Our Responsibility to the Youth in our Assemblies
Last week AssemblyHUB published an article about being a young person in the assemblies. While the article was written from a very positive experience and perspective, some comments reminded us that this positive experience isn’t characteristic of all assemblies.
Sad, but true.
- we cannot change the past
- we are individually responsible and accountable for our own actions
- we cannot change other people
So, do we just throw in the towel in despair?
Or is there hope? Can we, this generation, make a difference? Can those of us, no longer considered youth, make the assemblies a better place for the youth? Can we BE the difference?
As we concentrate on what we (both as individuals and elders/leaders in the assemblies) can do (not what others in the past did or didn’t do, or what is or isn’t happening) we can move in a favorable direction.
We can take responsibility for the present and future welfare of the youth in our assemblies.
We must be proactive about this. We must cultivate an atmosphere that encourages the youth to grow into their full potential of being spiritually growing and actively serving ADULTS in their local assemblies.
So, how do we get from here to there? From youth to adults? (besides just the passage of time.)
What can we do?
- Teach. (2 Timothy 2:2,15) We need to teach the youth both doctrine and practice. Everything from the Biblical basis of head coverings and the Lord’s Supper to eschatology and the inerrancy of scripture. I want to emphasize that this is verbal teaching. Way less is “caught” than we expect. We need systematic teaching in Sunday school, the meetings, and Bible studies. We need to teach our young people the Scripture…what the Bible says about all of these topics.
- Discipleship. (Titus 2:1-8) While I see teaching as more formal and broad brush, discipleship is very personal, focused, intense, and usually one-on-one. It is also systematic. We need to teach visitation and gospel work and how to teach Sunday school. We need to teach song leading and preaching and how to plan meals for conferences. It should get taught as we bring the youth alongside us as we do these things.
- Protect. (Galatians 5:14-15) We must have a zero tolerance policy for attacking the youth. I can enumerate far too many instances where a young person was attacked-motives, attitudes, doctrine-and verbally beaten down. One of two things happened: they stayed in the assemblies but were so discouraged, they never put their neck out again. Or, as soon as they had the opportunity, they left and never looked back. There is a walkable middle ground between abuse and handling with kid gloves. We need to find it. What the young people need is the truth spoken in love. They need training and correction, in a manner that draws them along to better understanding and practice.
- Opportunity. (1 Corinthians 12) We have a responsibility to give the youth ample opportunities to use and develop their natural and spiritual gifts. Whatever those are. We need to create an atmosphere where it is safe to fail, and to learn from mistakes. It is said that you care about what you invest in. As we allow the youth to invest in the assembly by using their gifts, they are less likely to leave in the future. I keep thinking back to what Crawford said in his letter to the young people: You aren’t the future of the church, you are the present. That is solid gold right there. As long as we only view the young people as the future and not the present, we will lose the young people in the future.
- Encouragement. We need to generously ladle out encouragement to the youth. We need to encourage them when they did something right. We need to encourage them they did something wrong. We must build up, not tear down. We need to be abundant with praise and skimpy with criticism.
Above all, our rule of thumb is love. If we love our youth the way Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 lays out, we will be on the right track.
- Love is patient and kind
- Love does not envy or boast
- Love is not arrogant or rude
- Love does not insist on its own way
- Love is not irritable or resentful
- Love does not rejoice at wrong doing, but rejoices in the truth
- Love bears all things
- Love believes all things
- Love hopes all things
- Love endure all things
- Love never fails
If we prayerfully ask ourselves, “how can I love the young people in my assembly? How can I ______?(fill in any of those 1 Corinthians 13 bullet points), we will certainly see areas for personal and assembly growth.
Love is the trump card. It’s the “greatest of these.” It’s the motivation and the reward. Love will cover a multitude of sins, and fill in a whole lot of gaps.
It’s our responsibility. Let’s get busy.