While growing up I heard a phrase that never sat well with me. Commonly used in various avenues across our country, adults have believed that “our youth our the leaders of tomorrow” or “our youth is the church of tomorrow.” The majority of my life has been spent as a teen or youth and now my calling is to disciple and minister to teens. Wholeheartedly, now more than ever before, I believe teens are the church of today. The younger generation is the church and is the lifeblood of Christ’s call to make disciples. Why?
If you haven’t noticed lately, teens are changing and impacting our world in all areas of society. Guan Tianlang, a 14 year old phenom, made the cut at the MASTERS. Last year, Bryce Harper made his MLB debut at 19 and has never looked back. Teens making their debuts in the music industry has gone back to Mickey Mouse Club and as recently as Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber.
So, what about in the church? If teens can radically impact our world and society, then the same should be true in our churches and we should be seeing the fruit of that. I believe that can happen. I believe that does happen. But, do we let it happen to the extent it should happen? Is it happening in your church?
Two of the biggest lies our teens buy into while being part of the church (I know I did) are that their presence isn’t valued and that they are supposed to ‘sow their wild oats’ while they are young. Both of these stem from the fact that for most of our lives we have believed that youth are important tomorrow because we (as adults) are important today. We had been told that we were the future, so we want to be that future when we finally get the chance. But it’s hard to change the mindset, however, I think it needs changing.
Telling youth that they are the church of tomorrow, I believe, excuses responsibility when Jesus says. “follow me now.” I think of John the beloved disciple who left his future and followed Jesus, some scholars say as early as the age of 16. And secondly, because leaders in the church haven’t taken time to invest in the lives of teens, therefore, they are reluctant to relinquish power. Discipleship hasn’t happened in their church and isn;t happening intentionally by them
Teens need to hear loud and clear that Jesus says ‘Follow Me Now’ in whatever you do or where ever you go. That it’s alright and preferred to not have a ‘come back to Christ’ testimony. That idea has become an idol in today’s Christianity. Also, leaders in the church need to see the importance of discipling teens themselves, so that they can actually entrust the church to these teens. The problem is that many times we focus so much of our time on our earthly goals and ambitions, that the importance of discipleship has been cast by the wayside. Our actions many times reflect a belief that ‘someone else will disciple them’ or ‘they don’t have to live right now,’ while excusing bad behavior contrary to the Gospel.
Youth Ministry intentionally attacks these two lies and shines a light of Gospel truth into their lives.
- So, how are you personally helping your local youth ministry?
- How are you personally discipling teens?