, if genuine communication is to take place. Third, we must understand that it doesn’t matter what we say, if we have not said it in way that people can understand.
The Apostle Paul understood the importance of these things. In Acts 17:22, 23 he stood in the midst of the scholars in Athens and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you” (NASB).
Notice that he listens to see where they were in their thinking, took an object that they understood, and used it to explain the truth of who God is. If we are going to reconnect with the youth in churches across our land, we must be willing to take the time to listen to discover their needs; we must meet them where they are and begin with something with which they can identify; and we must share the message in ways that they can understand. If we who are older do not understand or are not willing to do this, we will continue to bemoan the direction the youth of the land are headed but we will do little to redirect their path.
We could learn from our missionaries in distant lands. In areas where little or nothing is known about the God of the Bible, they use stories with which the natives can relate in order to get across the message of God’s salvation. They do not dilute the message but they say it in ways that the people can understand. While it is important to take the message of Christ to the world, it is equally essential that we take it to the youth of our own society. They desperately need to hear the story of God’s love for them and the hope found in a life that is lived for Him. They need to hear in the language of their day in way that they can understand. Will you be the one get things started in your family or neighborhood?