“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” 1 Corinthians 13:11
I guess we all use the end of the year as a time of reflection and then forward thinking on what we hope for the next twelve months. It’s almost as if we can’t help it, so I think we should make the most of it.
I just closed out the end of the year taking our youth group to one of the best conferences in the country that is specifically tailored for their age range. Despite the ‘four people per square foot’ crowd that seemed present everywhere in Gatlinburg, we had a blast, we grew closer together, we heard amazing music, and most importantly we laid ears on some excellent messages about our Lord Jesus Christ. It was an uplifting conclusion for my first year serving in a ministry role such as this.
I know goals are important, but I choose to focus on areas of need that I can take to God and let Him decide what the goal and plan should be. I learned from a great man of faith named Lonnie Riley, that our man made plans can limit what God would do with His own plan. So as we look to a new year, I’m laying one major concern at the feet of our Lord: the growing trend of high-school graduates leaving the faith, and their number one reason being that, now out of the youth group, the church feels like a foreign land to them and they don’t know how to be a part of it or why they should.
Much of this stems from maturity. Satan throws a ton of temptation around high schools these days, and it seems to me that his goal is simply to stunt the growth of maturity in general, and halt spiritual maturity altogether if he can. I’m afraid he’s having success, but I’m also thankful for conferences like Xtreme Winter, where our youngsters heard a stirring message about growing up and putting “away childish things.”
So I’ve spoken very plainly to the youth about the need for maturity, and to understand that the things being discussed and preached in “big church” are in regards to the most important topic in existence. I’ve taught them in order to challenge them on this point deliberately.
But there’s more to it than their maturity, so I also want to challenge the congregation. Frankly, we are missing an entire age range of individuals, and it’s time we acknowledge it. We have to learn how to include them, and we have to understand that part of “making disciples” is helping these young people bridge the gap from youth membership to church membership. If we truly follow Christ’s lead to serve others and put them above ourselves, we will surely succeed at this. We should plan events, not only for ourselves, but for people we don’t even know yet. Then we should get on our knees, pray about it, then stand up and go find those people! We should be a church on mission, and we should pull these young energetic individuals into that mission, and let them experience serving God. They are searching life for a purpose…so let’s give them one. This goes for young, old, and everything you consider in the middle: let’s worship in ways that may be different for us, but exactly what someone else is in need of. Let’s raise up ministries that anyone can be a part of, and let’s help others start ministries that they are passionate about, even if we aren’t.
Lets make sure we are including everyone, and that anyone can come to Mt. Zion and know they are eternally important to God, because they are eternally important to us. So that’s my challenge and I’m sticking to it. It’ll mean nothing without evoking God’s power, guidance, and love, but it will also mean nothing if we don’t band together as God’s people, absolutely bent on advancing His kingdom until Christ returns.