I see, at the end of every year, 'the hunt' begins for the soon-to-be-Uni students who could potentially fill the needed church youth leadership quota for the following year.
I hear stories of, and see, young men and women who get involved in their church's youth ministry because they have some time after finishing year 12, and they either need a stepping stone for their ministerial ladder-climb, or they feel the pressure to be seen as 'doing something' in the church. Or perhaps it's a place for you to 'exercise and grow your gifts'.
This doesn't sound like the model Jesus gave us as his disciples: Mark chapter 8, verses 34-35, 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it'.
Pretty intense, huh? That leadership would be about anything other than you. Anything less than this is an unjust disservice to our young people! I'm not saying you have to dedicate your entire life to the youth ministry, but I would strongly consider taking on a group of young people, and intentionally investing into their lives until they themselves are finishing their run in the youth ministry.
If that is too high a commitment for you, then don't do our kids a disservice by joining the youth team. Think about what Jesus meant when he said in John chapter 10, verses 11-13, 'I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away...The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep'.
We are raising a generation of missionaries, teachers, prophets and leaders
It should scare the daylights out of us, and humble us to realise that God will one day call our youth out to a life of cross-cultural mission, or, at the very least, to evangelise and/or teach, or pastor a congregation after we have been entrusted with the task of playing an integral part in their spiritual formation, their understanding of Jesus, and of the gospel. Our kids deserve more time from us than a year or two after we have finished high school.
They need more from us than our first year of Uni, and they definitely need more than a few hours on one night of the week. More than that, JESUS deserves more than us giving him a generation of under-discipled, soon-to-be young adults who have no idea what the fear of God is, and are more guided by society's ethics and humanitarian morals than by Christ!
This is something that King David keenly understood: Psalm chapter 71 verses 17-18, 'Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvellous deeds. Even when I am old and grey, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come'. David learnt about the ways of God at a young age, and they shaped the way he saw God, related to him, and eventually helped inform the way he would one day govern a nation.
Understanding how important it was to live a life in pursuit of honouring God and loving him like nothing else, he knew that were he to not teach the next generation, the culture of living for God and walking with God in life would die with him. (Perhaps at this point you can look back and see how you have been discipled, and by whom your moral compass is dictated by...just a thought).
The importance of the presence and knowledge of God
Undoubtedly, if the Psalms show us anything, it is that David lived for the presence of God, and sought Him in prayer night and day until he was consumed by God. If we have any hope of seeing the next generation into their destiny as tomorrow's world changers, we had best not take a single step from anywhere other than the presence of God. Factor this into your own reflection of how you were discipled.
Were you taught how to depend on Christ through prayer and the word of God, and likewise, are you replicating this dependence in your kids? Most of Paul's letters to the New Testament churches mention his unyielding prayer for those he considered himself to be the spiritual father of.
Jesus prayed in John chapter 17 that his disciples would be so unified in the Father that the world would see the glory of God in their lives – funnily enough, adding to their preparation for the task about to be handed them! Not only are you willing to sacrifice time with your kids, but how about labouring for them before God?
We have been tasked with only a small part of a much larger plan
Moses was given the task of leading his people, the Israelites, out of Egypt, being used by God to save them and free them from slavery, and from the dreadful rule of Pharaoh. More than that, he was appointed their leader, and given the mission of leading the people of Israel into the Promised Land.
If you are at all familiar with the story, you would know that God does not allow Moses to enter the Promised Land with his people, but rather gives the honour of that mission to Moses' protégé, Joshua. Despite the horrific state that Israel continually found herself in, can you imagine how much quicker and more severe the spiral downward had Moses' investment into Joshua's life been half-hearted? After all, Moses was a prophet who remains unlike any other – he knew God, and spoke with him face to face, he received the Ten Commandments on behalf of the people.
He knew what it meant to live a life in pursuit of the things of God, and to walk a life in honour of him. Had he been a poor steward of his discipleship with Joshua, he could have handed a great task over to an under-discipled generation.
If we are to steward well the mission we have been handed, we ought to think ahead! Like David and Moses – and even Jesus, who at the age of 30 had teenage disciples; yep, Jesus was a youth and young adults' leader! – We ought to take seriously our responsibility to see our young people know Jesus intimately. Leaders!
Lay your lives down in abandon for the call Christ has commissioned you with! Pray unceasingly for your kids! For if you take this responsibility seriously but do not centre everything you do on deep and arduous prayer, seeking God to have your heart broken for them, then you could do just as much damage in setting yourself up as an idol for them to follow, rather than as someone who radiates Christ. Give them as much time as you can – both in prayer and in person!
Looking at the state of affairs in our broken world, surely we would see that there is more to be done than what can be accomplished in a single generation. I am reminded of a quote by Confucius:'If your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for ten years, plant trees. If your plan is for one hundred years, educate children'.
Benjamin James is 24 years old and madly in love with Jesus! He is a Youth Worker and also currently studying a Bachelor of Christian Studies at Melbourne School of Theology. He is passionate and opinionated and will take every opportunity to see positive change in the world.
Benjamin James' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/benjamin-james.html